[Diocesan Metropolitan of Ranni Diocese, Marthoma Syrian Church ]

Who is the rich and who is the poor in story of Lazarus? The riches of the body will not enrich the soul; the sight of the body will not enlighten the soul. Let our aspiration and wish should be to become rich in the eyes of Lord. Our Lord was not an earthly rich. Though He was rich, yet for our sake He became poor, so that we might become rich through His poverty.


"Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores....." (St. Luke 16:19-31)

The referred scripture portion is a powerful and evident witness to stimulate faith to those who does not have trust in prayers. If a short story contest is launched among all the competitors of the world, and St. Luke is included in it, it is well assured that St. Luke will stand out among all the others. Here in this portrayal of story narrated by Jesus, St. Luke articulates the state of a man and emotions of his heart in a very pleasant and splendid narrative. This parable itself we have the explanation and application of it. Lord Jesus had told many parables. But in any of these parables we do not see any name given to any of his similitude. This parable is an exceptional one in which the character got a name with very wide meaning: Lazarus- 'The one who had only God as his helper'. The essence of the story is fully included in this name. The rich man of this story was a depiction of the attitude that God is nothing, if we achieve everything we desired. Ownership is yielded to egoism. If a Godly man is defined as the one who is sanctified himself and get controlled by God, and if we search for an antonym for this attribute, we find this rich man as the best fit.

St. Luke describes the rich man in a very few words. He was rich epicures, who lived in luxury. He was clothed in purple and fine linen, and that was his adorning. He had fine linen for pleasure every day or many times a day, night-linen, and day-linen. He had purple for that was the wear of princes. He appeared in his wealthy dress in great magnificence. He ate deliciously and sumptuously every day. His table was furnished with all the varieties and his side-table richly adorned with nourishing and tasty plates of food. He did not have any difficulty to continue in his state of luxury as he was in the height of his prosperity. He had a palace-like house. He was not at all concerned about anything or anybody. He had no other thoughts except food, cloth and other luxuries in his life. 'Sufficient’, 'Enough'; these two words did not have any meaning in his life.

But look at the narratives of the poor man: if we use the words 'abject poverty', it is nothing to describe the state of this poor. Famous Malayalam Novelist E. Pathphanabhan had depicted a poor boy in his award won novel. In a monsoon evening, a poor boy emerges out with a wild sparrow in his hands. It was raining heavily with lightning and thunder. He caught the sparrow tight to his bosom with his hands. The cloth he is wearing is drenched in the rain. He entered the gate of a rich man and knocked at the door with the sparrow in his hands. The owner of the house appeared. Very tearfully he asks the rich man, "Will you take this sparrow from me?" The owner did not understand the meaning of it. He stood aghast. He was staring at the compassionate figure in front of him. His mother was waiting for her son to come back with money to burn fire in their house. He wanted to sell the sparrow, which had come out from the hole of a tree in the evening and buy rice to make his one-score meal of the day. If this is a picture of poverty, St. Luke is surpassing it with the character in his story of Lazarus.

There is meaning for each word of the story. Luke describes the poor like this: He was laid at the gate of the rich man with an expectations to live out from the rich man’s table: he desired to be fed with the crumbs or scraps he could get at rich man's doors. His body was weak, with full of sores and in a great affliction. The dogs came and licked his sores. If St. Luke is describing the cloth of the rich man, why he is not telling anything about the cloth of Lazarus? Cloth might have been an aggravation of his pain and misery. It may be a very painful disease. Lazarus, in his distress, had nothing of his own to subsist on, no relation or companion to go to. He was an instance of utter degeneracy. As his name meant, God was the only help for him.

Here we are urged to think who is the rich and who is the poor out of these. In some other part of Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus talked about being rich towards God. Jesus gives a caution against covetousness and illustrates by a parable of a rich man suddenly called off in the midst of his worldly planning and ambitious hopes. Disquieting care is the common fruit of an abundance of this world, and the common fault of those that have abundance. The rich man plans himself while seeing an extraordinary crop upon his ground; "And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?" (St. Luke 12:18-20). Jesus points out here the state of the man who did not become rich towards God. He exhorts to cast all our care upon God, and to live easy in a dependence upon his providence.

It should be our earnest desire to be rich towards God. Lord Jesus is exhorting us today for the warm and ardent desire for being rich towards God. He is walking through us, he sees us. He is both a discerner and judge of the thoughts and intents of the heart. He is watching for the flame of the strong desire of our heart. He is waiting for our latent and illegible spiritual throbbing. Let the Lord fulfill our desire! What is our desire? What are our needs? Let our aspiration and wish should be to become rich in the eyes of Lord. Our Lord was not an earthly rich. Though He was rich, yet for our sake He became poor, so that we might become rich through His poverty.

This rich man of the story was neither considering that he is enjoying the benevolence of God, nor he was ready to accept him as his helper. This rich was wearing purple and linen, but he was naked, He was eating very tasty and delicious food, but he was starving, his eyes were well open to see the luxury what he enjoyed, but he was blind. Jesus might have told the Verses in the revelation looking at this rich man.

"Because you say, I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing, and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent." (Rev. 3:17-19)

Here observe, what a difference there was between the thoughts they had of themselves and the thoughts that Christ had of them. We are intoxicated with earthly riches and authorities. Even though we think we are rich, we are poor as we have no provision for our souls to live upon. The riches of the body will not enrich the soul; the sight of the body will not enlighten the soul. We have good counsel given by Jesus. He gives his best advice to buy of him gold tried in the fire, so that we might be rich. Though we are wearing purple and linen, but we are naked. Jesus is offering us to collect the white garment of imputed righteousness from him to cloth us so that others will not see shame of our nakedness. Though our eyes are open, we are blind. Jesus is beaconing us to buy of him eye-salve to massage on our eyelid, so that our eyes shall be opened for His wisdom and reason. Jesus is counseling all the rich so that we will not be wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. Jesus is challenging us today to become rich towards God.

Who is rich and who is poor? If we are able to visualize the needs of the needy in our surroundings, we reach in abundance. Jesus did not offer us any earthly riches. He expresses his condition to the one who wanted to follow him: 'the foxes have holes and the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.' The father of Heaven looked at Jesus who did not have a penny in his pocket, announced from heaven "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Heaven was proud to see the son of man without any earthly riches.

Many poor find joy in their life. Worship is greatest for them. They keep their whole help in God though they are destitute of other helps. They live comfortably with their earnings of hard work. They are concerned about their neighbors. They share their earnings with the poor. There is a great comfort in their life. He will be forever happy, in the depth of adversity and distress and keep himself eminently devout. What was the real distress and disposition of the poor man? He did not lie at the rich man’s gate complaining, and bawling, and making a noise, but silently and modestly desiring to be fed with the crumbs. He was contentedly poor. The riches of this world do not have any of these attributes.

What was the temper of the rich man towards the poor? We are not told that he abused him, or forbade him his gate, or did him any harm. It is not recorded that any time the rich behaved with the poor mercilessly. Not we are given any indication that he got his wealth by fraud, oppression, or extortion nor that he was drunk, or made others drunk. No vices recorded on his part. The wicked ness of the rich man was that he was not concerned about the poor and he took no care about him. A little thing would be a great kindness to him, and yet he took no cognizance of his case. That was his great drawback, though his eyes were open, he was blind to see the poor at his gate. So the biggest refuge or protection needed is for the rich to come out of his poverty, blindness, nakedness and all his miserable conditions. That plenty and pleasure are a very dangerous fatal temptation to luxury, and sensuality, and disobedience to God. Indulgence of the body, and the ease and pleasure of that, are the ruins of the soul.

Don't we need an escape from this situation? It is the biggest beatitude to be contented with what we have. Jesus very sorrowfully looked at the rich and say that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. We are poor in front of God. To enter into the riches of God, Jesus had humbled himself as poor. We should become ourself rich towards God looking to the great mercy of God. This is what St. Luke exhorts us through the story of Lazarus.

Religion is not fine or pomp clothing, but it is spiritual vigor. Though Lazarus had suffered enough in this world, he was rich in this world itself. As he had only God as a source of help he was the blessed one. What is spirituality? Man is living in the modern world with out any aim or control. Every Sunday they go to Church. Their life is entrapped in superficiality. We are adamant in our superficial ways. It is the biggest danger of the contemporary society. Every one look forward for the purple and linen clothing, nobody wants to become a Lazarus and rich towards God. All want to enter into Lanser, not to become Lazarus. Understanding that the Lanser is providence of God given to us, come out of Lanser and become a Lazarus.

To teach us the richness towards God, Jesus entered to the Cross. It was not a mere man climbed up the cross, it was a human bomb, which climbed up the cross and bursted into seven stages. No metal detectors could detect this bomb, which was concealed in his heart. Many of the people ran away from the foot of the cross. The very few remained near the cross could not see the bomb concealed in his heart. The centurion standing far away could sense it. He had witnessed that he was really Son of God by seeing the exalted scenario. While the explosive, which was exemplified as 'God is love', is blown up, the centurion could discern it as a beautiful flower blossomed. Even to the worst tormenting, the droplets of love sprinkled out of his inner-heart were the fuel used to formulate that bomb. Religion is not a narcotic to entice man, but it is the genuine and real human medicine. In a nutshell, religion is the spiritual vigor and the concern of the neighborhood.

[Maramon Convention - 2003
Original In Malayalam : Translated for LOL By Dr. Rajan Mathew, Philadelphia, USA]

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