Monday, February 12, 2018

The Rich Man Who Went To Hell

There was once a rich man. 1% for sure. In fact, if you're not the 1%, I don't think the term "rich" should be applied. The gap between the 1%, maybe 2%, and everyone else is getting so wide that there's not much left to be called "rich" among people not up there at the top.

So there was this rich man who liked to wear expensive clothes. The most expensive he could get his hands on. He was known for it.

He also ate pretty well.

There was also a homeless man. The homeless man was Lazarus, and he was suffering greatly from being homeless, so much so that he wasn't able to get around on his own anymore. He had oozing sores because he didn't have any healthcare, and he couldn't keep the dogs and flies off of them. The dogs because they like to lick gross stuff and the flies because... well, for the same reason, I suppose.

The homeless man had a few of his friends, if you could call them that -- people willing to give him a hand, at any rate -- drag him over and leave him in front of the rich man's house. Not right in front, you know, because that would be trespassing, but on the sidewalk near the gate. Maybe, just maybe, the rich man would allow him some of the leftover food from his amazing dinners, though, really, any food at all would have been amazing to the homeless man. To Lazarus.

Lazarus lived out his days there on the sidewalk in front of the rich man's house. I'm going to just assume that those days were not very many, though I don't know for sure. But we know that he was starving, that he was unable to seek shelter because he wasn't strong enough to walk, that he was suffering from oozing sores that wouldn't heal. None of those things bodes well for a long life. When he died, the angels came and carried him away. Or maybe those were just the first responders who showed up when they got the call about about a body.

Some time later, the rich man also died. I'm going to go ahead and assume that it was some years later, though I don't know for sure. After all, we don't know how old the rich man was, and we don't know what he died from. Maybe he lived decades because he probably had great healthcare or, maybe, he died the next day in a car crash. It doesn't really matter. What matters is that the rich man got sent straight to Hell. I imagine this rather like a game of Monopoly: He did not pass "Go" and he did not collect his $200.

Now Hell is a pretty awful place. Or so they say. Evidently, it's hot, or there wouldn't be a saying about it being "hot as hell." It seems there is also no water, because the rich man was dying of thirst. Okay, sure, he was already dead, but it sure felt to him as if he were dying of thirst. At any rate, he looked up toward Heaven (because you can see it clearly from Hell), longing for water, and, what do you know, there was Lazarus, the guy who died in front of his house, just hanging out and having a good time.

And drinking water.

The rich man wanted some, and he wanted Lazarus to bring it to him. The answer, of course, was no. Not just no, but, "Hell, no!" heh

Some of you may be familiar with this story. It's pretty popular in churches and comes from the book of Luke. Yes, that's in the Bible. So let's look at some things about this particular story, shall we? Yes, we shall.

Jesus was telling this story to the Pharisees because he liked to tell stories that were also lessons. That he was telling the story to Pharisees presents us with a small problem: The Pharisees were all rich, hyper-uptight, religiously educated dudes. Let me make one distinction, though: when I say they were religiously educated, that means they were educated in Jewish law. And they knew it backwards and forwards but, basically, it made them lawyers. They weren't actually interested in spirituality; they were interested in the law and how to keep the letter of the law.

So Jesus was speaking to a bunch of lawyers, experts, about an intersection of religious law and spirituality, and today's church-goers are hardly experts in, well, anything to do with the Bible at all.

Jesus was speaking to the 1%. When pastors are preaching this particular message, they are most assuredly not speaking it to the 1%.

Jesus was speaking to hyper-uptight... Oh, well, that's still the same.

But, really, pastors today are not delivering this message to the intended audience. Let's look at why that matters:

Jesus was delivering his message to the rich. Based on other things he said to the rich, like "give away to the poor everything you own," I'm going to take this story as a warning to the 1%. I think that warning is, "Don't be rich," which is a warning that rather flies in the face of the oh-so-popular prosperity doctrine. [For those of you who don't know, the prosperity doctrine says that "god" will make you rich if he likes you. Conversely, if you are rich, "god" likes you.]

Of course, pastors tell this story as if the rich man was being punished because he didn't do anything to help Lazarus, and I can see the temptation in telling it that way, but we don't know that that was true. The story Jesus tells says nothing about whether the rich man offered Lazarus food or not. Or what he did or did not do for the man. What I do find interesting, though, is that the rich man knew Lazarus' name, not something I would expect if he had taken no interest in Lazarus at all or if his interest had only extended to, "Get that wretch away from my gate!" In fact, we know that Lazarus lived in front of the rich man's house until his death. Maybe the rich man kept Lazarus fed all along but Lazarus was just too sick for it to do any good. We really don't know.

Pastors also tell this story to the poor of the world as a comfort story rather than to the rich as a warning. Not what Jesus intended if we look at the audience Jesus delivered this particular message to. No, the message pastors today want to deliver is this: Don't worry about being poor and sick and abandoned; you will get to go to heaven. As if Lazarus got to go to heaven because he was poor and sick. That also doesn't follow from the rest of the accumulated teachings ascribed to Jesus.

Basically, what we have here are two completely divergent messages.
The first, by Jesus:
Hey, you, rich people, watch out. You're going down.

The second, by modern pastors:
Hey, you, downtrodden people, be accepting of your fate. You'll get rewarded for your suffering after you die.

That second message is kind of sick if you ask me.

What I do know is this: No matter what you believe, the 1%, after they die, are going to end up in the same place as the rich man from the story. I suppose they better hope that "christianity" doesn't turn out to be true, because an eternity of nothingness has to be better than an eternity in hell.


  1. I imagine that lesson wouldn't go over well with the 1%.

  2. Or, if you subscribe to a belief in reincarnation, means that the rich will eventually be Lazarus (or rather, Lazarus-like as Lazarus already was) eventually. But the rich don't think too far ahead.