Why does the rich man suffer in flames? It’s not that Abraham is unaware of him, for when the rich man speaks Abraham answers him. And it’s not that Abraham no longer acknowledges him, for Abraham calls him “my child.” It’s not that Abraham lacks in mercy, for Abraham once intervened to spare a city of sinners. The rich man is not in the flames because of Abraham, or Moses, or the prophets of God, for if he had listened to them he would not be in torment.
So why does the rich man suffer in flames? He suffers because he feasted each day, while Lazarus starved. Because he dressed in fine linen, while Lazarus went naked. Because he was clothed in purple, while Lazarus was covered in purple sores. Yet the rich man is not in the flames because he is rich, for King David was far richer than he and is heralded as a man after God’s own heart. The rich man suffers because the dogs who licked Lazarus’ wounds showed the poor man more kindness than he ever did.
The rich man was not unaware of Lazarus lying at his door, for he had passed him enough times to recognize him when he saw him. The rich man even knew Lazarus by name, for he calls out, “Father Abraham… Send Lazarus…” The rich man suffers in flames because he did not care about Lazarus. The rich man suffers because he did not love. If we wish to avoid the flames, we should ponder and act on this question: Who is Lazarus in your life?