Q. Thank you for your ministry. Your site is great, and I find that I agree with almost everything that you write. I am, however, having a problem with your explanation of the Rich Man and Lazarus. There is nothing in the story that tell us that the rich man was a bad man, or did bad things. His only sin seems to be that he was rich. Lazarus, on the other hand, isn’t portrayed as a good man, just a poor man. Abraham tells the rich man that his sin was being rich while he was alive, and Lazarus is rewarded because he was poor. If the rich man was being punished for being rich – why wasn’t Abraham also being punished for being rich?
A. You’ve exposed the flaw in your own thinking. The fact that Abraham wasn’t being punished for being rich (and by the standards of his day he certainly was) tells us wealth, or the lack thereof, is not the point of the story.
The rich man’s sins are not disclosed to us, but one thing is clear. While he enjoyed every excess life could offer, he was unconcerned by the fact that a poor man lay dying of starvation just outside his door, longing for even the scraps that fell from his table. James said a person who claims to be a believer but doesn’t do anything to help the less fortunate around him casts doubt on the validity of his claim (James 2:15-17).
But the point of the story is that once we die it’s too late to change our eternal destiny, and it’s not permitted for the dead, who finally realize that, to warn the living. The overriding purpose of our life is to decide whether we’re going to let the Lord’s death serve as payment in full for our sins. God has given us His word to help us make an informed decision, but it’s up to each one of us to decide. Apart from that how rich or poor a person becomes is of no consequence. Jesus said, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matt. 16:26).