Summary: At the end of a misused life there awaits a place called hell. Wealth or poverty does not determine our eternal state but our relationship with Jesus surely will.
An old mountaineer had lived a full but not exactly saintly life and now was on his deathbed. He summoned his weeping wife. “Sara,” he said, “go to the fireplace and take out the third stone from the top.”
She did as he instructed. “Reach in there,” said her husband, “and bring out what you find.” Her fingers touched a large Mason jar, and with some effort she pulled it up. The jar was full of cash. “Sara,” said the old man, “when I go, I’m going to take all that money with me. I want you to put that jar up in the attic by the window. I’ll grab it as I go by on my way to heaven.”
His wife followed his instructions. That night the old mountaineer died. After the funeral his wife remembered the Mason jar and went to the attic. The jar was still there full of money and exactly where she placed it, by the window.
She thought for a moment and realizing the mistake said “Knowing he was going the other way, I should have placed it in the basement.”
As hilarious as this might sound, heaven and hell are realities and one day we will enter one of these two places to spend eternity. A lot of people wish they go by the attic but they end up taking the way by the basement because our destiny does not depend on how good we think we are as it has to do with our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
In today’s gospel story we have someone who neglected the message that was brought to him by the ministers of his time and consequently, ended up in a place that wasn’t very good. The rich man was too busy with himself. He had enough time to do the things he wanted to do, but neglected the most important thing, and that is preparing for the life to come. We are told he was clothed in purple and fine linen and ate sumptuously every day. Many of us are like that with our craving for designer clothing and fine foods and like him not all of us give thought of what might happen if we died. Many are set for life, but not for the life to come.
In a sense today’s story seems to be one of revenge and settling of scores. This is especially clear when we hear Abraham say to the rich man “son, in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted and you are tormented”. It must be affirmed and understood though that the rich man did not go to hell because he was rich nor did Lazarus go to Abraham’s bosom because he was poor. There are multitudes of rich people in heaven as there are also multitudes of poor people who are in hell. But, a terrible end awaits those who live only for the gratification of their own sinful and selfish desires. It is a result of spending an entire lifetime in lavish extravagance of worldly pleasures. At the end of a misused life there awaits a place called hell. Wealth or poverty does not determine our eternal state but our relationship with Jesus surely will.
If you take a closer look at the rich man in the story, nothing tells us that he was vicious. He is not described as being a tyrant or oppressor but we do know he was notoriously selfish and uncharitable because he never helped Lazarus who lay at his gate day after day. The man himself showed no mercy but we are told that even the dogs had more compassion because they came and liked the sores of Lazarus. The man’s wickedness was not his wealth but his hard and selfish heart which focused only on himself. That is why, when you walk past a beggar or a needy person, you need to be careful. Are you only thinking of yourself? For example, if you have a twenty in your wallet, would it hurt to give two to someone who needs a hot cup of coffee or a sandwich? Think about it. It is easy to criticize the rich man but are we like him as well?
Poor Lazarus lay on the street with no other help but God. I am sure many people passed him by as we do to those who are in need today. You do not have to be stinking rich to help someone! The rich man had a healthy body that was well clothed but Lazarus was in rags with sores all over his body. It was a pity that Lazarus had to live on crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. But the merit of Lazarus is not found in the fact that he was without proper clothing or good health but in the fact that even with the crumbs off the table, he was content. In spite of his deplorable condition, he had faith that God will take care of his needs.