One of the most graphic parables of Christ (Luke 16:19-31), describing the beggar at the rich man’s table. The name Lazarus (Hebrew: God hath helped) has become synonymous the world over and for all time with misery in any form. The rich man is not named because, as Saint Cyril remarks, God’s way of treating the rich who are heartless is: “nor will I be mindful of their names by my lips” (Psalm 15).
The rich man feasts sumptuously every day, Lazarus gets scarcely enough scraps from the table to satisfy hunger; the dogs, a name for filthy animals, lick his sores. Lazarus dies and is carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom, a name for heaven; the rich man dies and was buried, in hell, as the text implies. Then come the pleadings of the rich man to Father Abraham to send Lazarus to cool hIs tongue with a fingertip dipped in water. He is refused. He pleads that his five brethren may be warned by sending Lazarus to tell them of his torment. He is reminded they have ample warning in Moses and the prophets. He insists on a message from the dead. He is told: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead.”
The parable is a lesson on the enormity of injustice, the evils of inequality in the distribution of this world’s goods, the heartlessness that too often develops from the acquisition of wealth, and the assumption of the rich man that money can command anything, even a special revelation if necessary.
There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Laz’arus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Laz’arus in his bosom.
And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Laz’arus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.’
But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Laz’arus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’
And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’
But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’
And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’
He said to him, `If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.’
- “Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man“. . CatholicSaints.Info. 24 October 2009. Web. 5 May 2015. <>