The Reading: Luke 16:19-31
“… at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus …” (v.20) RSV
The story of Dives and Lazarus is one that can make us feel uncomfortable. After all Dives (not his real name, but simply the Greek for ‘rich man’) was not actually doing harm; he was simply not doing good. Sins of commission are easier to spot than sins of omission.
Dives was no doubt good at entertaining and hospitality. He was wealthy enough to enjoy the good life and to feast to his heart’s content. He was using his own money and was part of a huge family (“five brothers” v.28). Nevertheless he was so cocooned in his own comfortable world that he was blind to the needs of others who were right under his nose. Each day he would have to pass Lazarus and no doubt the distress of the man was plain to see (“sores … hunger” v.21), but having probably justified doing nothing the first few times he became inured to the suffering man at his gate. Maybe those first times he had been in a hurry, or had no cash on him or felt that Lazarus was lazy and should be out working.
Is it not easy for us to justify doing nothing? All too soon our conscience becomes quiet and our life carries on untroubled by the suffering around us. And yet God’s concern is for the poor, the oppressed and downtrodden. Many people are in dire straits (in the UK as well as abroad) through no fault of their own.
We can of course reckon that governments should address such problems and inequalities. True. Yet, we are required to do what we can. We cannot help all, but we can help one. God is not asking us to solve the world’s problems. He is asking us to respond in love to our neighbour’s needs.
John makes this point in his first letter. “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17).
Forgive me, O Lord, when I am so absorbed in my life that I can’t see or respond to the needs of others. Amen.
1 Do we lose out if we are kind to the poor?
Proverbs 19:17, Luke 6:38
2 Is it sufficient to pray for the poor?