“It’s his own fault.”

Okay. Having identified the moral failure or bad judgment that’s caused a man’s misery, then what? “Suck it up, buddy. Take one for the team. Society needs you to suffer to encourage the others.”

Imagine the beggar Lazarus was a victim of his own poor choices. Maybe he drank up his inheritance; maybe he was sick and covered with sores because he’d spent his youth consorting with women of easy virtue. For whatever reason, his misery was his own fault. In this alternate reality, does the rich man go to Heaven?

Here’s another: If Caesar’s Department of Human Services came along and took Lazarus to the shelter, is the rich man off the hook? Urged to charity, he might note that his taxes – the taxes our Lord told him to give to Caesar – bought grain for the poor. Those taxes were too high already; were stifling trade, making it harder for a beggar like Lazarus to start his own business. Moreover, explains the rich man to Father Abraham, if he fed every beggar that came to his gate, there’d be no incentive for them to work.

That should at least get the rich man a drop of water to cool his tongue, right?

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