Τετάρτη, 23 Νοεμβρίου 2016

The rich man and the beggar Lazarus (from Zimbabwe)


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Orthodox Church of Zimbabwe

Sunday Sermon – 30th October 2016
By Archbishop Seraphim
of The Holy Greek Orthodox Archbishopric of Zimbabwe

From today’s Gospel extract we have heard the parable of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus where Christ presents two different scenarios to us. The one is enacted on earth and the other one in heaven. In the scenario, which is enacted on earth, the rich man appears well-nourished, well-clothed, well-housed, healthy. He has a family, five brothers, friends, and servants. In the same scenario on the other hand, there appears the beggar Lazarus-hungry, naked, homeless, sick, without relations and friends alone and deserted, with the dogs as his only companions in his solitude licking his wounds and bringing relief to his pain.
In the second scenario, in the scenario of heaven, the conditions are reversed. The rich man is tormented, he burns, and he thirsts. “I am in agony in this fire, “ he tells us. This painful cry expresses the extent of his despair. Conversely, the beggar Lazarus happily relishes the life of paradise.
It is wrong to say that because the rich man enjoyed all the possessions of earth, he is deprived of them now in heaven and because the poor man was deprived of them on earth, he enjoys them now in eternity. It is wrong my beloved to say that the cause of condemnation of the one is wealth and the justification of the other is poverty. It is neither wealth that leads to hell, nor is poverty an incline which leads to paradise. What is important for anyone to reach paradise or hell is the way in which he lives his wealth or poverty. Today, Christ presents to us an ill-natured rich man and a good poor man. Besides, Abraham who is already presented by Christ as being in paradise, according to the witness of the Old Testament, was one of the wealthiest persons. Hence, if wealth were something evil, he would not be in paradise but in hell. What is important is how one uses wealth. If you use wealth to improve life on the planet on which you live, it will lead you to paradise. If however you use it to spread hatred and injustice without constructing works of love, then it leads you to hell. The rich man of today’s parable is condemned because he makes bad use of his wealth. From being an administrator of the material possessions which God entrusted to him, he becomes an embezzler, using them only for himself. 

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Seeing the poverty stricken Lazarus outside his door hungry and wounded, not only does he not show any interest in helping him but he also causes him irritation. He could have become a contributor of joy, putting his wealth in the service of love. He did not understand that by giving he would further utilize his money. He did not realize the more one gives the more one acquires. Hence, although the wealthy man of the parable is presented to us as being wealthy in material possessions, he proves to be poor in spiritual matters. The lack of love, which he expresses in helping his neighbour, is what led him to condemnation. Therefore, what condemns the wealthy man is the way in which he manages his wealth. On the other hand, the poverty-stricken Lazarus is presented as being wealthy in virtues. What led him to paradise is not his poverty but his patience and endurance in his tribulation.
The poverty stricken Lazarus does not complain about his situation. He does not hate the rich man who treats him with contempt. He does not become a thief by breaking into someone else’s home in order to satisfy his hunger. He is not carried away by the camouflaged propaganda of the changing social system, which instead of leading to justice as it promises to do, leads man far away from God.
Conversely, Lazarus endures. He is content with the crumbs and company of dogs. He is satisfied with little and does not live with the longing to become wealthy by treading on the souls of others if the opportunity is given to him. And it is perhaps in his state of being satisfied with little that he is richer than the wealthier man because poverty is not measured by what one has but by what one desires, because the more you desire, the poorer you are even if you have a lot. Finally, however, wealth as much as poverty depending on the way in which we use them will lead us to the appropriate place accordingly: to hell or to paradise. We would be able to say by means of a parable, that poverty and wealth are two keys. Everyone holds the one and the other. You can open the door with the key as well as lock it. It depends on the way in which you use it. In today’ gospel extract, the wealthy man used his key to close the door of paradise, whereas the poor man used it to open the door.
Similarly we have the opportunity to freely decide how we are going to use our key of wealth or poverty, opening or closing the door, which leads to the life of paradise.

See also

A voice from Ghana: "If we truly wish to be called a Christian..." 
On Faith: Justice and peace at root of Orthodox churches mission to help the needy
 
Capitalism (tag in our blog)

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