26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C
The Cost of Pride
Love of money is what gets us in trouble, not money itself. We use that justification frequently. It’s true. What gets us in trouble is pride, not money. But money sure purchases a lot of pride.
The rich man in this week’s parable is proud of his status. He dresses to be noticed, “in purple garments and fine linen” (v. 19). He’s so proud of what he has accomplished that he doesn’t even stoop to feed Lazarus who lies sick and starving on his doorstep. He may not even see Lazarus. Lazarus may not even be in his peripheral vision.
But reading this gospel this time, I noticed that even in the fires of hell, the rich man’s pride still doesn’t dissipate. Even burning and thirsty and tormented, the rich man still thinks Lazarus ought to serve him. He begs Abraham to send Lazarus to give him water. The rich man suffers so it follows that Lazarus should help him.
When Abraham refused (vs. 25-26), the rich man still doesn’t consider his actions. Lazarus ought to at least serve his family, “…send him (Lazarus) to my father’s house…to warn” (vs. 27-28). Even in the afterlife, the rich man expects his orders to be obeyed. Upon getting a refusal, the rich man figures Abraham—one of the fathers of our faith—just needs a little more direction. “Oh no,” the rich man says, “if my brothers just witness a resurrection, then they’ll fall in line.” (v. 30 adapted). The rich man never understands that he has truly fallen to the bottom of the barrel. He can’t be helped.
In an interview, the wife of a CEO after a corporate scandal was exposed cried in agony, “What about us? We’ve lost everything. No one is thinking of us.” Her family was the root of the problem, but she didn’t see that and felt she deserved help. She is the modern day rich man.
The wealth extremes make it easy to dismiss the warning. I’m not the wife of a CEO. My family’s not involved in any corporate scandals. That’s not me. However, this parable isn’t about wealth so much as it is pride. Wealth inadvertently buys pride—we have wealth, so we are doing something right. We have wealth, so we can take care of ourselves; we don’t need to depend on the generosity of others. We have wealth so we can decide if a cause is worthy to give to or not. Wealth promotes pride, a false pride. What is the source of our wealth? It’s not our hard work. Plenty of people work hard and aren’t rich. God’s kingdom is an upside down one.
Abraham was materially rich. But Abraham wasn’t burning in hell with the rich man. Abraham knew where his wealth came from. He recognized his sinfulness and asked for forgiveness. He didn’t depend on himself. He depended on God. And that’s the difference. It’s always love of money, and not the money itself, that gets us in trouble. But when you have money, it’s really hard not to love what it can do for you. Just look at the pride it bought the rich man. Then look where it landed him.