Jesus tells a story about two dead men: one affluent, the other a
beggar. After living a life of luxury, the rich man finds himself suffering
in acute pain; he asks Abraham to send Lazarus (the poor
beggar) to get him a drink. Even in the afterlife, the rich man
thinks that Lazarus should be waiting on him!
Abraham points out the barrier that prevented Lazarus from
doing the rich man’s bidding in the afterlife. Of course, no such
barrier exists among the living. The justice of Lazarus’s reward in
the afterlife also points to the fact that it is no one’s lot to be a beggar
in this life; the surplus of some, as Pope John Paul II has often
preached, belongs to those in need. While he was alive, the rich
man had it within his means to relieve the suffering of Lazarus, but
he did nothing. In the mind of the rich man, Lazarus was exactly
what God wanted him to be—a beggar. In the next life, the tables
were turned: Lazarus was rewarded, and the rich man suffered.
It is a simple message, one that we have heard many times.
It also has a touch of irony: In the story, the rich man begs Abraham
to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn the rich man’s
brothers. Abraham predicts that they still wouldn’t believe.
Notice the reaction of the crowd when Jesus raises Lazarus from
the dead: “So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus also to
death, because on account of him many of the Jews were going
away and believing in Jesus,” (John 12:10–11).
Jesus sent his disciples out to heal, to liberate, and to invite
others into the kingdom of God. As a follower of Christ, what
am I doing for those Jesus sends to me?