My Two Cents
September 29, 2019, 12:00 AM

Who in the world is Divies?

In the anthem the choir is about to sing (and we are all about to really enjoy) based on Luke 16, there is a name that was new to me. Divies. Pronounced Dive-ee, like, “Little lambsy Divey”.

Many of us know the other names in this story of the man dressed in purple and fine linen, right? We know about Lazarus, the man laying at the gate of the big house, covered with oozing sores, too weak to shoo away the dogs that were drawn by his wounds.  Lazarus is the Latin translation for the Hebrew Eleazar which means “God has helped”. Lazarus never speaks but he is at the heart of the story. When he dies the angels gently lift him by his swollen hands and useless feet, and carry him straight into the bosom of Abraham. Lazarus. Eleazar. God has helped.

The other role in this story is played by Abraham himself who gathers in Lazarus and immediately tends to his wounds.

But until this week I had never heard the name of the character who had the good life on earth and wasn’t so lucky after he died. To me, he was always just the rich man. As it turns out, ‘rich man’ in Latin is translated as ‘dives” pronounced more like ‘diva’ than ‘dive’. When the Bible was translated into Latin, ‘rich man’ became ‘dives’. And as time went on, the word that initially described the man, became his name. You know how a person short of stature might become Shorty? Dives became Divies.

When Jester Hairston arranged this old spiritual as a four part choir anthem a few years ago, he carried on the African American tradition of naming the rich man Divies. I wonder if this tradition stayed alive during the days of slavery because it allowed the rich man to be named cautiously enough to keep the singers from getting in trouble. I wonder but I don’t know. I just know that Divies is nowhere to be found in most English translations of the Bibles.

But maybe it’s right for the rich man to have a name. Too often we might think of the rich as an abstract concept or a “them” we don’t really know. The troubling truth is that if Jesus was telling us this story today, we would all be among the rich. Every one of us has a name, and maybe even a Lazarus within our field of vision and influence we find it far too easy not to see.

Welcome to worship!