Luke 16 tells a parable of a rich man, and a poor man named Lazarus. In life, Lazarus sat at the rich man’s gate and longed to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. The rich man dressed in purple and fine linens and feasted sumptuously every day.
Now when Lazarus died, he was carried by angels to Abraham’s side. When the rich man died, he awoke in hell and saw Lazarus far off in heaven. The rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool his tongue. Abraham explained that there was a chasm fixed between them that could not be crossed. The rich man then begged Abraham to send Lazarus back to earth to warn his brothers of this place of torment. Abraham explained that it would make no difference. If they did not respond to Moses and the prophets, they would not be convinced, even if someone rose from the dead.
Wealth that creates isolation and separation is at issue here. The rich man’s wealth separated him from reality. He saw the poor man, not as an equal, but as a servant. Even in death the rich man was trying to get Lazarus to do things for him. There was just as much separation between the rich man and Lazarus before death as after. Notice the parallel between Lazarus longing for a crumb in life and the rich man longing for a drop of water after life.
How are we to apply this parable today? Are we to drop crumbs to every poor man we see sitting at a gate? Maybe. Should our attitude towards wealth change? Yes.
Let us use our wealth to be a blessing to others. In this way, we do not create the separation and isolation that Jesus so condemns.
We must walk the fine line of managing wealth, while avoiding the pitfalls of being rich.