Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores. Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and his soul went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side. The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’ But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish.And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’ Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home.ForI have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’ But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.'”Luke 16:19-31
This rich man is different! He spends his money on himself and banqueting with his friends. He has gone down in history as Dives (Rich). The text here hints at how rich he is and also hints at his attitude behind his riches. “He was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and lived each day in luxury.” This man habitually dressed (each day) in purple [porphura]. Purple was the sign of royalty or of high social position. The dyes used in purple cloth were only affordable by the rich. This man would choose the purple every day, sending a message to all those around. “Now which shirt will I put on today? Oh, a purple one of course, that’s my favourite colour and I love people to see me wearing purple. Hey, look at me.”
There are some who use their wealth and some who flaunt their wealth. Interestingly, the word [bussos] is also used in connection with this guy. Bussos can indeed be translated fine linen, but it is also symbolic of fine (silk like) undergarments. This guy wore his silk boxers all the time. He reminds me of Tukoroirangi Morgan, the NZ MP who was involved in a scandal related to his spending NZ $4,000 of Aotearoa Television funds on clothes, including a pair of $89 underpants. Dives was cut from the same cloth, if you’ll excuse the pun. Everything about this guy wreaks of excess and ostentation. It is done to show people that he has wealth. Furthermore, he dresses himself like this every day. The verb is in the imperfect tense which indicates continual on-going action. Although it can be translated “dressed himself”, it is highly likely that he made the decision of what to wear and a servant put the clothes on him. That would add another dimension to his self indulgence.
Apart from always sitting around in purple, Jesus tells us he feasted sumptuously every day. The NLT in the segment above, translates the word as “lived each day in luxury”. Other translations offer us: making merry, living in splendour, feasting sumptuously. This indeed captures what was going on. This man was living off the fat of the land and eating sumptuous feasts daily with his friends. The ultimate self indulgent lifestyle. Notice, if he is feasting every day then he is not practicing fasting and he certainly didn’t allow a sabbath for his staff. Everything about his lifestyle revolved around his pleasures. His lifestyle was prioritized above obeying the Word of God.
This story of “Dives” is set in stark contrast to that of Lazarus: Dives meaning rich in Latin and Lazarus whose name means “the one who God helps” in Hebrew. Well, that is an interesting contrast isn’t it? Most of us would conclude: I don’t think so. It seems to me that Dives is helped by God and Lazarus isn’t getting any help at all. Ponder on the significance of this.
Your questions from yesterday:
- Is the after-death life layered in some way?
- Will the holiest person be seated at the top of it?
- Did this really happen or is it a fable?
- What is the point of this story for us readers today?
- Is the point of this parable that things will be turned around for us in the after life? So the poor will be rich and the rich will be poor?
- What is the sequence of the events of end times?
- What’s the meaning of being “asleep” in Christ?
- What’s the “waiting place”? Is that what this is in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man?
- Who did Jesus preach to just prior to his resurrection?
Let me add some other questions:
- Is this reminiscent of something else you have read before in Luke?
- Is this new or is this part of a theme?
- Are ideas linked here and Luke or Jesus is developing a theme through the whole Gospel?
With that thought, I will go put on my purple boxers and go to bed. Sigh – If only I had some.
Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.Oprah Winfrey
Too many people spend money they earned..to buy things they don’t want..to impress people that they don’t like.Will Rogers
Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.Epictetus
Measure your wealth not by the things you have, but by the things you have for which you would not take money.Anon
Don’t allow anyone to convince you that God minds you having money. He doesn’t; He just minds money having you!Anon