You've probably heard the story from Luke chapter 16. The one we might just skip because we don’t really want to hear it.
The rich man who lived in luxury each day and Lazarus, the poor beggar that lay at his gate.
Lazarus longed for scraps from the rich man’s table. He was hungry. He had nothing.
Perhaps Lazarus yearned for what the rich man had. It looked appetizing in the “now”. Perhaps the future destiny of this rich man with indifference to the poor wasn’t being taken into consideration by the poor beggar, but for now, the luxury set upon the rich man’s table looked good. To have a rich lifestyle looked exciting, having the fame and the fortune looked appealing. So many of us in the world our aiming for fame or fortune, right? We want the ease, the comfort, the luxury; its attractive. We yearn for more followers on social media. We buy the fancy clothes to make us appear prettier. We try and say all the right words to get the best job climbing the tallest ladder to success, fame, ease, and comfort.
Or maybe Lazarus saw straight through the rich man and detested what he had. Fine linen, food galore, rich enough to have a gate to guard off outsiders... but a cold heart and an indifference to some of God's image bearers. Maybe Lazarus saw how terrible the rich man’s life would become once death arrived because he kept all his treasures to himself and so maybe Lazarus didn’t want any more than just some scraps from the table to keep his belly fed.
I don’t know what Lazarus thought. But what I do know according to Luke is that the rich man went to hell and Lazarus went to heaven. Abraham said “during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted and you are in anguish.”
That stings just a bit. It's not the most attractive story in the Bible. It brings on a lot of questions as to what exactly did the rich man do, or didn't do.
Yes, God gives good gifts and this isn’t to condem anyone with nice things. I have a room full of treasures too. So don't take the story out of the context.
When the rich man realized his fate, it was too late. There was no chance of going back to warn his brothers. There was no chance for revival. He was stuck in torment wishing Lazarus would dip the tip of his finger in water to cool his tongue. Because he CHOSE to ignore the beggar and live in luxury for this very short time on earth, he now is tormented day and night.
I admit I am at fault. Although I don't have much attached to my name, I am still “rich” compared to my neighbors in Haiti. I hold a passport in my hands, I can spend $7.00 for breakfast at Chick-fil-A every now and then, I can go to the doctor when I’m sick. I can even buy the brand of peanut butter I prefer. And that is all a blessing from God and is meant to be accepted and appreciated as the good gifts He gives... but then sometimes I still ignore and pass by the beggar.
Sometimes I forget that it is eternity at stake here. Not a few seasons on earth where the comfort and ease and fancy lifestyle might look appealing. It’s about all the millions of years after this life that matters. And what we do on this short life, determines the life we live after death. Life is like a vapor. It ends quickly, but eternity is forever. Are we living for Christ? More than just church on Sunday mornings, are we truly giving Him our first fruits, our time, our hearts? It’s a question I have to ask myself after getting into the mundane of life. It's easy to want what the world has. It's easy to not want to help the beggar because of all the extra strain that comes with pouring into that relationship and being intentional in it. I'll admit, sometimes I cringe when I hear a knock on my door because I just don't want to put forth the energy to grow the relationship. Sometimes, selfishly I just want to turn a blind eye.
How often do we see what someone else has and want it? Or how often do we focus on heaven’s riches and not earth’s desires? How often do we pass by rather than taking the time to love our neighbor? How often do we harm our neighbor not my mistreating him but by ignoring him?
“the rich man did not abuse Lazarus, didn’t beat him or mistreat him; he simply ignored him, passing by him, day after day, with indifference. His sin was not one of commission but of omission.”
We have many beggars outside our doors, across town, down the street, in other countries. They are our neighbors. Right next to our churches and houses are beggars on the streets, in shacks, in subways. People starving maybe for food, or maybe just for a friend. They just want a few scraps from our tables. Maybe scraps in the form of food or maybe they just want to feel accepted, loved, acknowledged. This is a season in our society where so many people are coming together. We actually have time on our hands and we are realizing that we can use that time to bless others. We can deliver food to hospitals, we can donate handmade face masks. We are realizing how this virus can affect everyone and we are seeing what it means to lack, to go without, to have to count the pennies and stretch them out. We now can walk a step or two in the shoes of the beggar.
You never know when tragedy might arrive and we’ll be the one begging, wishing we weren’t invisible to the big world out there. Wishing for the good-hearted people to share some scraps.
This is convicting for me. It’s not easy to swallow. When I was a child I read this story and just thought "the rich go to hell and the poor go to heaven" but that's not it at all. The sin here is not one of commission but of omission. It's not about who has money and who doesn't. It's about seeing and acknowledging and helping others. It's about not passing by and ignoring the pain of others while we continue to live our lives in luxury without a care in the world for anyone else.
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and deny them by their lifestyle.” – Brennan Manning
What do you have to offer? See the good gifts that God has given you then go find the one whom God says to share it with. Maybe your gift to share is words of encouragement with someone in agony, maybe it's a listening ear to someone who needs to vent, maybe it's money, maybe it's food.
We are the church. We are HIS hands and feet. And right now our church buildings might be closed but that doesn’t mean we stop being the church. It is the perfect time to get up and help. Be Jesus to a stranger, be Jesus to the poor. Notice the sick, the outcast, the lonely, the hungry and show them JESUS. We may still be rich compared to the poor, but we can still change the trajectory of the story in one simple and profound way: don't pass by with indifference. Stop and love, stop and pray, stop and give. "His sin was not one of commission but of omission." Remember them. See them, love them, serve them, accept them.
Love and be loved