Choosing Heaven or Choosing Hell

The Lord’s Parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31):

Icon of Lazarus in Abraham’s Bosom

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with  Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Fr. Theodore Stylianopoulos comments:

Icon: Lazarus and the Rich Man

“Jesus’ first great lesson is about wealth, poverty and human relationships. Did wealth send the rich man to hell? No. Did poverty send Lazarus to heaven? No. It was their relationship to each other and to God. Neither wealth nor poverty of themselves can send one to heaven or hell. Rather the decisive matter is how one lives in wealth or poverty, and how one goes about gaining wealth or protecting oneself against losing it. The rich man would not have gone to hell if love had filled his heart for God and his fellow man. He would have known the biblical teaching that the world and everything in it is the Lord’s and we are – whatever our possessions and talents – stewards of God’s gifts. But he lived only for himself in uncaring self-sufficiency. He was separated from the poor man at his doorstep and when he died he discovered that he was also eternally separated from God. Lazarus would not have gone to heaven if his heart had been filled with hate for the uncaring rich man, with resentment about his condition against God and with other evils because ‘the pure in heart…shall see God (Mt. 5:8).’ Deprivations and suffering often remind us of our need for God and lead us closer to Him, but the same circumstances can make us complain, angry, greedy – separating us from God. It has been said: ‘affliction can teach a man to pray, but it can also teach him to curse!’ God’s love was in Lazarus’ heart who endured his afflictions with humility and trust in God (‘Lazarus’ means ‘God is my helper’). He suffered in the image of Christ who became poor for us and died on the Cross without ceasing to love us. Only love, not need and distress, leads to heaven.”   (A Year of the Lord: Fall, pp 106-107)

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