There was a super-rich politician who was dressed in the finest hand-made suits and lived in large and fifty million dollar homes every day. He spent his life fighting against any legislation that would help the poor. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus. He was laid there by others because he could not walk by himself. He was also very ill and covered with sores. Lazarus longed to eat even the scraps from the rich man’s table, a leftover piece of meat, a half-drunk beverage container. The only comfort he had was when stray dogs came and licked his sores. The super-rich politician not once came to help him, nor would he have ever thought to invite Lazarus into his home.
The super-rich politician was so calloused that he called helpless Lazarus lazy and continually said he should get a job. The problem with that reasoning is that too many people believe it. It is a lie. Unemployment among the handicapped is perhaps the highest in the land, amounting to about three out of every four.
The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich politician also died and was buried. The rich man was in torment In Hell. He looked up and saw Abraham far away in heaven. Lazarus was by his side. The rich man called to Abraham, asking for pity. He wanted Lazarus to serve him, even just to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his tongue. The super-rich politician was in agony in the fire of hell.
Abraham told him that in his lifetime the super-rich politician had all the good stuff, but Lazarus only had bad things. Now Lazarus was comforted and the super-rich politician was in agony. Between the two was a great chasm making it impossible for anyone cross over in either direction.
The rich politician asked him to send Lazarus to his rich and spoiled family to warn them about where they are headed. Abraham simply told him they have Bibles to read, and preachers to listen to, where they can learn that. The super-rich politician was convinced that if someone came back from the dead to warn them they would listen. But no, Abraham said that if they would not listen to good Bible preaching they would not be convinced if someone rose from the dead.
They refuse to raise the minimum wage claiming that it would ruin the economy, or cause businesses to hire fewer people and so on. But all that is short-sighted. If the minimum keeps falling behind inflation, then more and more will be too poor to even buy what business owners have to sell. On the other hand, if minimum wages are raised across the board, at a slow and steady pace eventually catching up to inflation and raising accordingly each year thereafter, then businesses would adjust and notice that in the long-run their customer base was growing and hence their businesses.
The real reason that people the super-rich man, do not want to raise minimum wage is because of short-sighted greed. Short-sighted because even a clever and greedy person would want more customers and grow their business by growing the middle class and hence the economy.
How is the super-rich person who votes or lobbies against a raise in the minimum wage any different to the rich man in the Lazarus story?
To refuse universal health care on the basis that it is “socialism” is a lie and not even logical. We live in a society with socialized freeways, satellite navigation, and a host of other government run services which are good for all. When industry is greedy, pollutes our world and poisons our food we ask the government to help. Why then, when we live in a world where pharmaceutical, medical and insurance industries are out of control, do we not want the government to help us? Why do we continually believe that the market will bring about a reasonable health-care situation, when it has failed miserably to do so?
How is the super-rich person who votes or lobbies against universal health care any different to the rich man in the Lazarus story
There is a divide between the rich and the poor. That divide can be a gated community with a large fence around or a national border keeping poorer nations out. That divide also exists in education, recreation and in business. Rather than using their wealth to bring people together, many of the wealthy support and enforce a separation. Because God respects our decisions, he may also enforce our decisions of this life in the next. One example is in the story of Lazarus and the rich man found in Luke 16:19-31.
Lazarus was too poor for health care and could not tend to the sores that covered his body. He was also forced to beg for second hand food as do many street people. After he died, the gulf between them continued. But this time, the tables were turned.
Some Christians trip over themselves hysterically to avoid any trappings of pagan religions, yet in places like Luke 16 Jesus used ancient mythology to explain an aspect of the afterlife. Why? The word translated as hell is Hades, originally referred to as the house of Hades, a Greek god of the underworld, the place of the dead. Hades was also called Pluto, the giver of wealth. Greek mythology closely linked wealth and hell. In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man Jesus also linked the two. Why? Is it a sin to be rich? No, it is not. That is not the point. Wealth and luxury deceive us into thinking that we have no responsibility towards those around us who are suffering. We build walls so that we can ignore their torment. However, walls cannot remove our guilt.
For soul-sleepers, the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man is difficult to explain away. It indicates a consciousness after death. So, what is the soul-sleep theory? It purports that between death and the resurrection, the soul sleeps and is not conscious. Another difficult passage for soul-sleepers to explain is Luke 23:43 where Jesus tells the thief on the cross, today you shall be with me in paradise. 2 Corinthians 5:8 speaks of being absent from the body and at home with the Lord. In Philippians 1:21-24 Paul desired to depart this flesh and be with Christ. Revelation 6:9-11 speaks of slain souls that cried with a loud voice. The theory of soul sleep is a dubious, one-sided view which takes one set of passages as literal and others as non-literal metaphors.
Some Bible passages seem to describe hell as punishment in fire. We read of maggots, a human barbecue, a rich man‘s cry of agony from the fiery pit and worshipers of human governments who will be tormented day and night (Mark 9:43-45; Luke 16:19-31; Revelation 14:10-11, 20:10-15). Are they literal or symbolic? Are the beast and false prophet people or symbols? Does this describe eternal physical and emotional suffering? Is God sadistic? Can gracious, divine love and eternal torture be reconciled? Is this traditional view of hell the result of a person’s complete and knowing choice, or have some been predestined to this without a chance? How can a just God punish for eternity sins committed in a finite lifetime? Other passages on hell offer alternative descriptions, but all are negative. Bottom line: Don’t choose hell.
Luke 16:19-31 is one of the most famous stories of a homeless man of all time. Throughout most of history it has been the brutal, the powerful and the wealthy who’s names we remember. The destitute poor are usually anonymous. Nobody seems to know their names. They come into this world in filth and squalor and depart leaving unmarked graves. Folklore names the rich man Dives. In reality he was given no name in the original story. The rich man could represent anyone who ignores the plight of the poor. The story ofLazarus and the Rich Man gives the destitute beggar a name but not the rich man. Is this how God looks at the world? Do the homeless who believe have a name in heaven, but do selfish and uncaring materialists have no name and no fame?
Life after death is sometimes called the Great Reversal. That is certainly the case in the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man found in Luke 16:19-31. Heaven’s opinion about what a person accomplishes in this life is very different than that spoken about in high society. Possessions and status symbols are less important than what they have been used for. After death, who’s out and who’s in has nothing to who’s out and who’s in by this world’s standards. What was the rich man’s problem? It was actually not his wealth, but what he had allowed his wealth to do to him. He had neglected his obligation under Moses and the Prophets to look after the less fortunate. The passage makes it clear that he knew Lazarus by name and therefore had no excuse for letting him suffer.