The Lord Jesus often provides vivid details in His stories. We read: The dogs came and licked Lazarus’ sores. Vivid–and painful for us even to imagine. Painful, because something about this picture strikes us as tragically, utterly wrong.
Now, these little dogs: We know that dogs have a sense of love and pity. We know also that they like a salty savor for their tongues. And we know that dogs do not grasp the entire constitution of a man. Dogs are man’s best friend. But dogs do not know that man has an immortal soul.
The constitution of man. A character in a Jane Austen novel declares that the plays of William Shakespeare form “part an Englishman’s constitution.” Englishmen know Shakespeare. It’s part of one’s constitution.
What about the constitution of man? Man–Englishmen, Swedes, Chinese, everybody? Every man, woman, and child on earth?
The constitution of man: Made in the image and likeness of God. Endowed with an immeasurable spiritual dimension. Made for an eternal friendship with the Creator and Lord of all things. A man, a human being, endowed with these gifts, does not belong in a gutter with open sores being licked by dogs.
It’s not the dogs’ fault. Dogs don’t know anything about the constiution of man. The dogs didn’t realize that the spectacle of their licking Lazarus’ sores–that this was a heartbreaking scandal. An insult to human dignity. The dogs didn’t know any better.
The point of the Lord’s story is that someone else should have. Someone should have recognized that this spectacle was an insult to every human being–and done something about it. Every human being should prize the dignity of man, of every man. But the rich man in the story did not.
Why do we love our mothers? Why do our mothers love us? Why would a mother sooner starve herself than see her child starve? When my mom fell and broke her arm and suffered terrible pain–why would I have preferred to feel the pain myself, rather than have to see her suffer it?
This constitution we have–to be friends of God, to live in love forever–it unites us to each other at the deepest depths of ourselves. When I see another human being, I see myself. If I love God and His works–if I love myself–then I love the other person, too.
Tradition has come to call the rich man “Dives,” Latin for ‘rich man.’ Dives dined sumptuously and dressed in fine linen. Seems like he loved himself. But not really. Not at all. He appears actually to have considered himself to be nothing more than a mannequin with a belly.
Meanwhile, his own human dignity was under assault right at the door of his house. His brother had open sores being licked by dogs. But Dives didn’t care. Because he hated himself. While he nibbled on petits-fours, he meanwhile effectively spat on his own human constitution. His dismissive contempt for Lazarus meant contempt for himself.
We love dogs. The dogs didn’t mean any harm.
But, please God, I hope that I won’t take it lying down if someone tries to “throw me to the dogs.” I hope I would not stand for any gratuitously demeaning insults. “Boy? I ain’t no boy.” “I ain’t no idol-worshiper.” “I ain’t no spagetti-bending wop or grimy mick.” I am a child of God, brother. So show me some love. For the sake of the great God Who made me, let me take some fundamental pride in what He made me to be.
And if I take any real pride in myself, in the dignity of my spiritual human constitution, then I cannot take it lying down when anyone, any human being, suffers insult. I can’t stand for anyone having their sores licked by dogs. If someone languishes in such a state, I have got to do something about it. Because I am directly implicated. My own constitution demands that I not suffer my brother to suffer like that–with the true and honest pride of our race reduced to ruin in him.
The conclusion of the Lord’s story clearly teaches us that God will reward His friends with eternal friendship, no matter what happens here below. Lazarus suffered patiently. Now he dwells in the bliss of Abraham’s bosom. But the moral of the story pertains to us Diveses.
“Dives, do not hate yourself that much. So much as to let your brother languish in indignity, in ruin, with the dogs. Love yourself enough to do something about it. Do you count yourself such a wretch? That you see yourself in the mirror like this, with open sores licked by the curs in the gutter, and you do nothing? Are you, man, so wretched? Don’t you know who you are?”
God says to us Diveses, “I do not count you so wretched. I love you enough to make you happy forever. So dust yourself off by going to dust off Lazarus. Then you can break bread with your brother in simplicity and peace, and we will all be friends forever.”