Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores. . . .
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
It is a peculiarity of the famous parable that we are not told what the rich man had done to deserve punishment in the fires of hell. He might be charged with gluttony and with directing his attention to making the good life for himself to the neglect of other responsibilities, a selfishness God promises to redress. And thus devotion to his own comfort blinded him to the lot of the beggar on his steps. Each morning when he left his house the rich man stepped over the recumbent form of the poor beggar Lazarus, so that knowledge being a condition of responsibility, he was quite aware of the fellow’s existence and his hunger. And what he did was nothing. And notice that the beggar was not far off, not a victim of some distant famine but was on the rich man’s doorstep. And he did nothing.
And there was another servant, given a talent by his master, who instead of putting it at interest, hid it in the ground. He did nothing and was cast into outer darkness (Matthew 25:24—30).
On another day a wealthy young man, and pious, a keeper of the law, came to Jesus to ask what he must do if he would enter the kingdom. Jesus told him, but he did nothing, for he had many possessions (Matthew 19:16-22).
It is a popular idea that hell is populated by notorious sinners, and certainly they are among its population. The prophet John writes, “As for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be with the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (21:8). The cowards and the faithless, whose sins head the list of moral failures, have not committed grave sins, they lack the courage to act; they have no faith: “He who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). Doing nothing is as certain a path to the inescapable flames to which the rich man was committed as is murder and idolatry. Jesus’ approach to sinners was forgiveness; the language of the stories He told suggests that the fate of those who do nothing is hopeless.
Every person is born with an obligation to know and serve the Almighty and Eternal God. For the morally blessed person this will first come as a sense that there is more to this business of existence than meets the eye. Call it wonder. The providentially blessed will be told the story of God and will be given the opportunity to know Him and to enter into life. At this point the ball will be in this person’s court.
But at every step Satan will oppose this knowledge and this grace. He will have at his disposal a culture that hates God, ready with explanations and doubts to plunge the developing person into the flat would of the obvious, the ordinary, and the skeptical. Eitner the maturing soul will see through this, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, or he will not. And if he does not, he too may do nothing, joining what appears to be the mass of mankind who neglect and therefore despise God. While Jesus never gives us the answer to the many-or-few question, He did describe the fate of the seed of salvation sown into the world. Some will fall on rocky ground, some on the path, some the birds devoured, others fell among thorns (Matthew 13:24–33). This parable also tells us why tares spring up, choking out the wheat: an Enemy has done this.
What part of this loss is the result of indefeasible ignorance born of circumstance in a fallen world is known only to God. But to the degree that for each person there exists the choice based upon some degree of knowledge, either to affirm or deny God’s claim, a direction will be chosen that leads to either eternal life or eternal death.
Divorce in Texas may be no fault, but life is not. Life is the greatest gift with great consequences. When the disciples asked Jesus, “Will those who are saved be few?” Neither here nor elsewhere in the Gospels does Jesus give a census of the Kingdom. He replied “strive to enter by the narrow door; for many I tell you will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Luke 13:23). There are those like the wise and foolish virgins who know their duty to God and those who do not, who will have failed to be prepared when Jesus returns (Matthew 25:1–13). Among the foolish are those who, like the rich man, do nothing because they do not care, having willfully failed to seek to fulfill their duty to God.
Truly God wills all men to be saved, but having given them freedom in the beginning, he will not deny its consequences in the end; He will not coerce or intimidate or destroy faith with obviousness. To those who do not wish to know or obey him, He will grant their desire. Hell is a place or condition prepared for those who do not want to be with God, beginning with the devil and his angels, to whom are joined those who knowingly have rejected knowledge and love of God, which includes preeminently those who, like the rich man in the parable have done nothing.
Of course this seems cruel to our postmodern ears, but that is because we think of our faith as an optional activity that may enrich life rather than as a duty owed to the Almighty and merciful God on which our eternal destiny depends. This, of course, is part of the demonic delusion. Sed contra, Justice is rendering to each his due. The chain of duties incumbent on every person born into this world begins with the supreme duty of giving to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who is Justice himself, worship, obedience, and love.