Perhaps we could forgive the rich man in Hades for wanting some relief. Growing up, I spent summer vacations in the brutal Oklahoma heat. I’ve certainly felt like my very bones were melting in an oven. (Not to compare Oklahoma to Hades!) Accustomed to luxury, fine clothes, and scrumptious feasts, the man is inexperienced in physical suffering. Poor guy. And then, to make matters worse, he looks up and sees what he’s missing. This is the first time he’s ever noticed Lazarus, and certainly the first time he’s wished he was Lazarus. Comparing their two fates must have been especially brutal.
But let’s not get too worked up feeling sorry for this unnamed man. He still doesn’t get it. Everything’s still all about him, even in the afterlife. He has the gall to ask that Lazarus be sent away from Abraham’s embrace (literally Abraham’s bosom) to the depths of Hades. Lazarus has already known incessant punishment. He suffered in life, from physical ailments and the shame of oblivion. Now, though Lazarus rests in his final glory, the clueless rich man keeps seeing him as someone who is less than, a servant at best. He considers Lazarus a means to satisfy his comfort.
While we still have our feet firmly planted on this earth, let’s start seeing each other as the nuanced, human, complex creatures that God created us to be. Let’s stop using the stories and experiences of our spiritual siblings as a way for us to feel better about ourselves. We might as well go ahead and practice seeing people the way God sees them. We need that perspective as much in this life as in the hereafter.
When have I reduced others to “less than” and failed to see them as God does?
Lord of the oppressed, have mercy on us. Help us act according to your love now. Amen.