Eternity will be too late to show mercy on the poor and needy

The poor and needy scavenge the dump just outside Matamoros, Mexico.
     Unlike Elijah and the chariots of fire, we cannot emphasize enough how much we know about eternity because of the short parable of the rich man and Lazarus, found in Luke 16:19-21.

     First of all, after death there is a literal and an immediate judgment, either good or bad. There are two choices for us to make. I once witnessed with an atheist who said that wasn’t much of a choice between heaven or hell. “Yes,” I said, “but yet you are choosing hell by rejecting God’s free gift of salvation.” What’s more, that argument didn’t change his mind. The rich man was in literal, physical agony, with eyes to see, a tongue burning from the flame.

     Secondly, we cannot judge our eternity based on our earthly circumstances. On earth, Lazarus longed for the crumbs from the rich man’s table. Since he was at the gate, he was probably eating what was thrown out as left over garbage. Even more humiliating, dogs were licking his sores. Meanwhile, the rich man, dressed in purple fine linen, lived every day in luxury. For all eternity, however, the situation would be reversed.

     Thirdly, judgment is final. We get no second chance. We also have God’s perfect justice on our hearts. Abraham agrees with God that the rich man and his brothers have ample opportunity to choose righteously. There is no hope for the rich man that he will escape his torment. His suffering won’t release him. No prayers can be lifted up for him. No offerings can be made on his behalf. Both he and his brothers had enough chances to choose differently.

     There are other lessons I am sure, but one final lesson is not for eternity, but rather for now. The rich man could have had more pity on Lazarus. Although our eternity is not based on our earthly compassion, Father Abraham remembered the disparity of the rich man and Lazarus. Do you have food in your pantry? Are dogs licking your wounds? Have you seen someone who has less than you?
     Eternity will be too late for you to show mercy.


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