Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Pain of Selfishness Runs Deep

In the story of the rich man and Lazarus we find a deep chasm between them in death. Both have died and both are in the presence of God but both are not in Heaven. In death the rich man was suffering while Lazarus was comforted in the bosom of Abraham. In life the rich man spent each day ignoring the needs of Lazarus while he himself enjoyed a life “clothed in purple and fine linen, and he fared sumptuously every day.” (Luke 16.19) His selfishness blinded him to the needs of Lazarus who was laying begging at his door for a few crumbs. In life the rich man was comforted while Lazarus suffered.

In death the suffering rich man calls out to God saying, “’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.’ But Abraham said, ‘between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’” (Luke 16.24-26) Even in death the rich man ignored the needs of Lazarus for his own comfort. His selfishness was so great that even the torment of hell was not enough to convince him to have compassion on Lazarus. According to the Church Fathers, the great gulf represents the impossibility of repentance in death. Repentance is only possible in life.

Selfishness, looking out only for our own needs, creates a great gulf between us and those who are in need of our love and assistance. By looking outward to the needs of others rather than inward to our own needs we are able to defeat selfishness in our lives and experience the joy that comes from loving others. When we love others more than ourselves, then we will be rewarded by God in Heaven. Then God will say to us, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25.34)

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