What Do You Hear?
The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus may be about more than heaven and hell. Maybe God is getting at something greater.
It was a favorite of the fundamentalist preachers of my childhood. They scared the hell out of me whenever they told this story.
And, they told it often.
It’s the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).
You remember it don’t you? The rich bachelor who lived in his penthouse suite on the corner of 64th and Central Park in Manhattan? His suite, with its wrap around balcony, gave the rich dude a near panoramic view of the city.
Outside his wrought-iron fence, the gate that protected his penthouse apartment from the riffraff of this world, sat Harry the homeless guy every day. In fact, there was never a day he missed. Each morning, and again each evening, he would meet and greet the rich bachelor on his way to work and when he returned at the close of the day.
“Good morning, sir!” Harry would say in the morning. “Good evening, sir!” he’d repeat in the evening. And, with a predictableness as anticipated as the rising and setting of the sun, the rich bachelor would reach inside the pocket of his Versace suit pants, retrieve his money clip, pull out a $5 dollar bill in the morning and another in the evening, and place it in the dirty hand of Harry, the homeless guy.
“Thank you, sir," he'd say on cue. "God bless you, too."
This went on day in and day out for years. Until one day, Harry wasn’t there to greet the rich bachelor. Nor was he there in the evening.
At first, the rich bachelor shrugged it off, assuming Harry wasn’t feeling well that day. But, when day one became day two, then day three and four, the rich bachelor knew something was not right.
One morning, he stopped the patrol officer coming off the night beat in Central Park.
“Excuse me, Officer,” the rich bachelor called out. “Would you know whatever happened to Harry?”
Just then, he realized that, in all years he had seen Harry outside his gated apartment, he had never bothered to learn Harry’s last name.
“You know,” he stumbled as he pointed toward the pavement, “the homeless fellow who used to sit outside my gate here…”
The Officer just slowly shook his head from side to side and then said, “You haven’t heard, have you?"
“Heard what?” asked the bachelor.
“Harry died a few nights ago."
There was a pause that was long and awkward.