Several lesson themes are contained in the story of the rich man and Lazarus—social justice, love of neighbor, blindness, the value of the human person, life in the hereafter, debate on the message and the messenger—each of which deserves a particular development.
On one side is a man known as rich by his lifestyle; he wears luxurious clothing and eats rich and varied food. We are not told his name, the origin and amount of his wealth, or about his previous life. On the other side is Lazarus, whose body is full of sores, a man who competes for food with dogs. Note there is no condemnation of wealth or praise of material poverty.
The question arises when Lazarus appears in the life of the rich man, when poverty meets opulence. It is clear the rich man’s sin is not because of his wealth, but because of blind, hard-heartedness. The hardening of his heart had closed his eyes so he could not see Lazarus’ suffering. Created in the image of God, Lazarus did not demand a fair share of the food, but only crumbs that fell under the table. The rich man’s blindness not only prevented him from seeing that Lazarus was wrestling with animals over food, but also from understanding the importance of how we live on Earth with the life we have been given.
After both men died, Lazarus is found with Abraham, whereas, the former rich man finds himself in the solitude of hell. In his distress, the rich man wants to send a warning to his brothers (and us): “Repent while you have the chance to hear the word of God and put it into practice.” He is told his brothers will not be open to the message of repentance and will never be convinced to change their ways.
Today’s world is full of Lazaruses whom we refuse to see and whose cries we refuse to hear (Doctrine and Covenants 163:4a). The so-called advanced societies and privileged minorities have taken over the whole table to which we are all entitled and have imposed a heavy burden on those who are marginalized. Economic, political, cultural, and media imperialism, social injustice, and relentless wars increase the number of Lazaruses each day, but often our eyes are closed. Sometimes we even defend our actions, implying we are acting in the name of God. Just like the rich man, we can lose sight of the value of each person and be hypocritical with actions not matching our profession of faith.