What is the difference between the rich man and Lazarus? Appearances are deceiving. And so besides the rich man being rich and the beggar not, what is the distinction between them? Humility, perhaps? But consider the vast majority of beggars you run across. Does the picture of Lazarus change at all when you consider that he sits at the man's gate with a bottle sticking out of a crumpled paper bag? The clear difference is that the rich man is cursed, and Lazarus is blessed. But that distinction, too, must be explored. We typically associate being blessed with prosperity, with success. Is that what our Lord is getting at here? What does it mean to be blessed? What does it mean to be cursed?
When we hear this parable, we all don't want to go to hell, we all don't want to be the rich man. But, at the same time, we don't much want to be Lazarus either. We don't want to be beggars. We don't want to be bums. And so we stand in the middle, or we ignore it.
This is because we see ourselves as those who can define ourselves. We think of ourselves as autonomous, as rugged individuals, as those who can make our own way. We define ourselves by what we do. Who are you? I'm a pastor, I work for the church. I'm a farmer, I work the land. I'm a Rotarian, I work to help others. And down the line. We have an identity problem. We don't recognize who we are because don't recognize whose we are.
Here we should take a cue from Luther. We are all beggars. It was the last thing he wrote. We are all beggars. This is true. That is, we receive. Nothing we have is because we have made it ourselves. We simply receive. And so God gives some to be rich and some to be poor. Blessed be the name of the Lord. For we are all beggars. But we are the Lord's beggars. We all sit at the receiving end of what He gives. And so we are who God makes us to be, who God gives us to be. Consider your life according to the Ten Commandments. Consider your life according to Moses and the Prophets, according to the Word of God. Who are you? I am who God has made me to be according to His Word and His giving.
And so some he makes to be rich. And he gives them five fingers on each hand so that what they receive from God can fall through his fingers into the hands of others who need it. And some he makes to be beggars so that the rich have someone to give their wealth to.
And so consider your life according to the Ten Commandments, according to Moses and the Prophets, according to the Word of God. For you are whom He has made you to be. And He has made you to be Christians, given the name of your heavenly Father with the sign of the cross, by means of water and the Holy Spirit in Holy Baptism. He has made you to be His bride, immaculate, and holy. He has made you to be His brothers, co-heirs of His Kingdom. You belong to Him. You are not your own for you were bought with a price, bought, sanctified, and justified with the blood of Jesus, poured out for you from His cross onto your heads and into your mouths. Consider your life according to the Ten Commandments, according to Moses and the Prophets, according to the Word of God. For you are who it says you are. And you are forgiven.
This is what it means to be blessed to receive everything from the hand of the Lord and recognize it. To have it any other way is a curse.