Lazaros and the Rich Man


Sermon preached by Dimitri Newman on Sunday, November 5, 2023

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen Christ is in our midst. 

In Genesis 18: 1-8, the Lord appeared to Abraham as three men and Abraham said to them:

“If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord,[a] do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.” 

The rich man that we hear about in today’s gospel does the opposite of Abraham, who recognizes his guests as his Lord; Lazaros stands by the rich man’s door everyday; Lazaros could have only been a stranger to the rich man by his willful ignorance, in fact the rich man later shows that he knew Lazaros’ name. He offers him no food nor to wash his feet, in fact he lets the dogs lick his sores. The rich man is ignorant of the image of God in Lazaros.

Other than this, we hear of no wrongdoing that the rich man commits, he doesn’t murder, he doesn’t steal, he doesn’t cheat on his wife. All He does is callously refuses to offer his hospitality to the man Lazaros, even though he had plenty, as he “feasted sumptuously every day.” 

This is similar to the parable of the Last Judgment which we read on Meatfare Sunday before Lent Christ says “You saw me hungry and gave me no food.” And similar to the Goats, when the rich man dies he ends up in Hades in torment, where the Jews believed the souls of the wicked would go and moreover “a great chasm has been fixed” separating him from the Bosom of Abraham, which is where the Jews believed the righteous would dwell.  Now, It was not Abraham, nor Lazaros, nor even God that set this chasm between them, but the rich man himself during his lifetime with his love of money and lack of mercy. The teaching of Moses showed the Isrealites how to deal with sin, especially in showing mercy to the poor, we can see this in such laws as the implementation of the Jubilee year which allowed impoverished Isrealites to reclaim their property, which they had sold in desperation. The prophets often reproached Israel for not showing mercy to the poor, the Prophet Amos, for example in Book 8 rebukes them saying “Hear this you who oppress the poor in the morning and use tyranny to drive the needy from the land… [the Lord] will not forget any of your works.” The rich man ignores Moses and the prophets instead focusing on his own greed and gluttony.  In Matthew 6:24 Christ Himself says that “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”  

If we wish to cultivate a love of God and union with him, then the preparation begins in this life. St. Nicholas Cabasilas says that “if the life to come were to admit those who lack the faculties and senses necessary for it, [faculties and sense developed in this life] it would avail nothing for their happiness, but they would be dead and miserable living in that blessed and immortal life.” That is not to say that our souls are static in the afterlife, but generally, we will continue to love in the next life, what we have loved in this one. We can either have our hearts set on wealth and material things and set a chasm between ourselves and God, or we can be like Abraham and  “possess our goods in common with those who are in need…” as St. John Chrysostom suggests, “and exterminate out of our soul the desire for more, and in no areas going beyond real need.” To paraphrase another quote attributed to St. John Chrysostom we must recognize Christ in the beggar at the door, if we hope to recognize Him in the chalice. 

Lazaros always offered the rich man a means by which he could show love and mercy. The Lazari in our lives play that same vital role. There is a paradoxical concept in Orthodoxy that we should be thankful for the poor, as they offer us a chance to carry out God’s will of love and mercy by sharing with them. If you are in need you have an opportunity to help others with their salvation. Remember that you do not need to stand at the door and beg, but let Father or a trusted parishioner know. You are loved at St. Mary’s and many of us are looking for an opportunity to show mercy.

Now unlike the rich man who only had Moses and the Prophets, we also have Jesus Christ as an example and teacher, who did in fact rise from the dead. Will we be so devoted to money and blind to Christ in the beggar at the door that we remain unconvinced even by Him?

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.