June 7, 2015

The Beggar

Posted in Trinity at 6:36 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Certain man, so certain of your place among elite;
Dressed fine, your larder brimmed with choicest fare.
Too often in your rounds you paused to glare
At Lazarus, the beggar lying helpless at your feet.
Disgusting man, his dirty sores oozed poverty.
Why should your crumbs be shared with one so base?
And what cared you that hunger marred his face?
He had no right to any of your hard-earned money.
But sumptuous fare was waiting for him in another land.
His God rewarded him with heaven’s best.
In Abraham’s bosom Lazarus found rest,
Yet you entreated comfort from his now-healed hand.
Demanding favors from your well-earned place among the damned,
You still believed that you deserve the good,
Yet never once showed mercy while you could,
Thus you are nothing like the gracious God of Abraham.

Copyright © 2015 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)

From the Gospel lesson for the First Sunday after Trinity – Luke 16:19-31

This morning I heard an excellent sermon on this passage. The priest was careful to point out that the story of the rich man and Lazarus cannot be interpreted as a diatribe against riches. Lazarus did not go to heaven because he was poor, and the rich man was not doomed by his riches. Salvation comes only through God’s grace, and those whom God redeems by grace are made like Him. In his life, the rich man was perfectly situated to show forth the love of God by sharing his worldly goods. That he refused to do so is proof that he was not a child of God, who is loving and merciful.

I haven’t commented recently on poetic form, but with this one, the form is part of the full effect. The story of the rich man and Lazarus is that of a reversal of fortune, and the rhyme scheme of a-b-b-a, with the “a” lines having seven feet and the “b” lines having five feet, is intended to convey that concept.

Also, the phrase “disgusting man” at the beginning of line 5 is deliberately unclear in its reference, the point being that the rich man would have thought Lazarus disgusting, while all the time, his own selfishness was the most disgusting thing of all. And you’ve already guessed that the title has a dual meaning as well.


  1. Such precision in form as well as in theology has made an excellent poem. Thank you.


  2. […] Roberts Johnson has shared another of her poems with us in the post The Beggar.  This poem is based on the 1928 BCP Gospel reading for the 1st Sunday after Trinity – the […]


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