The great chasm—impossible to cross from either side.

“‘And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—-for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent. He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead’” (Luke 16:26-31) (ESV)

The above is an excerpt from the parable of Lazarus and rich man. The parable had been a follow up to Jesus’ teachings against the love of money: “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Luke 16:13) (ESV).

While Jesus sought to bring across the principle of God’s Kingdom, there were those unable to accept that teaching. They despised it, as not identifying with the proud of society. See [The enemies of change are the proud people].

“The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God’” (Luke 16:14) (ESV).

The rich man, as compared with Lazarus, was obviously, held with high esteem for his riches. Lazarus was a disgrace. In simple terms, Lazarus was a lazy man—no different from a vagrant scrounger. There was no time for him to even wash himself—attracting sores on himself. Because of his smelly condition, only the dogs served to clean his sores by licking them.

That kind of life-style is obviously, unacceptable to humanity—just as it was unacceptable during Jesus’ time. The rich man is the one who lived a lifestyle that was acceptable to humanity. But Jesus had said, “…For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:14) (ESV).

The most unpalatable development is that it was Lazarus who, after his death was carried to Abraham’s side and not the rich man, living a humanly respectable lifestyle. I would be surprised if many Christians are just as well not disturbed by this anecdote? “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money heard all these things, and they ridiculed him” (Luke 16:13” (ESV).

The behaviour of the Pharisees of Jesus’ time cannot be different from those considered as respectable people in society, even today. In fact, the referred rich man must have been considered kind, for tolerating Lazarus—coming to pick up morsels of food, fallen from his lavish table?

There probably were many rich people who could not tolerate such disgusting behaviour—especially when considering the smelly condition—as described of a man like Lazarus? The rich man, endeared himself to the poor man, Lazarus—yet unable to access the pleasure of being on Abraham’s side, at death?

We have to analyse the behaviour of both men, before discussing the chasm that cannot be crossed from either side. I suppose, the rich man felt he was practicing what was considered as charitable to the poor of society?

That obviously provided the rich man with high respect from ordinary people. As far as the rich man was concerned, being spoken of highly, by society, gave him some high sense of worth. See [Christianity serves to invalidate God’s Kingdom].

But there is something that probably misses many religious people—calling themselves Christians—just as the rich man could not observe it: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12) (ESV).

Here is the crux of the matter, as far as goodness is concerned. If the rich man had been in Lazarus’ poverty condition, could that have been how he would have desired to be treated? If that was the case, chances are that the rich man would have been like Lazarus and not associated with the rich status that he was in.

Or, at least, the rich man could have sought to raise Lazarus, to also access the lavish lifestyle of being rich? Obviously, the rich man desired to be treated with more respect, as compared with others.

Could it have been possible for the rich man to expect the same dignity to be accorded to those of the likes of Lazarus? This is where the effects, descriptive of works—referred to, by Paul—come into being:

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife jealously, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:16-21) (ESV).

The rich man was comfortable, being seen providing for the poor people like Lazarus. But the rich man could certainly not have felt comfortable being equated with the vagabonds of society.

Treating other people as one would like to be treated, can be musically rhymed. But putting that into practice, can certainly not be possible for those under the yoke of works. Why should lazy people like Lazarus be treated with dignity?

Image result for great chasm pictures

Treating such people with dignity, makes no sense, due to the principle of works that demands rewarding only those with tangible results of hard work. This principle follows applications of the Law.

“Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as gift but as his due” (Romans 4:4) (ESV). Compare this with: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23) (ESV).

The principle of reward for hard work had not existed at the beginning, as Man had been created in God’s image. Humanity had been given dominion, over everything that God had created (Genesis 1:26). The principle of works came right at the pinnacle of Adam’s curse, after having sinned:

“And to Adam he said, Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17-19) (ESV).

Originally, the aspect of rewarding for hard work had not been accorded to humanity. Clearly, it was only after the disobedience of Adam that the curse of receiving rewards, as condition for hard work, came into being.

The principle of hard work identifies with law-keeping—which demands hard working before being rewarded. For survival purposes, one needs to work hard, or else the person would be exposed to misery. But this principle of hard working in order to survive—having been a curse of humanity—has got nothing to do with the gift of eternal life, as promised (Romans 6:23).

Obviously, those identifying with the curse of Adam, cannot be on Abraham’s side.  As, those on Abraham’s side believe in God, who counts it to them as righteousness (Romans 4:3). But those identifying with Adam, naturally, exude the works of the flesh, as clearly analysed by Paul (Galatians 5:19-21).

What drove Cain to be filled with rage—leading to Abel’s murder—was a principle that identifies with the works of the flesh (Genesis 4:1-8). As far as Cain was concerned, it was him who deserved to be rewarded for giving an offering—due to the works of his hands, rather than Abel.

Unfortunately, the anticipated reward went to Abel, instead. This is how the hatred against Abel came into being. Cain was projecting the effects of the principle of hard work. Which is also applicable in this world—as ordinarily necessary for what is considered acceptable for respectable survival.

I suppose the rich man’s wealth status had been a reward for hard work, as to display a lifestyle that was comparatively superior to that of Lazarus? Certainly, it is only in this life that a person reaps what he/she sows.

Hard work ensures reaping abundant fruits of wealth. Laziness ensures poverty. These two men were a reflection of what was regarded as normal, even at that time. Old Testament Scriptures are clear on that principle—as applicable to the Law, as given through Moses.

Hard work is the principle that naturally, brings comparisons among humanity. If you study hard, you get rewarded with certification. This, obviously, gives you a leverage, when being compared with others. The aim of each person is to excel and outdo the rest. See [Dimensions of Pride in competition]

But when looked at carefully, this is where things like envy, or jealousy, among the unacceptable evils—comprising the works of the flesh—come to be?  For instance, how can anyone be envious, without initial anticipations of rewards?

Imagine, where two people aim at achieving good pass results—on some course of study. Both work very hard. But, somehow, the other one fails to pass, where his friend passes with flying colours.

The person having failed—where his friend passes with flying colours—obviously, succumbs to depression. This is natural, in our ways of looking at things. The bad feeling is triggered by envy, which is what led Cain to murder his brother. See also [What’s in a title, if not to deceive?].

The person succumbing to depression may not necessarily murder his friend, like Cain. But the bad feeling would not be projecting the best wishes for his friend, who would have passed with flying colours. This is but, one example of the effects of the works of the flesh.

The rich man, may not be assumed as having projected envious feelings and all of the other works of the flesh—due to his status of sufficiency. The question is, what would be his condition, if, by reason of fate, the wealth had been taken away from him? Or that the status was to be reversed, where Lazarus became wealthy—so that the rich man became a beggar?

Many wealthy people do not even want to entertain such kind of thoughts—considering themselves so shrewd—having done everything necessary to cover for possible misfortunes. This describes the phenomenon of Insurance industry—having risen by leaps and bounds?

Nevertheless, all this is what creates the chasm—making it impossible for such people to ever be on Abraham’s side. Hard work gives self-assurance, without giving credit to the Creator. See [Works bring the opposite of what is intended].

In his life time, Abraham could not have entertained things like insurance cover, except that he believed and trusted God in everything he did. At one stage, instead of planning for the future of his only son; Abraham had actually offered Isaac to God as sacrifice (Genesis 22:1-18).

That mind-set could, certainly, not be entertained by the rich man, of Lazarus’ time. The bottom line is that it was impossible for the rich man to “do unto others as he would like them do unto him” (Matthew 7:12).

Probably the rich man could only make pronouncements of such words—only appreciating them, as coming from the Bible? But putting such words into practice, would be another story, for him? This is why Jesus likened a camel going through the eye of a needle, for another rich man to accept it (Matthew 19:24). This explains the principle governing the other side of the chasm.

But, why was Lazarus taken to the side of Abraham, after death? As far as the law-keepers were concerned, such sluggards—as also associated with law-breaking—could not enjoy the effects of wealth. An appropriate example of law-keeping principle of that time, is the one elaborately shown in the book of Malachi:

“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Malachi 3:10).

Lazarus was, obviously, a careless violator of such Scriptures. Or that he may have not even been aware of the existence of such Scriptures. How then, could Lazarus be just taken to the side of Abraham, without deserving such privilege?

Certainly, there could not be diversities of Christian denominations in this world—if all had perfect answers to this question? In one of my previous posts, I indicated that altruism was the answer to Christianity. See [Christianity can only be defined in one word: Altruism].

But Lazarus is a man whose life is given as not displaying any sign of practicing altruism? Yet he was accorded the privilege of being on the side of Abraham? The life of Lazarus can only be likened to that of a man described in Isaiah’s prophesy:

“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3) (ESV).

The world remains dimly appreciative of the man being described in Isaiah’s narrative. But, this is the same man, who the same prophet Isaiah portrays as having the qualities of redeeming the ruined humanity from their sins, as follows:

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5) (ESV).

Lazarus is taken to the side of Abraham, not because of works. But because of grace, through the man of sorrows, as described by the prophet Isaiah. Does this mean all of humanity have to behave like Lazarus? Is it virtuous to be as careless as Lazarus appears to have been? The story itself shows that the predicament of Lazarus may have not been by choice.

Even in our time, there are so many people in the predicament of Lazarus, but not, necessarily, by choice. Especially, those without the privilege of accessing the Books of Law and the Prophets. The majority of them die in hopeless conditions.

But, like Lazarus, these are people who the grace of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ covers. They do not deserve to be on Abraham’s side, but they are found to be there, by grace. The only thing that distinguishes them from the rich people is lack of pride—the seed of all evil.

I suppose Lazarus was astonished to find himself on the side of Abraham, when the man he held with high esteem, was then being tormented in hell? It is the mind-set of Jesus that could not cross over to the side of the rich man—as only covering people like Lazarus. The two mind-sets are divided by a chasm, which makes it impossible for those of either sides to reach the other.

When considering his preoccupation with concern for his relatives—it shows how impossible the rich man could be on the other side of the chasm. Jesus did not die for his relatives only. He died for the rest of humanity—displaying the grand application of altruism, not self-centredness.

The only problem that the rich man missed is that it is in this life that one is granted an opportunity to adjust—not after death. While most people assume that living in abundance—when everyone else is in abject poverty—is a blessing—the opposite can be true.

That life-style can, actually, be a curse, when considering the parable of Lazarus and rich man. Lazarus’ life—though he was ultimately found on Abraham’s side—did not give Lazarus an opportunity to be a blessing to other people.

However, it is not sinful to have riches. It is just a mind-set that needs changing. With the right mind-set—material blessings can give an opportunity to also bless most of the disadvantaged in society. It is a question of how possible it can be, to renounce wealth in order to follow Jesus.

This was as difficult as the imagination of a camel going through the eye of a needle, according to Jesus. But the same Jesus also declared: “….With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26) (ESV).

Nevertheless, those accepting Jesus, take comfort in surrendering everything, according to what Jesus emphasized in Luke 14:25-33. Such people would have become free, never again to be worried about the material riches of this world.

They would have changed their mind-sets completely—so that whatever their material wealth—serve as blessings to other people. They literally enjoy giving to other people. See [Benefits in Positive violation of the Law of Exchange].

In as much as there are thousands of different denominations—all ascribing to Jesus’ name—not all can accept this kind of teaching. It was not grandiloquently accepted in Jesus’ time. Only a few accepted it after Jesus had left. Still, it can hardly be accepted by many in our time.

Let us not be mistaken, though. The principle of hard work is Godly. Jesus Himself declared; “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17). However, there is difference between working in order to be rewarded and working as identifying with Godly principle.

The only cause of the great chasm—dividing the two mind-sets of humanity—is nothing short of pride. This results where the principle of rewarding hard-workers is manifest. I can only imagine that those reading up this far can only be the blessed ones of the living God?

Only a few are poised to accept this teaching, which also serves to bruise the dignity of those sitting in the comfort of high echelons of leadership. But the truth remains—a great chasm that no man can cross from either side exists.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.

The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99

Also available as an e-copy at Lulu.com  for $6.99

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *