Just before today’s Gospel reading, Luke tells us that the Pharisees ‘loved money’ and laughed at Jesus when he warned them about the dangers of wealth. So Jesus tells them another parable. The story of the rich man and Lazarus shows how money can divide us from one another. The rich man led a very comfortable life, wearing fine clothes and eating well. It seems that he didn’t even notice Lazarus, who was living miserably at the gate of the rich man’s house. They existed in different worlds.
After their death, the rich man and Lazarus are separated again. Lazarus is taken up to ‘the bosom of Abraham’ – he has a seat of honour at the banquet in God’s kingdom. But now the rich man is cast out into hell, tormented in the flames of Hades. Even then, the rich man wants to treat Lazarus as if he were a servant, asking Abraham to ‘send Lazarus’ to help him. But Abraham tells the rich man that the great gulf between them cannot be crossed. By his selfishness, he has cut himself off forever from God’s kingdom.
This parable is a warning to us, too. Who is starving at our gate? Who are the people that we don’t see, or want to ignore? Money divides us and leads us to put up barriers. Jesus calls us to open our eyes to the suffering and the needs of our brothers and sisters. Only the love of Christ can break down the barriers that we build by our sin.