During His earthly ministry, Jesus narrated many parables to convey the truths of the Kingdom of God. This story of the rich man and Lazarus was one such parable told by Jesus to educate his followers on how to use God-given money and the riches of our world. If we look at this parable carefully it is evident that this story is a portrayal more than a parable. The scene given in the first part of the story was a real and down-to-earth sight in the time of Jesus as it is now.
The rich man in the story was very innocent. He did not make any effort to chase away the poor man who was at his gate. Instead, he allowed the poor man to have the bread that had fallen from his table. In other words, he did not even think of harming that poor man. Then what was the mistake for which he went to Hades?
The main issue was that this rich man was not concerned about the poor man at his gate. Most probably he would have thought that this was the lot of the poor man. In other words, this rich man did not think that his own liberation would be tied up with the liberation of the poor man. By narrating this story Jesus clearly told his disciples that the liberation of the rich is tied up with the poor.
Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus emphasized this truth in many ways. Once he said that we cannot serve both God and mammon. By saying this he reminded his followers that we are not called to become slaves of money or riches. The philosophy of Jesus was that God has given money and riches for human beings to live with dignity.
Therefore according to Jesus if there are people living without basic human dignity it is due to the sin committed by others in grabbing the God-given resources for themselves, denying basic necessities to those affected people.
We in Sri Lanka live in a society where there are many who are helpless and harassed for various reasons. Among these people there are individuals affected by the civil war & who have become helpless due to the prevailing economic crisis. As Christians, we have a spiritual responsibility to redeem these helpless and harassed from their bondages to enable them to live with basic human dignity.
Jesus’ vivid story of the rich man and Lazarus clearly tells us that just charity or social service is not enough to redeem these vulnerable ones. We are called to transform our lives by helping them to help themselves to live as free human beings with self-esteem.