From the Word
19 “There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table
Luke 16:19–21, RSV
We must not judge poor Lazarus in his sores, poverty and anxiety according to his outward appearance. Many persons suffer from affliction and want, and gain nothing from it. Poverty and suffering make no one acceptable to God; but if he is already acceptable to God, his poverty and suffering are precious in God’s eyes. Therefore we must look into the heart of Lazarus to seek the treasure, which make his sores so precious. This must surely have been his faith and love; for without faith it is impossible to please God. His heart must have confessed that even in the midst of poverty and misery he expected all good from God, and comfortably relied upon him, with whose blessings and grace he was so abundantly satisfied, and had such pleasure in them that he would have heartily and willingly suffered even more misery, if the will of his gracious God had so determined. A true and living faith softened his heart by the knowledge of the divine goodness, so that nothing was too heavy or too much to suffer or to do. Thus faith makes the heart clever and skillful, when it experiences the grace of God.
From this faith follows another virtue, namely, love to one’s neighbor, so that he is willing and ready to serve every one; but since Lazarus is poor and in misery himself, he had nothing with which he could serve others; therefore his good will is taken for the deed. But this lack of service in temporal things he abundantly makes good by his service in things spiritual. For even now, long after his death, he serves the whole world with his sores, hunger, and misery. His bodily hunger feeds our spiritual hunger; his bodily nakedness clothes our spiritual nakedness; his bodily sores heal our spiritual sores; by his example he comforts and teaches us how God is pleased with us, when we are not prosperous here on earth, if we believe; and warns us how God is angry with us, even if we are prosperous in our unbelief; just as God had pleasure in Lazarus in his misery, and was displeased with the rich man in his abundance.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 254–55.