This hilarious activity is great for thinking about where we fix our eyes. It’s hard to focus on your goal when you’re looking the other way.
You will need:
- Life-sized-ish (A4) pictures of famous people (or members of your congregation) – here are some suggested pictures
- Moustaches (you can buy these on-line or print / draw your own)
Pin up the pictures at a reachable height and attach blue-tak to the back of each moustache. Then stand far to one side of the pictures.
Call up some volunteers and give each a moustache, then ask them to walk to a picture and attach the moustache.
However, they are not allowed to look at either the moustache or the picture. Instead, they must look at you for the whole time. You can keep talking and encouraging them as they attempt to complete their task. Hopefully they will fail in an amusing manner because they did not have their eyes fixed on the right place.
In this passage, and in those that precede it, Jesus is challenging us to think about where we set our eyes.
We’ve had the parables of the lost and found coin / son / sheep, and then a parable addressed to the ‘lost’ people (the tax collectors and sinners). Now we have a story directed at those who considered themselves the ‘found’ – the rich, respected and religious.
Riches, then, were considered a sure sign of God’s favour – and that distortion is still perpetuated on many ‘prosperity gospel’ TV shows. But in the stories Jesus told, it is almost always the poor person who is seen as closer to God. Perhaps this is because they know their need and so have their eyes fixed beyond their own resources. Self sufficiency is the spiritual cancer of our age.
So here we have the poor person (Lazarus was a common name back then) and the rich person. Some translations call him Dives, but that’s not a name, it’s just Latin for ‘the rich man’. However, it will do as his name.
The differences in their lives are clear, but the differences in their deaths even more so.
Lazarus dies and is carried by angels to Abraham’s side.
Dives dies and is buried.
And that’s it. End of story. YOLO, as they say (You Only Live Once)
Or so he thought.
Now clearly, Dives knew the Hebrew Scriptures. He would have been brought up with them from childhood, but the reality of the afterlife seems to have taken him by surprise. Abraham explains it all in verse 25. Like Jesus also said in Matthew 6 to those who liked to be seen praying and giving and fasting – they had already received their good things. They had had their treasure on earth – there was nothing left for heaven.
Lazarus and Dives are pictures of the two groups of people Jesus was addressing. We can see them at the start of this section, in Luke 15:1. ‘The Pharisees and the scribes’ were like Dives – confident, assured, the good guys – those who could look at themselves and be confident that they were on their way to Abraham’s side. They were so confident that they were the ‘found’ that they could not see that they were really lost.
‘The tax collectors and sinners’ on the other hand, knew they were lost and needed help. Like Lazarus, they looked to God to do for them what they could not do for themselves. As Jesus said – “It is the sick people who need a doctor, not those who are healthy. I did not come to invite good people. I came to invite sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
A couple of additional notes: Afterlife and riches.
This is a story. A funny story. It is not a brochure for Afterlife Homes. Think of this more like a cartoon strip illustrating a point rather than a detailed blueprint for what heaven and hell are like. We often draw cartoons of big gates with Saint Peter standing outside wearing a dress and holding a clipboard or a funny little man with a pointy beard and a pitchfork wearing a bright red onesie. This is the Jewish equivalent. Don’t read too much into it.
Material possessions and good health are not of themselves signs of God’s blessing – even though many folks in the Bible thought that way (see Job and John 9), but neither are poverty and ill health. Some rich folks are very godly and some not. Some poor folks know their Lord as a dear friend, some do not. There is no correlation. The Bible never says that money is evil or that rich people cannot be saved. It says it is hard.
The problem with money is not that we have it, but that it so easily can have us. Usually, you will find that those who have the least are the most generous with the little they have. So the difficulty is that we look to the stuff that God has blessed us with (money, health, jobs, family, status) and we start to rely on the given, not the giver. I speak to myself here, I am just as susceptible as anyone.
The next life rather caught Dives by surprise, even though he had been in ‘church ‘ all his life. Would I fare any better?
help me to see
that I am lost and need finding by you every day
that I am sick and need your healing every day
that I am naked and need your robes of righteousness
Luke 16:19-31 English Standard Version
The Rich Man and Lazarus
“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.
The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’
But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’
And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’
But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’
And 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 hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.