Saturday, 24 September 2016

The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)

Lazarus and Dives, The Abbaye St. Pierre de Moissa
This is more than a warning against wealth and apathy. The parable is part of a conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees. We are told that the Pharisees loved money and ridiculed Jesus.  (16:14) And they would not repent even if someone (Jesus) were to come back from the dead. (16:31) There is more going on here than a simple rejection of wealth or the wealthy.

The Pharisees in their love of money also despised the sinner. Their financial success  undoubtedly supported their self-righteousness. These two ingredients make up the many variants of what we now call the prosperity gospel: the righteous are blessed, and the blessed are righteous. Whether viewed in terms of wealth or sin, the prosperity gospel stands opposed to the gospel of Jesus.

In this parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus the Pharisees - and what they represent - are the target.  Jesus is warning the 'Pharisees' that they are acting to the wrong script. They imagine that wealth/righteousness now equals blessedness in the life to come. They are wrong. Resurrection is partnered with a cross, salvation with grace, and God with Jesus.

Prosperity Gospels and Jesus just do not match.

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