Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man’s table.
In Jesus’s story it is easy to identify who the rich man is as purple garments were by law only to be worn by royalty, though not necessarily Jewish royalty. The poor man, though named, is a bit more ambiguous. That poor man Lazarus, could simply be the poor in general, and that could be the majority of the population of that day, or it could be the poorest of the poor. Those at the true fringes of society such as lepers would experience hell on earth. Ironically Lazarus name means “G-d is my help.” The poor could be the majority of “G-ds chosen people”, or it could be the marginalized few who were perpetually unclean and suffered dearly for that burden. To the Pharisee the man in the purple garment might be seen as one blessed by G-d, and Lazarus as one cursed by that same G-d. Jesus parable with the cursed Lazarus entering heaven then becomes a reversal of those Pharisees beliefs, and a commentary of tolerance. It becomes a suggestion that perhaps those that are blessed in this life might not meet all the requirements for everlasting life. As a commentary, it does not point fault at the rich man for enjoying his riches, but does give thought to that perhaps to be truly rich requires reaching out to those in need. While the culture of the Pharisees did have a tradition of meeting the needs of those who were experiencing many hardships, that charity did not extend to those at the extreme fringes of society. A destitute beggar covered with open sores would lie at an unapproachable margin of society. Sometimes it is easy to give to the unfortunate, yet the truly destitute in many ways still remain unapproachable. Providing some support to a neighbor who lost some income might seem right, but what about the homeless addict panhandling from the street gutter? The law of Moses contains provisions for the unfortunate, yet perhaps Jesus is challenging the treatment of those truly ostracized from society. There are many people that most folks would not object to helping out from time to time. There also are many that people would avoid at all costs, then and now. Christ’s charity does not extend to only a few members of society, it extends to all. Christ’s charity extends from the one extreme of that man in the purple garment all the way to the other extreme of Lazarus. Though man might try and put limits on Gods charity, that love has no bounds. While that charity has no limits, it is obvious from this parable that entry into Gods kingdom does have some conditions. The rich man did fail to enter, while Lazarus did. Why? Though the rich man was given everything needed, he failed to put in the work. His was a lack of action. For Lazarus, all he was given was desire as he waited at the door. His salvation was his faith. Jesus parable challenges many notions on G-d’s kingdom of heaven from who that kingdom is available to, and what it takes to gain entry. Those lessons were a challenge to that Pharisee who Jesus told the parable to, and they are still a challenge to us today.