Christian TraditionsEastern OrthodoxTheology & Spirituality


On the Rich Man and Lazarus

Our whole life is one of choices, and they all have consequences. Yet at the same time we did not choose to be male or female, short or tall. We did not choose to be born on the day or century we were born.  We are here at the corner of two streets, Lemon Creek and Garr, because we choose to be and yet we did not choose for this place to exist.

We have before us this morning two men. On the surface they are as different as they could be.  And yet they are the same. So it was that the beggar died. The rich man also died and was buried.

The rich man dies only once but the poor man dies every day.

We know the end is coming. We know because our Lord told us it is coming. The first Christians thought they would witness our Lords return based on the events that were happening around them.  Throughout history there have been those times. The year 1000 was a mile stone. In our own experience WWII and, of course, Y2K. All the computers would crash and the cars would not run.  It seems silly now. And yet the end is coming.

Lazarus did not choose to be poor he chose to be rich. The rich man did not choose to be rich he chose to be poor.  We do not choose the particular circumstances of our life. It is also true that those circumstances do not dictate our response to them.

We have chosen a way of life even if we were too young to choose.  We cannot choose when the end comes. But we can choose to live in such a way that the coming of the end will be welcome as much as having another day to love each other is welcome.

The rich man did not end up in a place of torment because he was rich. He was in a place of torment because of his heart.  Riches were allowed to change his soul.

Lazarus did not go to the bosom of Abraham because he was poor he went because of his heart.  Lazarus was beyond poor, he was also very weak and sick, and he was also lonely and homeless. Beyond that he would have been slandered by foolish people. When we see someone who is homeless, hungry and chronically ill we judge them by their troubles. (We say) If this man had been living a good Christian life none of these troubles would be present.  That is the attitude of a secular people who believe God has blessed America so that we can live a life that is even more affluent than  the life of the rich man.

We know that the heart of Lazarus was soft and teachable and humble. We know this because of where he ended up and because of the desire he expresses.  Just to be fed with the crumbs of the rich man’s table.

re,What do we desire? I believe it’s relatively easy to test where our heart is. In our free time, when we are all alone when no one is looking, what do we give our minds to? Are we meditating on the law of God, reading Holy Scripture, the lives of the saints,  serving the less fortunate according to our means and our capacity; or do we focus on something else, if the answer is something else then we need healing.

Last week I remarked that our limited minds cannot begin to comprehend the gift we have been given. God loves us and He desires that all come to the knowledge of the truth. So why is this life so hard why is the way narrow and rocky? Why do we read that his yoke is easy and the burden light? The one is said because of the realty of the fall and the other is said because of the willingness of the Christian to enter into the life of Christ.  It is possible to endure the unendurable when we forget about ourselves and focus only on embracing Christ.

There is no righteous person who does not have sin and there is no evil person who does not have the potential for righteousness.  We are given this time on earth to choose which person we want to live for. Either Christ or for ourselves, there is no middle ground.

We have this opportunity to listen to the Church and do what she is trying to teach us. She is teaching us how to choose poverty. By freely choosing poverty we choose to be rich. We must voluntarily choose to empty ourselves; we must voluntarily choose to turn off the TV and the computer. We must voluntarily choose a merger meal so that our souls can feast.  We must voluntarily choose to keep our hearts soft, teachable and humble. But these things we are talking about are not automatic they do not come easily. Shed blood to get the spirit. My hands are smooth and the gates of heaven are taken violently by force. We will have to sacrifice in ways that we are not familiar with. The battle rages inside, but we want the battles to be outside. We do not want to say no to our pride and our ego; we want to say no to the drug dealer and the mass murderer.

We cannot seek anything here. We have to see that we have already been given everything.

In this way we will become like Lazarus. We will start asking what else we can do instead of asking what others are doing. We will start noticing the needs of others instead of our own needs. Our desires will change from wanting material wealth to a desire for Christ.


Image courtesy of Michael Porter.

Fr Gregory Owen

Fr Gregory Owen

Fr. Gregory is the priest of a small, canonical Orthodox Mission in Berrien Springs, MI. Ordained as a priest in 2007, he desires to use his position as a priest to see souls healed through the life in Christ as prescribed by the Orthodox Church.

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