And [the rich man] called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.” Luke 16:24
(Note: One would do well to read the entire parable, Luke 16:19-31)
Once there was a rich man or woman, clothed in a warm sweater and leather shoes who drove their new Ford, Chevy, Toyota to the market. At the entrance to the parking lot was a homeless man named Lazarus. Lazarus wore clothes that had not been washed for some time. He was dirty, had a long scraggly beard and held a sign in his hands that simply said “Help, I’m hungry.”
Does this sound familiar?
Being a pastor, people often ask me for a faithful way to interact with those on the street who might be looking for help. Most times they are viewed as beggars in search of handouts. The truth is, wondering how to respond is a tough call. On one hand, Jesus teaches us we are to care for the needy, feed the hungry and offer help to the poor. One the other hand, we don’t know if the person begging from us is truly in need or if they are trying to take advantage. You see, it isn’t always that easy to figure out.
But today, Jesus teaches us that we should be kind to those in need. We should be willing to share what we have for the sake of the lost, the poor and the hungry without casting judgment upon them. Our street corners and super market parking lots seem to be a haven for seemingly poor people who beg for assistance with food for their children, gas for the car, or medicine for a particular ailment. Yet, focusing on Lazarus, the man we drove by as we entered the mall parking lot, consider this; in Hebrew, the name Lazarus means “God will help.”
No, we won’t always make the right decision. We won’t always be willing to let go of those precious dollars we worked so hard to get. But we have Moses and the prophets. We have God’s commandments and we have stories of King David, Solomon and also the parables of Jesus. We know that sometimes our wants get in the way of our needs, and when they do we often fall short of God’s glory. But God helps. God helps even us.
In the parable, Father Abraham told the rich man that his brothers that if they are not convinced by Moses and the prophets, neither would they listen to someone who has come back from the dead. Yet, there is one who once was dead but lives. One who died on the cross and has come back from the grave in order that we might be freed from the consequences of our sin. Remember, the rich man and his brothers from Jesus’ parable are characters through which Christ teaches us.
In our retelling of the parable today, it is easy to find our place in the story, but in searching Jesus’ of The Rich man and Poor Lazarus, it might be difficult to pin point exactly where we fit in. In doing so we must remember something very important; it’s not the characters, but the teacher of the parable who makes the difference.
The Holy Spirit calls us to study God’s word. God’s Word reveals Christ. Christ calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves. The parable didn’t necessarily change the view of those who opposed Jesus. But the message of God love for his people, his mercy and forgiveness does change the way we look at ourselves and others. As we consider Lazarus, we remember that God will help. This is where we find ourselves in the parable.
Rich or poor, God helps because he knows we are all sinners in need of a savior. Rich or poor, God helps us and calls us to love God and love one another. Rich or poor, God helps because nothing that we have is truly our own. We all come to the gates of the kingdom as beggars. We all depend on God’s grace, mercy and love.
Thanks be to God we have a Savior who, through the true richness of heaven, opens the gates and satisfies the people of God. Thanks be to God we have a Good Shepherd who leads us by streams of living water. Thanks be to God that our precious Savior Jesus Christ would dare to dip his finger into the cool waters of life and touch our tongue so that we should never thirst for his righteousness. Thanks be to God that through the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we beggars are made rich and welcomed into the house of the Lord forever.
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