The Rich Man and Lazarus

22nd Sunday after Pentecost


lazarus_and_the_rich_man_gustave_dore.jpg the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen. Today is the twenty second Sunday after Pentecost[1], and also is the day we celebrate the memory of St. Hilarion the Great. We wish many years to our beloved Archbishop Hilarion, who is down under now.


This day is appointed the reading of the parable of the Rich man, and Lazarus.[2] This parable is only given in St. Luke. We should understand that sometimes the Evangelists spoke about the same things, sometimes, they didn’t. Part of the reason why this was done was because they were individual human beings, and they gave their own imprint to the gospel they wrote.


Also, we can see better see the marvelous agreement of the gospels, because we can see how they were written in different styles, and with a different temperament, but when they speak of the same stories, they agree. They only have a little bit different perspective, since, two people can look at the same event, and both can have a true perspective. They just see different things in the event. This should make us want to read more, knowing that every gospel is different. Each story rendered is different. Sometimes all four gospels may give the same story, other times only three, or two, or one.


This should make us want to read more, and I admonish you -- READ. Read the Gospels. Read what is necessary for your salvation, all the Holy Scriptures: the Gospels, the Epistles, the Old Testament and the Psalter. Read all these things for your salvation. You should so this every day. At least read the daily readings.


This parable, like all parables, has a literal and an allegorical meaning. Out Lord spoke in parables in order to convey a deeper meaning to those who wish to look into it, to those who are willing to struggle and try to learn. Those who just see the surface meaning lose out on the benefit that our Lord has intended for them.


This parable is particularly rich in meanings, MANY meanings. It speaks of the Jews and the Gentiles, Lazarus being the Gentiles, and the Rich man being the Jews. He makes several comparisons, and basically says that the Gentiles are at the threshold of salvation – they were laying at the gate of the rich man.


We also learn about the righteous and the unrighteous, how we are to act and how we are not to act. We see the endurance of Lazarus and the greediness and lack of compassion of the rich man. We learn something about how you are to act if you are rich, and something about how you are to act if you are poor.


Also, we learn something about what it will be like in the next life, especially for the damned. When I read what the rich man says, I am terrified. We see how it will be in the next life, both for the rich and the poor, that is, those who are rich in God, otherwise known as poor in spirit. We just read about that didn’t we?[3] We also learn something about rewards and punishments in this parable.


Oh, yes, indeed, we will be rewarded or punished, depending on how we live our life. This is true!


It is only recently, in the past few hundred years, that this heresy has come about that tries to remove responsibility from a man. Oh yes, we have plenty of responsibility. Our Lord tells us on every page of the Gospels how we are to act, how we are to live, and if we do not try to live in that way, yes, we will be judged. We can see something of this judgment in this parable. Lastly, at the end of this parable, we hear about the word of God and it must be listened to. If we don’t listen to that, we cannot be expected to be convinced by any other means, even if a man would rise from the dead.


The Parable begins There was a certain rich man”[4]. A certain rich man – he doesn’t even have a name. But wouldn’t that be the way it would be? The scripture says about such a man, who is rich only in things in the temporal world, but poor in virtue, “Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.”[5] And the Lord says also, “a froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person.”[6] And then our Lord says, when He is speaking of the Judgment, “I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.[7].


Isn’t that what happened to the rich man? He saw Abraham and he knew he was thrust out, and he was a man with out a name anymore. He was a man that God knew not. “His remembrance shall perish from the earth, and he shall have no name in the street.”[8], so says the Prophet Job. God help us, that we would not be like that, that we would have a name when eternity dawns. This man had no name anymore.


And he was was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day.”[9]


There are two meanings here. The Jews were clothed with the law, and God’s grace toward them, and it is not a sin to be clothed with purple and fine linen, and to fare sumptuously on the teaching of God, but it is a sin to be luxurious, or to not appreciate what God has given us, like the rich man. He had plenty enough to spare, and as we see later on in the parable he KNEW Lazarus. After all, when he was in hell, he certainly could call him by name, but he never bothered while he was on the earth to even cast a glance at him.


”And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus[10], it says. Ah, this man HAS a name. God knows him. God knows him WELL. Lazarus also represents the Gentiles, and they indeed were beggars at the time, because they were as yet outside of the kingdom. The kingdom had not been revealed to them yet, and they were beggars. “Their remembrance is unto generation and generation”, that is the man who follows Christ, and he will have a name. That’s why Lazarus was named, and the rich man, the rich man who people would fawn over in this life, was nameless, faceless, without an identity anymore in the next life.


And it says that Lazarus “was laid at his gate, full of sores.”[11] Again there are two meanings. This gate -- the Gentiles are laying by the gate, about to enter into the kingdom of heaven, right at the threshold of salvation. Harlots and tax collectors are entering into the Kingdom[12], and the Pharisees and the Sadduces didn’t know it, because they were too arrogant to see. They thought that their purple and fine linen would last into the next age, and indeed, it would not.


And we also have another meaning to think about here. Who is laid at our gate? Is there a beggar at our gate, whether he be a beggar for clothing, a beggar for money, or a beggar for salvation, a beggar for comfort, a beggar for consolation? Who is laid at our gate? We had better know. The rich man was without excuse, concerning this man Lazarus, because he knew him. He saw him at his gate every day, and he ignored him.


Also, these sores, what are they? They are sins. Lazarus was blessed, but he certainly was a sinner like you and I. The rich man was wretched, and he also was a sinner, but Lazarus’ sins were on the outside of his skin. His sores were there, so the dogs came and licked them, and comforted him. The rich man’s sins were internal. They were not out to be purged, to be cauterized, and so he died in his sins. Confess your sins, while you can, so that you need not confess them when there is no forgiveness.


And so, when it says that the dogs came and licked his sores”[13], what are we to understand by this? Do you see how alone the man was? He had no comfort. The DOGS came to lick his sores. No one else came, ONLY the dogs. He had to endure much, didn’t he? Do you see the greatness of his soul? The scripture does not come right out and say how great a man he was, but can you see, can you infer? Look at what he endured – coldness, nakedness, hunger, paralysis, loneliness, dejection, and also to see the warmth of the house of the rich man, and to see all the foodstuffs being brought in, and not to have anything to eat! And not to be warm. He endured much indeed, and the scriptures show that he did not complain one whit.


 “The beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom.” This beggar, he died, and to the world, it was a non-event. Someone had to grab him, because after all, he would start to smell, and throw him somewhere, into some potter’s field. No one came to pray for him. No one cared. No one knew him. The rich man might have noticed after two or three weeks, “Oh the beggar is not there anymore. I don’t have to step over him anymore. That’s good”. His death was of no consequence. It did not cause a ripple in the life of that time.


But he did NOT die alone, and his death was a matter of great rejoicing in the heavens, because the angels escorted him into Abraham’s bosom. What does it say about those that die who are righteous, and the appearances, both in this world, and the REAL appearances in the next? Solomon says,


“But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure is taken for misery, and their going from us to be utter destruction: but they are in peace. For though they be punished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality. And having been a little chastised


Lazarus’ wounds were a little bit of chastisement mind you. Don’t look at the appearances, look at the truth! And


“they shall be greatly rewarded: for God proved them, and found them worthy for himself. As gold in the furnace hath he tried them, and received them as a burnt offering. And in the time of their visitation they shall shine, and run to and fro like sparks among the stubble.”[14]



So it is with the righteous when they die. The world sees a false picture, but we know the truth.


What is Abraham’s bosom? Of course, it is salvation. And our Lord made that comment because part of the reason he said this parable was in order to show the Jews their foolishness. And they got the message. This is one of the reasons they hated him so much, because they saw what He was saying in this parable – that they were unbelievers, and of course, the bosom of Abraham would be understood by the Jews to be salvation. After all, He said to them in another place, “I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom”[15], the Jews, those who did not understand, those who did not WANT to live according to what they had learned, “shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.[16]


The East and West represents the Jews and the Gentiles, the Greek, and everyone else. Salvation was being made manifest for everyone, and it was before the eyes of these proud Jews, and they DIDN’T SEE IT.


Then it mentions the rich man in this parable. ”The rich man also died, and was buried.”[17]. Period.


He died alone, brothers and sisters. Oh, I am sure there was a great fanfare. I am sure there was a GREAT funeral for him, and there were orations about him, and he was buried with great pomp and circumstance. And there were probably paid mourners who were weeping, and playing their horns, as the Jews were wont to do to show how much they loved him. And yet, so many of those people that were saying those things were rejoicing, because after all, he probably was hated by his servants. There were probably people who owed him money and thought, ”Now this is wonderful. Now that he has died, I don’t owe him anymore. I am sure glad he died before me”. And there was probably someone who said “Ah ha! I can take what he had, and add it to my larder, because he is gone now, and I can appropriate his goods.”


David says, “Their graves shall be their houses, unto eternity”. This is not the mansion[18] that our Lord speaks of. That’s the house that I want to live in. “Their graves shall be their houses, unto eternity”. The Lord will say to him, “Your feasting is finished, your name is blotted out of the book of life. And I DON’T know you.” And that is what happened to the rich man.


“And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.”[19]


Oh yes, there are actual torments, and these torments are, shall we say, the “would-ofs” the “could-ofs” and the “should-ofs”. We will know what we should have done when we die. May it be that we will rejoice, because God will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”. He is far off. He sees Abraham afar off, in brightness. He is in murk, and he sees the light afar off. He is far removed. And He sees Lazarus. Notice that Lazarus does not see him. Lazarus was in bliss. He did not see him. Those in the light have trouble seeing into the darkness, don’t they? But the people in the dark can see into the light. Lazarus was unencumbered by the knowledge of the Rich man’s situation.


Don’t let the Devil trick you now. I think one of the tricks that he has, especially for people that are converts, living in an unorthodox country, and where we have family, perhaps children, our spouse, brothers, sisters, parents that are not of the Orthodox faith or are even far away from anything even remotely resembling Christianity is this. We worry and we fret about them, and wonder, what will it be like when we die.


I have had this temptation, wondering how can I be happy if I know that my father or mother is not in heaven. Well, in heaven, you will have understanding, because all things will be revealed. You will be at peace. You will understand then. You don’t understand now, but you will understand then. Now we cannot fully understand. So don’t let the Devil trick you. Save your soul, because if you don’t save your soul, how can you help anyone to save theirs? And pray also for your mother and your father, your sister and your brother.


And the rich man, or we know him as the poorest wretch don’t we? says, “send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.”[20]


He who denied even a crumb to Lazarus is denied even a drop of water for his tongue. What a state he is in now!


Instead of music, he hears groaning.

Instead of the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, he is in darkness.

Instead of drinking and carousing, and eating to his fill, he has thirst, and hunger, burning thirst. Instead of gaiety he has despair.

This is the state of the man!


The Words of the Law were in his mouth. He was a Jew! I am sure that he went to synagogue, and that he said some prayers, and gave some alms for appearances sake, but the things he said, that he didn’t believe, they burn him now! That’s what is burning his tongue, you know. That is why his tongue is so hot, and parched, because he didn’t do what he said. He said he believed something, but he didn’t really, because he did not act like it.


The Lord says some things about these people, who are knowledgeable, but do not do His commandments,


”Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid”[21].


These wise men, so called, are those who trust in their riches, and their gaiety, and their feasting, and have not compassion, and their wisdom, and their prudence is hid in HADES, and their name is FORGOTTEN. The Lord says to us on every page of the scripture, “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?[22] And the rich man is exactly like this kind of person: “He that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.”[23] And that house was forgotten.


And Abraham said to him, “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.[24]


Abraham said to him, SON! Ah, this is a person who was in the church, this is one of those tares that grew up. Oh yes, there will out and out pagans in hell, and idol worshippers, and yet, there will also be those who call themselves Christians, those who call themselves good Jews. Abraham recognized, “Yes, you are one of us, and I call you Son, but that doesn’t do you any good now, because the place of torment is reserved for those who do not do the commandments, whether they are sons, or aliens” .


And He says that that thou in thy lifetime receivedst THY good things”.


In English, we really cannot see this distinction, but in the Slavonic, and Greek, this word “receivest” has a connotation of “receive because of what you have done”. What does it say in the other scriptures today, in the usual reading for venerable fathers, men who fasted and prayed, and became great Saints? St. Paul says “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.”[25] He reaped what he sowed, because he sowed nothing. So he had nothing. He was naked in the next life, and without comfort.


And likewise, Lazarus received evil things in this world, evil in appearances! But our Lord has something to say about that in the other Gospel as well, because He says,


“Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled”, not NOW, but in the kingdom you will be filled! Be patient!. “Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.”[26], and run to and fro, like sparks among the stubble.


So Lazarus had evil things and the rich man had those things that he thought were good things. And he made a trade, like Esau made.[27] He traded a pot of lentils for is birthright, is what he did. He made the choice. He decided what he wanted, and we indeed can make that choice also, brothers and sisters. We can decide, when we want our good things? Do we want them now, or do we want them in the kingdom? You can have good things now, according to your abilities, you can have everything you want. But you will have nothing in the Kingdom if you only pursue temporal happiness now. Lazarus punishment was only for a moment, only for a short time. He suffered grievously for only a short period, and then he had eternal life.


And Abraham then says to the rich man, to explain to him why he has no help, no comfort, no chance: “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.”[28]


Oh yes, hell is permanent and real! And I tell you, the gulf was made by the rich man. He dug his own pit, and jumped into it, and he has no recourse after jumping into that pit. And see what he understood? The rich man knew what he had done! The rich man repented, he wanted to make amends. He was not a man with absolutely no good feelings whatsoever.


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.[29]


His memory is all preserved! He remembers his brothers. He remembers how they act. He knows Lazarus. He knows Abraham, and yet he had never met the man! He never met him at all, because he never cared about the things he said, did he?


The senses in the next life are finer and stronger. We see and we understand more, we calculate more quickly in the next life, when we are unencumbered by the flesh. Indeed, even those in Hell have finer senses, so that they can more exquisitely feel their pain.


Do you see how terrifying this is? All their passions are still preserved, but there is no fulfillment for their passions. His thirst for liquor will never be fulfilled, his thirst for women, for song, all of it will go unfulfilled and will GNAW at him, and hurt him, and cut him, for eternity! “Their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”[30], it says in the scripture. And that is the worm, brothers and sisters! Our passions are the worm! They will eat at us, unless we exorcise them now, so that we will be unencumbered by them. And in the next life, every knee shall bend[31], and all things shall be made known. Those in Hades, they will know, they will see Father Abraham, and this will make their pain even more real and more exquisite.


And Abraham says to him, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (the word of God). “And he said, Nay, father Abraham…”. He knew his brothers because he was one of them. “… 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.”.[32] And the Jews certainly heard this, and it angered them, and just increased their foment, and their desire to put him to death.


Why is it some men will not be “persuaded”, whether by the Word of God, or even obvious miracles? Certainly most people here in America would say they “believe” in God, and even call themselves Christians, and yet so many are not really “persuaded” to live as Christians. Why is this so?


It is because they do not understand that the Christian life is a moral life, with moral change and amendment a necessity.


The rich man, like so many in this life, said he believed, but did not change. He was not compassionate. His wallowing in luxury dulled his senses, and he perished in worldly splendor. Lazarus, the blessed one, endured with patience and was saved. May God help us to endure all things, and to change ourselves to be like Him, to love, to be patient, eventually to see Him in paradise.



Luke 16:19-31

 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: {20} And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, {21} And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. {22} 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; {23} And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. {24} 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. {25} 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. {26} 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. {27} Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: {28} For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. {29} Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. {30} And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. {31} And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one

 rose from the dead.



Priest Seraphim Holland   St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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[1] This homily was transcribed from one given On Oct 21, 1996 according to the church calendar (Nov 3 ns), being the Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost and the day appointed for the commemoration of St. Hilarion the Great. There are some stylistic changes and minor corrections made and several footnotes have been added, but otherwise, it is essentially in a colloquial, “spoken” style. It is hoped that something in these words will help and edify the reader, but a sermon read from a page cannot enlighten a soul as much as attendance and reverent worship at the Vigil service, which prepares the soul for the Holy Liturgy, and the hearing of the scriptures and the preaching of them in the context of the Holy Divine Liturgy. In such circumstances the soul is enlightened much more than when words are read on a page.

[2] Cf. Luke 16:19-31

[3] Cf. Luke 6:17-23, the Gospel reading for St. Hilarion the Great.

[4] Luke 16:19

[5] Psalm 109:13

[6] Psalm 101:4

[7] Luke 13:27-28

[8] Job 18:17

[9] Luke 16:19

[10] Luke 16:20

[11] Ibid.

[12] Cf. Matthew 21:31

[13] Ibid.

[14] Wisdom 3:1 - 7

[15] Matthew 8:11-12

[16] Matthew 8:11-12

[17] Luke 16:22

[18] Cf. John 14:2

[19] Luke 16:23

[20] Luke 16:24

[21] Isaiah 29:13-14

[22] Luke 6:46

[23] Luke 6:49

[24] Luke 16:25

[25] 2 Corinthians 9:6. The appointed epistle reading for venerable Fathers is 2 Cor. 9:6-11

[26] Luke 6:20-21. The appointed Gospel reading for venerable Fathers is Luke 6:17-23.

[27] Cf. Genesis 25:29-34

[28] Luke 16:26

[29] Luke 16:27-28

[30] Isaiah 66:2, quoted in Mark 9:44,46,48

[31] Cf. Philippians 2:10

[32] Luke 16:31