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The rich man and Lazarus.


Here God's Providence put the rich man in favorable conditions, so that without any trouble or inventiveness he could have helped the pauper lying at the door of his home. But the rich man was totally deaf to his sufferings. He was only fond of his feasts and caring for himself.

"There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (Lk. 16:19-31).

Poor Lazarus' destiny in the future life is consolatory for all paupers and sufferers. Due to his poverty and illness, he could not help others or do any good works but he received celestial bliss from God only for his tolerant bearing of sufferings without complaint. The mention of Abraham in this parable confirms that the rich man was not condemned for his riches: Abraham was a very rich man as well but, as opposed to the rich man of this parable, he was distinguished for his compassion and care for pilgrims.

Some people ask if it is not unjust and cruel to doom the rich man for eternal damnation when his physical delights were only temporal. To answer this question, we need to understand that future bliss or perdition cannot be viewed as abode in paradise or hell. Paradise and hell are in the first place the state of the soul! For if, according to Christ's word, the Kingdom of God is "within us," then hell is also within the soul of a sinner. When the grace of God rests within a man, then he has paradise in his soul. But when passions and the pangs of conscience come thick upon him, he does not suffer less than sinners in hell. Remember the cheeseparing knight's remorse in Pushkin's famous poem, "The Cheeseparing Knight": "Conscience is a clawed beast that claws the heart; Conscience is an unbidden guest, pestering companion, coarse lender!" The agony of sinners will be especially unbearable in the other world because they will neither have a chance to satiate their appetites, nor to repent and unburden the reproach of their conscience. That is the reason why the agonies of sinners will be eternal.

The parable of the rich man and Lazaurus uncovers a little the veil over the world to come, and gives us an opportunity to understand worldly existence with eternity in view. In the light of this parable, we see that earthly goods are not so much happiness as they are a test of our ability to love and help our neighbors. "If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon,"says the Lord in the conclusion of the previous parable, "who will commit to your trust the true riches?" This means that if we do not know how to manage the illusory riches we have today, then we will not be worthy to receive the real treasure from God, the treasure which was intended for us in the future life. Thus let us remind ourselves that our worldly goods in fact belong to God. He uses them to test us.

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