– Luke 16:19-31
I have plenty of food at night – and come to think of it, nice clothes too. There may be more things that I want in life but I have everything that I need, plus a lot more stuff on the side. And when I look at the rich man and Lazarus, the thing that I hate is that I have more in common with the rich man than I do with the poor Lazarus. No dog licks my sores, and I don’t sit outside a gate and wall in a gutter hoping to get table scraps. Now, do I drive past those kinds of folks? Sure, all the time! But they aren’t me and I don’t have to deal with them on a daily basis. Which begs the question, “Am I the rich person of the story?”, “Are you?” Cause…if we are (or are even are close to being the rich person), it’s time to check ourselves, especially because this story seems to carry dreadful consequences for those who don’t care for their neighbor. For me, it’s a reminder to always take a God and grace-filled approach to those hurting or hungry.
But that’s only the micro-approach. You, me – we get inserted into the story and we try to apply it to our individual lives. It focuses on “where am I in this story?” and “where is God working within my story?” For me, I recognize that I can live with greater compassion especially to those who go without. More so, that I am called to be grace-filled as God has been grace-filled with me.
The scary part of this text is when I start thinking of who we are as a nation of God’s people. That would be the macro-approach. What is God speaking to us as a nation? Now – in seminary I got to have conversations with people about sin – and usually we think of sin as something we do on an individual level: I punched that guy. I gossiped about her. I took the Lord’s name in vain…that kind of thing. Where it gets interesting is talking about communal sin, as in “that people made a golden calf together” or “the nation of Israel did not keep my law.” These are examples when people mess it as a whole group.
Right now the national dialogue entails building a wall, with a gate, so that the poor to the south can be kept from the wealth of the north. You can put it another way if you’d like but my wonderment is, “does this story that Jesus tells, speak to us as a communal body of Christians in America?” I’ve never thought of Lazarus from El Salvador, Costa Rica or Mexico, but to me the implications of this parable are mightily challenging and scary when we do. Are they down there the majority poor looking for scrapes from a table and we the majority rich with means beyond need to feed more than our own mouths. And just as I hate this parable when it applies to me as an individual, I also hate it when I think of it as a citizen of a great and prosperous nation – because the message is the same: walls, neglect and indifference to our neighbors is brokenness before God that carries severe consequences. This may not be my idea of greatness, or government, but it may be God’s.