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Father Gavril Galev: The Rich man and Lazarus


This Gospel reading (Luke 16:19-31) is one of the most emotionally difficult in the New Testament Scriptures. It talks about two types of extremes. Two opposite human characters, two opposite lifestyles, opposite views of the world, purpose, behaviour, etc., although in essence, only one thing is needed, and that is to gain God and His Kingdom with Its gifts and not this kingdom and these earthly gifts, which are more harm than gifts.

The first man was a very rich man who probably did not earn his fortune but inherited it from his father, which is why he spends it in such way. And the second was a man who was poor, he had nothing to eat and he was happy even for the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. He often begged him for a piece of bread, but the rich man remained insensitive and despised him.

In the rich man we can see enslavement of all three groups of passions: love for pleasures, covetousness and vanity. First of all the passion of love for pleasures can be recognised as one of the most obvious passions, which simply paralyses man from doing good. Just like when the body delights with too much food and wine, it becomes lazy and clumsy, so does the soul when we do not abstain. And in that way we become fat, clumsy, lazy and careless, firstly for our own salvation and then for a clear conscience and care for others.

Then, not only are these people enslaved from that first passion but they are also enslaved from the rest, covetousness and vanity. Like we said he was rich and he was unapproachable and selfish to give Lazarus food (although he had food in abundance), and last of all, vanity, that is selfishness, pride, high opinion of oneself which in fact is the worst of all.

Enslaved by the passions, we become insensitive thinking only about ourselves and no-one else. We think only of our own needs, for our passions to be always satisfied, and we do not care for the others. It is not in our care if we are tempting or causing bad thoughts in others, if we offend anyone or if we humiliate them. Everyone’s heart would soften when they would see poor Lazarus struggling in the street naked, barefoot and hungry. We become insensitive and in this way in fact we deserve our reward, and that is hell.

Very simply, the habits we have created in this life, to live in abundance and luxuries, to live corporal, to enjoy and delight in the passions, will be all taken away in the perfect order of the absolute spiritual world. Nothing corporal and sinful exists there and if we are used to such a way of life here, then it will be hard, that is hellish there. We can see that for ourselves when we want to free ourselves from a passion and how difficult that goes for us. Let’s take smoking for example, or any other passion. Let alone there, where in fact there is no any material comfort. That is why we need to practice. We need to practice the spiritual way of life.

The poor man had an equal opportunity to be a bad man. Although he is poor, that is not a guarantee that he is good or that he will gain the Kingdom of God. Everyone in their own way has their own dignity, their own ego, which they can nurture or they can transfigure, that is to glorify God and love their neighbour (fellow man). This man could have also been fierce, he could have put poison in the food of the rich man. He could have been proud and vain, he could envy him, he could have been jealous and hated him, there are many things that he could have done to harm the rich man. However Lazarus has chosen the opposite, he chose to live according to the law of Moses. He chose the path of God. This is why he did not return evil with evil but he was simply meek, humble, lowly, and that is why he received the reward of being in the wing of Abraham. To be protected, to be always cared for and comforted. Every good mathematician, when he calculates that this life is nothing when compared to eternity, it is certainly logical to choose eternity. That is why Lazarus and we also have to decide whether to live for this spoiled world which is actually more suffering, than to live for the eternal one which is in the arms of Abraham. To be cared for, warmed and always to feel pleasant.

There is much we can talk about this gospel reading, but one thing should be understood. Every man is given his personal gift of how he will live his life here on earth, whether he is rich, poor, sick, healthy, beautiful, educated or whatever else. However the life we ​​will live should be according to God’s law, in communion with God, for the glory of God. Because God is the One that has given us our life. He knows what everyone needs in this life in order to gain eternal life, and not to lose eternal life at the expense of this temporary and suffering one. That is why sometimes, and most often it happens, the torments that come are all to get rid of our passions, to get rid of these wrong habits and to think about the eternal world, to think about God. On the other hand, we do not know when we will pass to the other side of existence.

May the Lord Jesus Christ, through the prayers of this poor yet rich Lazarus, give us the wisdom to get to know our miserable life and to direct ourselves towards life in the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.


Fr. Gavril Galev

Abbot of the monastery “St. Clement of Ohrid”,

Kinglake, Melbourne, Australia


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