THE Lord told this parable, "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table, even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was being tormented, the rich man looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. The rich man called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.' But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things, but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.' The rich man said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house - for I have five brothers - that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.' Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets, they should listen to them.' The rich man said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' Abraham said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"
What has the rich man done wrong? He is rich, he likes to dress good, he parties... These things are not bad in and of themselves. At least from the information the Lord provides in the parable, the only thing the rich man did wrong was ignoring a person in need.Not only a person in need, but someone right at his gate! Meaning, the rich man would go out and in through this gate, he would walk by the poor man named Lazarus, yet pay no attention to him.
"The rich man died and was buried..." Saint John Chrysostom says that the rich man was already buried while alive, by his riches, pleasures, parties, etc. His being put into the ground was merely a continuation of what was going on to him while he was alive.
Notice also two interesting details about the two main characters of the parable - their names. The poor beggar is named - Lazarus, which means "God has helped." The rich man remains anonymous. We can read a few things into him remaining unnamed. Main of them - nobody cares about you as long as you provide some entertainment or satisfaction for them. Parties two thousand years ago were the same as they are today - there was music and there was alcohol and there was food (and probably a lot of inappropriate sexual behavior). As long as the rich man was able to provide these to his guests and "friends," people liked him. Once he died, it seems, nobody cared about him any more, he was put into the ground and all the people he entertained did not remember him. He was ultimately forgotten.
This brings up back to what he did wrong while alive. It's not about what he did, rather what he did not do. Being rich is not a problem, it's not a sin. It's what we do with the resources we have, no matter how many resources we have. Had the rich man used at least some of his resources, especially his heart, for hospitality, he would've gone from unnamed, anonymous, and forgotten to someone with his name written in the Book of Life.
Three quotes come to mind, all from the 12th chapter of Luke: "Be on your guard against all kinds of greed, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions" (Luke 12:15). "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God" (Luke 12:20-21). And, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Luke 12:34).
All three of these quotes express what exactly is wrong with the rich man - if you live only for yourself, you will perish, needlessly and hopelessly. Being Christians, we recognize and realize that everything we have is a gift of God, and we are only stewards of all the things He has given us. How we use them will determine how we will be judged, both in this life and in the life to come.
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest