Friday, March 26, 2010

Don't Nail Him Yet.

Tinker, tailor, soldier sailor,
Rich man, poor man, beggarman, thief.

The contrast of rich and poor, to have and have not, is fraught with humor. Reaching back as far as the Bible, the opposition of wealth and poverty has provided a veritable mine of laughter for the writer. Who can forget that humorous parable of The Rich Man and the Beggar?

There was a rich man, traditionally called Dives. Dives is just Latin for rich, which leads some commentators to suspect that the story was a well-known moral fable and not absolutely true, unlike, for instance, the story of Adam and Eve and the talking serpent. Be that as it may, the story, minus the rich man's name, is in Luke, chapter 16, verse 19 ff.

The rich man dressed in purple and fine linen, and he had a rich man's diet, which is to say, he had clogged arteries. As this was about 2,000 years before statins, one can assume that he was not far from the "big one."

The poor man's name we do know for certain: Lazarus. Now nothing good ever happens to a man named Lazarus in the New Testament. You would think that parents would have caught on to that and named their son something else, like Melvin maybe, but that would take another 1900 years or so. The new calendar was probably to blame. People were still writing B.C. on their checks. "Are we in the Old Testament or New?"

Anyway, Lazarus was poor. How poor was he? He was so poor that he had to be carried to the rich man's door. He couldn't afford to walk. Lazarus was so poor that he would have been content just to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table, or even from his beard, if the rich man was anything like Dom DeLuise. Lazarus was so poor that the only health care that he could get was when a dog would lick his open sores. Luke doesn't say what kind of dog gave medical care in those days. We can imagine it was something like Odie in "Garfield." Lots of slobbering. Or it might just have been going after the same crumbs that Lazarus was trying to eat, and not giving health care at all. It likely didn't have a license, either to give health care or the regular kind for dogs.

According to Luke, Lazarus and the rich man happened to die at about the same time. Luke doesn't say that it was a murder-suicide, but he hints at it. For all we know, they might have died in a suicide-camel bombing by the People's Front of Judea (or the Judean People's Front). We do know that through some bureaucratic mix-up, the rich man ended up in Hell and Lazarus went to Heaven. At least, that's how the rich man saw it. (This is where the suicide-camel bombing is useful to explain the confusion. Bits and pieces of Lazarus and the rich man, the camel, possibly some innocent bystanders, were all thrown about by the blast, Some of the dogs could have run off with the choicer cuts. It can be understood if the morticians had trouble fitting the right head with the right torso and so on. I'm not saying that this is actually what happened, but it's a good working hypothesis.) The rich man looked up and saw Lazarus in Heaven, eating strawberry pie with whipped cream. (Thus the expression "pie in sky.") Being rich, this made him mad, seeing as how strawberries were out of season, and only a rich person should be eating them. The rich man complained to his congressman, who was conveniently nearby. But that didn't do any good, so he demanded to speak directly to the man at the top, Abraham.

"There must be some mistake. I paid for a first-class berth, and here I am in steerage," he complained. "Why is that fellow up there with you? I demand an upgrade."

Abraham put the rich man straight. "You had a good time when you were alive, while Lazarus could only get health care with dog spit. Now that you are both dead, Lazarus is getting his just desserts."

"That's not funny."

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