A Tale of Two Lives
The text this week is Luke 16:19-31. This is the uncomfortable story of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man had everything, and Lazarus had nothing. It’s not that the rich man could not have known about Lazarus, the poor man was barely existing right outside the rich man’s gate. When both had died Lazarus went to heaven and the rich man to hell. No begging by the rich man could get him any relief from his torment.
I am not sure if hell is eternal torment or simple nonexistence or complete separation from God; Scripture is not entirely clear about this and it’s God’s business anyway. The point here is that the rich man failed to serve his fellows in community and paid a price for this. I do not think this is about simply doing good works, as Scripture is too clear that this is not the basis of our salvation, faith is Jesus as Risen Lord is. This is I think a story of the visible, outward expression of the rich man’s lack of faith.
The Response to Faith
The uncomfortableness of this story tempts many to “spiritualize” it. While the God/man nature of Christ usually leads us to an eternal lesson. Yet, that does not mean that Jesus is not talking literally about how we treat the poor here and now, He is.
All this gets to how we are to respond to our faith in Jesus as Risen Lord. I have said too many time to count; if we believe then we will obey. It is not that anyone’s actions are dispositive of their faith status. However, if the good news has truly penetrated our hearts, then it will change us. This text is a lesson in what we are to do in response to the faith that God has given us through Hs son. We are to intentionally seek out and care for those least among us. We are to notice them right outside our door. We should do all that we can to ameliorate their condition. Jesus again, and again calls us to extra care and concern for the poor and the marginalized.
Yes, part of that response is worship and piety and the other spiritual disciplines. Yet, a larger part of the response to the faith we have been given is to literally help the poor. The life that Jesus lives is a real one, in the streets as it were. The life Jesus calls us to is no different. A real response to faith requires real actions and at times real sacrifice.
True enough, different people can and will have different ideas about how to best help those on the margins. Also, everyone’s skill set is unique, so we are likely called to different tasks in helping those less well off. If however, we are fortunate enough to have extra resources, then we are called to use those resources as best we humanly can.
This story is of an individual that clearly did not do the best he could and separated himself from God in the process. In fact it was the lack of faith by the rich man that led him to ignore the poor in the first place. We are not able to say who fits the description of “lacking faith”. This story is clear that God knows. So have faith, then act upon that faith. In short, believe, then obey.
Praise Be to God