This parable from Jesus is unnerving, to say the least. The parable challenges the very thing(s) we place of greatest value and who God holds in highest value. The things we value of power and wealth make it easy for us to name the people who possess them. I’m sure that many of us can name several. However, how many of us can give the name of a homeless person? The unnerving part of Jesus’ parable is that a homeless man is named, Lazarus. A rich and powerful man goes unknown. If we enjoying comfortable lives have no compassion or care for the poor, the homeless whom God knows by name, where does this parable leave us?
A rich man enjoys the best things that life can offer. A beggar named Lazarus lives off the rich man’s scraps. Lazarus’ health is so bad that the dogs come to lick the infection from his sores. Both men die. The rich man goes to hell’s torment. Lazarus to be with Abraham. The rich man doesn’t get it. He still thinks that his wealth gives him privilege by asking for Lazarus to come and serve him. However the chasm between them is as great as the divide was between them in life. The rich man still doesn’t get it. He continues to think his wealth gives him the right to order Lazarus to warn his brothers. The answer was, “No.” If the brothers are so callous against the poor they won’t heed the words of Moses or the prophets, they won’t change even if someone were to rise from the dead.
Jesus is risen from the dead. We still have the words of Moses and the prophets. We also have the poor and homeless who are known by God. Whose words are we going to listen to? The words that keep telling us power and wealth of the world are important to God? Or these words of Jesus telling us that the poor have God’s intimate concern? The words we heed define the side we are on.