Lazarus and the Rich Man (2009)

St. John Chrysostom
St. John Chrysostom

Commenting on Luke 16:19-31, the Gospel Lesson about Lazarus and the rich man, St. John Chrysostom wrote in praise of Lazarus, a man for whom Scriptures lists no virtues, and whose only known characteristics are poverty and disease.   Lazarus’ poverty and sufferings are contrasted with the unnamed rich man who lived a life of luxury.  The Gospel lesson is a challenge to any who see their own prosperity as being a guarantee of God favoring them.  The blessed man in the parable – the rich man –  stunningly is not in the end the one favored by God.   Wealth is no indication of virtue or of God’s favor.   Chrysostom sees in Lazarus though the more hidden virtues of  long-suffering patience coupled with his having a thankful spirit despite his poverty.  In other words Lazarus is not a complainer, nor bitter about his situation in life, but rather keeps faith in God like Job despite the cruelty of his life experience.

For this was the achievement of Lazarus, too: he did not give anyone money, either—how could he, being short of necessary nourishment? He did not visit prisons—how could he, being incapable of standing up? He did not visit the sick—how could he, exposed as he was to the tongues of the dogs? Yet  independently of these things he carried off the prize for virtue for bearing everything nobly, for uttering no harsh word despite seeing a cruel and inhumane man feted and feasted while he himself was subjected to such awful troubles. Hence the one whose condition was no better than a corpse, Joblying neglected in the gateway of the man who was then rich, was welcomed into the bosom of Abraham. Along with the patriarch who had achieved so much he was awarded the crown, was publically acclaimed and given a place in his company despite having given no alms, stretched out no hand to the wronged, welcomed no strangers, was capable of demonstrating nothing else of this kind, but only giving thanks for everything and carrying off the bright crown for endurance. Thanksgiving and sound values are a great achievement, as is patient endurance practiced amidst such awful difficulties; it is a greater work than anything. On those grounds Job also was crowned… After all, it is no slight merit to hold back a soul in distress from committing any sin; it is comparable with martyrdom, it is the acme of good things.  

One thought on “Lazarus and the Rich Man (2009)

  1. Lazarus was favored by God, rather than the rich man, as wealth is no indication of God’s favor.

    Lazarus had more Christian virtues than the rich man, since Lazarus had long-suffering patience and a thankful spirit, despite his poverty.

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