In Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus there is no wiggle room. Deeds are done and lives led, and there are consequences for each of the three characters—the rich man, Lazarus and Father Abraham. No matter what each of them wishes, desires or hopes, the matter is finished.
The sins revealed in these first three scripture passages are blockbusters—betrayal, idolatry, adultery and violence—the raw material for larger-than-life stories and films. The Bible does not whitewash the sins of its major characters. Their awful failures and wrongdoings are part of the story, as are the human consequences, divine judgment and forgiveness.
In the fragility of goodness, author Martha Nussbaum writes, “The peculiar beauty of human excellence just is its vulnerability.” Goodness is fragile and its vulnerability is part of its beauty. But in several of these scripture texts, it is not the fragility of goodness that stands out but the sturdiness of righteousness.
As a weekend gardener, I have discovered the deep satisfaction of seeing the fruit of a well-watered garden. Months of tending and watering yield a delightful harvest of well-formed, abundant produce. In contrast, a hot summer with little water yields plants that are shriveled and produce that is unusable.