“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ “
Jesus’ stark reminder to the Pharisees, that one cannot serve God and mammon (love of money), is vividly shown in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. In this parable, Jesus confronts disparity in his society and depicts the spiritual emptiness found in mammon.
This is a parable that lifts up some of the tensions that are still prevalent in our own society: growing inequality, marginalization of the poor, insufficient social housing, and the alarming levels of poor health and mental illness in homeless women and men.
Too often we are so wrapped up in our own concerns and the general busyness of life that we fail to see the needs of others. Jesus’ story reminds us to slow down, remove the blinders, and to see each person in our communities.
Luke states ‘blessed are the poor. ‘Mary’s song, in the opening chapter of Luke’s gospel, reminds us of the divine reversal: he has exalted the poor and lowly and sent the rich away with nothing (Luke 1:52-53). The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is October 17. In this season of gratitude, we know that God tells us to abandon fear, love with overflowing abundance, forgive with humility, and seek justice with an unquenchable thirst.
Loving God, who knows our hearts, hear us as we pray for those who do not share in the bounty of your rich earth. What you have created is for all of us to share and enjoy. Refusing to understand how our lifestyles affect global issues of poverty, we plead ignorance in the face of human suffering. Remind us of your call to “open wide [our] hand[s] to our brothers, to the needy and to the poor in the land.” Make us advocates of dignity.
All: God of abundance, help us to use the resources of this good earth, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and work towards eliminating the causes of poverty. By your Spirit mobilize us to do your bidding, through Jesus, our generous Lord. Amen.
Written By Rev. Harry Klassen, Interim Minister of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Amherst Island, Ontario
Produced by Justice Ministries, The Presbyterian Church in Canada, October 2013