THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
SUNDAY, 20TH SEPTEMBER, 2020
THEME: STANDING WITH THE POOR TODAY
READINGS: PSALM 56; DEUTERONOMY 15:7-11; ROMANS 12:9-21; LUKE 16:19-31.
Jesus never delayed anytime in confronting wrong attitudes that are prevalent among men.. He spoke a parable to strictly warn us not to love money more than people in the text chosen for this write up. He confronted religious leaders who were lovers of money, telling them that “what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:14-15). A proper perspective of greed and cynicism and the judgment of God could be seen as the points Jesus was addressing in this passage.
The story of the rich and Lazarus is not an actual story but a parable, which is told in allegorical manner to convey spiritual truth. The parable is one where the main character is given a name, perhaps in part, to make it more personal for each of us reading this. The parable begins by telling us, “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day” (Luke 16:19). This man dressed in the finest clothes and ate well every day of the year. Nothing is wrong with these pursuits in and of themselves. But this man was not willing to share his wealth. He lived by the “zero sum” rule—he wanted the whole pie for himself. None of it could be shared with others because, in his twisted way of thinking, that would leave less for him. The rich man in this parable personifies an attitude of hoarding: “I have what is mine, I worked hard for it and no one gets a penny, lest I have less than what I had.”
Christ contrasts the rich man to the poor beggar named Lazarus who was wracked with sores and reduced to being laid at the gate of the rich man hoping any amount of charity would come his way. Neither the wealthy tycoon nor anyone else gave him an ounce of care.
However, both beggar and rich man died. Here is where the story takes an imaginative turn to provide a larger lesson about judgment and eventual accounting for one’s actions. Lazarus is judged faithful, and in being carried to “Abrahams’s bosom” he receives an inheritance along with faithful Abraham and others who follow Abraham’s example of faith. That inheritance is here on earth as the Kingdom of God—established when Christ returns and begins His rule. The rich man, we are told, dies and is buried. However, seeing Abraham and Lazarus, he cries out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:22-24)
Christ is telling us there will be a day of judgment for the wicked, and it will include a fiery, if brief, torment. Peter describes this event in 2 Peter 3:10 when “the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” Christ is describing a time when our thoughts and actions will be judged, which should make us all examine ourselves today while we have opportunity to correct our course. (Luke 16:25-26). Judgment is a concept polite people don’t want to talk about. It’s uncomfortable to be told you may one day have to account for your actions and deeds. Modern philosophies tend toward tolerant, non-judgmental approaches to people and lifestyles. Relativism is a foundation of the religion of modernity. The idea of a judgment, or an accounting for personal actions, is ironically not tolerated. Yet the Bible shows us there will be a day of judgment.
I think the problem has been greed and cynicism. An attitude of callous indifference to a brother’s suffering was not changed even when the suffering man lay each day in plain sight of the rich man. The rich man would do nothing to change. He consumed and hoarded his wealth with no thought of obligation toward others.
There’s a lot of that in the world today, as there has been in every age. Their motto is, Dum vivamus edimus et biberimus, meaning, “While we live, we eat and drink. They, however, represent the attitude Christ is condemning. As long as a person holds the attitude of this rich man, he stands in danger of a growing “great gulf” not just between him and his fellow man, but between him and God. That’s a key personal lesson we can take from this parable.
The parable concludes with the plaintive cry of the rich man asking Abraham to send a warning to his father’s house for the sake of his five brothers. Abraham says, “They have Moses and the prophets;
let them hear them,” and “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rises from the dead” (Luke 16:27-31). Moses and all the Old Testament Scriptures, and even the New Testament for that matter, carry enough teaching and direction to tell us how to manage our money and possessions to effectively take care of ourselves and others—to share and care for the poor. Learn the lesson now, and avoid the greed that puts us into this parable in the role of the rich man.
How can you put the lessons of this parable to use?
Here are three things you can apply today:
don’t really need or use. Do you have clothes hanging in your closet that you didn’t wear at all this past season? Think about donating them to someone who needs them or a charity that serves the poor.
spare. For example, the change you get back each time you go through your local fast food drive-through—maybe dump it in the bin below the window and let it help someone going through a crisis. Look at it as a way of leaving the corners of your field for someone in need (Leviticus 23:22).
you and your family and to help others as you are able. This approach reminds us that, as James 1:17 tells us, God is the source of every good and perfect gift.