It occurred to me this morning that there are three main characters in the parable found in Luke 16:19-31 that we usually refer to as “The rich man and Lazarus,” and they are the rich man, Lazarus…and Abraham.
In verse 25 Abraham responds to the rich man’s plea for mercy from Hades and says, “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.” What’s his point? This rich man had a life of great ease in this world, and Lazarus didn’t, and now their roles are reversed for the balance of eternity.
But what also occurred to me was that while we tend to focus (probably rightly) on the rich man’s wealth, Abraham was also a man of great wealth (check out Genesis 13:3; 14:14; 24:1, for example), perhaps even greater than the rich man in this parable. The difference, I think, is what each man did with his wealth. The issue is not the wealth (or the poverty), for both come from God and are by his decision (see, for example, Job 1:20-21 and 2:9-10). The issue is what they (and we) do with the wealth that comes from God’s hand. If we keep it for ourselves and spend it on ourselves to ensure that we have a life of ease, then this parable has a direct application to our lives now and into eternity.
Granted, what we do with our wealth is not the only thing that God evaluates us on, but it is an accurate litmus test of where our loyalty lies and whom or what we are trusting in. And speaking of whom we should be trusting in, Jesus thought it was important enough to tell this parable in the first place, and the Holy Spirit made sure that it was recorded for all time in the gospel according to Luke.