The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 16:19-31
“There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table;”
With these words begins one of the great stories of the Lord Jesus Christ. A story that gives us the truth in a beautiful and spiritual manner. A reminder that God can teach us the truth through stories and not simply through “historical” facts.
We have heard this story before and we have often focused on the rich man verses the poor man. How one lived in luxury and one suffered. We remember how their roles were reversed when they passed away from this life.
Let’s step back and look at this parable again. It struck me in a powerful way when I read it recently. What if we didn’t focus on the fact that the rich man was wealthy with money or treasure? What if his wealth was simply his feeling of self-sufficiency. His state of mind. The feeling that he owned the world and did not need the comfort or fellowship with others around him.
Let me give you an example that is quickly becoming one of the most serious issues in the breakdown of our society. Look at the smart-phone. Imagine a father who is focused on his phone, always looking for the latest and funniest, or posting to face book or reading the news or even playing a harmless game of angry birds. This man has children and these children are constantly trying to get the father to look up from his phone and acknowledge them. The kids yearn and ache for half the attention that this father gives to the little glowing screen. The kids can’t remember the last time that their father looked so enthusiastic and excited while playing with them or reading them a book. They have become like Lazarus the poor man; simply begging for scraps of attention from someone who is selfish and oblivious to the world around them.
If you focus only on what is in the bank account you completely miss the bigger picture in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Our Lord aches for all those who suffer and today in the richest countries in the world we are starving our kids and our neighbors of attention and love that they truly need. We wonder why kids are unfulfilled and angry? We wonder why couples have to yell at one another instead of speaking calmly? We wonder why two complete strangers should yell at each other at the stoplight instead of being kind and courteous to one another?
Relationships are tough. Communication is tough. Love is the most difficult and painful thing in the world. But these are the things that make us human beings. Our Lord Jesus Christ does not care what we call ourselves or how religious we might think we are. He cares only about how we love.
There is a whole lot of love in the world. But most of it is directed at ourselves and our stuff. In this respect it does not matter whether one is rich with wealth or rich with distractions or rich in their own self-love. In each of these cases we have not fulfilled our purpose. We have not shared our time, our food, our comfort but have kept back the best for ourselves.
The rich man in the parable has two problems. 1) He does not have a shred of mercy or love for those who are in need. 2) He does not listen to the Holy Scriptures, to Moses and the prophets of the Old Testament. Had he listened he would’ve heard the repeated warnings and he would’ve repented and changed his behavior and he would’ve been welcomed by the Lord at the time of His death. But in reality we find that the rich man had no love and the apostle John tells us that if we hate our brother we cannot love God.
Where is my heart and mind? Do I ever think about those that are less fortunate than myself or those who are in need of my love? If I answer “NO”, how will I ever be able to withstand the day of judgment? Do I think that the Lord will spare me simply for believing His name and going to church every week?
As we are drawing near to the holiday season we have many things to be thankful for. Most of us are far more wealthy than the rich man in the parable. But because of Jesus Christ we know how to use some of those riches to be a blessing to others. Let’s not allow ourselves to treat others, even our own families, poorly. Let’s not force others to beg for scraps of our love and attention. May we provide comfort to everyone so that the Lord may provide us with eternal comfort! And Glory be to God forever AMEN.