The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus and the Consequences of Sins of Omission 14

We often hear people say that they will get to heaven because they haven’t committed any really, really heinous crimes.

“I’m a good guy,” they say, “I haven’t murdered anyone or sold weapons to terrorists.” This attitude is not a Christian attitude.

As Jesus teaches us in this story of Lazarus and the rich man, salvation and eternal life are not just about avoiding so-called “big” sins. That’s a negative, passive approach to life.

Christ is not passive. Christ is active. He came to earth to save us. He took the initiative. He came to seek out the lost sheep. He came to light the fire of faith in a dark world.

Being a Christian means following in those footsteps. It means much more than simply avoiding gruesome crimes. Being a Christian means living like Christ, living for his Kingdom, living for others.

Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus was asked which were the most important commandments, he didn’t choose the negative ones, the “thou shalt not” ones. Instead he listed two active, positive, creative commandments: love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.

The rich man in today’s parable was not an axe-murderer, mafia boss, or the head of a human trafficking ring. He had no particularly damaging “sins of commission” on his résumé. He was probably a very likable guy, “a nice guy.” And yet, sadly, he failed to enter into eternal life.

Why?

Because of his “sins of omission”. Day after day, he closed his heart to a neighbor who was in dire need of help. Since the law of heaven is self-giving, not self-serving or self-interest, he found that he was simply unfit to spend eternity there.

In the 1993 Award winning movie ,Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, we have another example of a rich man who’s heart was awakened to this reality

The movie depicts a true story of a rather mediocre Catholic businessman, Oskar Schindler, who lived in Poland during World War II. When the war started, he saw it as an opportunity to make more money. He made friends with some of the German officials and worked out a deal with them to use Jewish prisoners as free labor for his munitions factory. Since he didn’t have to pay his workers, he was able to rake in a handsome profit.

But little by little his eyes opened to the horrors of the Nazi regime. His heart changed, and he started using his factories and his connections with German officers to save his Jewish workers from the Holocaust. He used the money he had made during the early part of the war to “buy” more and more Jewish workers, just so he could save their lives. By the end of the war he was as broke as he had been at the beginning, but he had managed to save hundreds of Jews from being massacred. In the last scene of the movie, the Germans are fleeing as allied troops approach the town where the factory is located. We see Schindler surrounded by the workers whom he had saved, and they are thanking him.

"I could have done more!"

“I could have done so much more!”

But then Schindler starts to cry.

He looks around at the faces of the people he saved, and he tells them, “I could have done so much more.”

He holds up his gold watch, and he says, “This could have bought someone’s freedom.”

He cries out that if he had started sooner he could have saved twice as many.

Every face he sees makes him think of another face that he could have saved if he had been less self-centered. He is completely distraught.

Schindler had experienced firsthand the destructive power of the sin of omission.

14 comments

  1. Pingback: The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus and the Consequences of Sins of Omission - CATHOLIC FEAST - Every day is a Celebration

  2. I am poor. I did rent this movie called “Schindler’s List.” I turned it off and returned it to the video store, from whence I rented it from. The first 5 minutes was a gratuitous serious occasion of sin, for most. I’ll say this, “Yes. He could have done more. He could have gotten out of the sack, and gone to confession, and lived his faith, instead of fornicating. I am poor, but I have higher standards for the type of movies I watch.

    • Thanks. I understand. The example of Oscar Schindler does not depend on the movie, though, because it’s a true life example. The line “I could have done much more…” my be just in the movie (maybe not if he was recorded as actually saying this), but it still is just an example. Not an endorsement of violent movies. As an example that a lot of people are already familiar with, its only purpose is to help people relate to the point regarding sins of omission. That’s really all it is.

  3. The sin of ommission as you describe it here is committed every Sunday as people travel to church. They could stop and serve at the shelter or donate to homeless folk… but they don’t stop, not in their good clothes. No, they’re going to church to get grace.

    • Sure. I’m sure that applies on an individual level, but not as a generalization. If that does apply to anyone who reads the post, then they can apply it to themselves and decide whether that is something they need to improve.

  4. This particular sin of omission is preceded directly by a sin of commission: the choosing of the self above all, above God, above love, in large ways and small. I think that is a heinous crime, when it becomes the pattern of a life.
    In his homily, our pastor asked which character in the story we identified with, and as an American, even a working class one, that was an uncomfortable question to ponder indeed.

    • As I mentioned in my post today, I’ve been caught off guard and having to play a lot of catch up lately — just now recognized your comment here.

      Thank you, Reinkat, for sharing your comments here. You always give me more to think about. God bless!

  5. Pingback: Status Reversal in The Comedy of Jesus | Dr Ken Baker

  6. Sorry to be so late in commenting on this great article, but after a busy summer I am only just now catching up on some of my other favourite blogs (of which yours is definitely one!)

    That scene at the end of “Schindler’s List” left a deep and lasting impression on me too when I first saw this film. Yes, it spoke to me of the usual oblivion we have for our sins of omission, and really got me thinking and pondering…. I couldn’t get it out of my head!

    But it also spoke to me of the value of life…. every life.
    Schindler stares at the golden watch (or was it a ring?) – a piece of metal in reality, nothing more – and his eyes are opened. He sees its utter uselessness and futility when compared to a living, breathing human being, like those standing around him, created in the Image and Likeness of God. [He was, after all, a Catholic!]

    A beautiful and profound pro-life message.

    • Thank you for your reflection Kathleen and for your faithful witness to the Gospel.

      I too am catching up on things, and that seems to be something we all need to do right now — wrapping things up and getting ready for Christ’s coming, as the liturgy is preparing us to do.

      I also saw the lesson of Schindler’s list as a profound message about the dignity of life. It often amazes me how secular wisdom often overlooks the deeper wisdom embedded within itself, and that we can use these embedded truths to transmit the Gospel back to the world that desperately needs Jesus Christ.

      — I believe you are right, it was a ring (and a watch, and a pin, if I’m not mistaken. It’s been a while since I saw it).

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