Thursday, February 23, 2006

Parable: The Rich Man and Lazarus


The story of the rich man and Lazarus was a parable. This means that it contained symbolic elements. Even the most rabid rightwing conservative does not insist that parables are literal. A parable contains symbolic or allegorical components.

In the story, a rich man ignores the poor. (The current administration had better be listening, as, for example, regarding its attitude towards New Orleans' inhabitants.)

Lazarus was a poor beggar ignored and neglected by the rich man. But when both died, their positions were completely reversed. Lazarus was in a position of favor, or "heaven," although this word is never used in the parable. It uses Jewish symbolism to say that Lazarus was "in the bosom of Abraham."

But the rich man, due to his insensitivity, finds himself in a hellish condition. This symbolized the inevitable karma of a person who does not actively care for other human beings: We cannot, must not, simply turn our backs on the poor, and pretend complacently that poverty simply does not exist; if we do, we are promised to "go to hell." That is, mere complacency is "active sin," according to Jesus. For the account does not say that the rich man attacked or harmed the poor, but simply ignored them. So, let us all take a warning.

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