XLVI. As noted, several of the Psalms wrestle with the injustice we encounter in a fallen world: that those who rely on earthly wealth often seem to be find more happiness and success than the faithful, who suffer want and are often enough victims of those with power. Yet those Psalms also declare that this earthly success is passing, illusory, “like a dream that fades when one awakes.” This awakening ultimately foreshadows the promise of resurrection, but even now we can experience that awakening by reflecting on how transitory and temporary are the successes the world affords. Possessions are lost, health declines, abilities diminish, relationships change … nothing in this world provides us lasting happiness except our trust in God.
This is all in the background for Jesus as He tells the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Christ is not condemning wealth and material blessings; rather, He is underscoring that wealth entails responsibility for others. It is not some sort of exemption from the suffering of the world; “from the one to whom more has been entrusted, more will be required,” Jesus teaches elsewhere.
Further, the parable opens the horizon of a personal existence after death and retribution that is inherently linked to the life the person lived here. While Jesus is using imagery known in His day in Jewish thought, He is affirming its truth, the idea of judgment after death, and the consequences of choices we make here.
But ultimately, the parable is a reference to Himself. Jesus will be the poor man, despised, abandoned outside the city walls of power and worldly success, condemned to die on the Cross. He is taken to the Father’s side in Resurrection, and has come back from the dead to call us to repentance – exactly what the rich man in the parable requests.