I’ve been a reading blitz this year….and it’s not been work related! It’s rare that I get a quiet moment to myself. Reading for the sake of reading, only. It’s hard for me to find a novel that I want to read, and when I do, I’m hooked. As in, “I can’t put the book down.” The lasted book I’m hooked on is a wonderful story entitled, “Homegoing”. It’s a story that traces the lives of two African half-sisters who were caught up in the slave trade of the mid-18th century.
One sister was married off to the commander of the British Slave company who worked with the local people to sell the slaves and the other sister was sold into slavery. It’s a wonderful, intense story as it develops the details of the two sisters and their families in a way that, although fiction, it certainly and quite plausibly is indeed historically accurate.
The sister who was married off into the British officer lived a life of luxury in the court, while her sister sold into slavery lived in the dungeon beneath her as she was shipped off to the Americas.
The premise of the story is the story Jesus tells about the Rich ruler and the poor man, Lazarus in our text. Like the book I’m reading, the parable of the rich man is heavy.
But not without reason.
How do we hear the truth of the parable? What will it take to convince us that there is wisdom in this parable. It’s something that we wrestle as those who are like the first sister in the novel “Homegoing” we all here have been blessed with, as Jesus describes, “The good things in life.”
So, this parable for us should awaken us to the peril facing us, when by the world’s standards, we have arrived with the finer things in life.
Let’s talk about money. We talked a little about giving last Sunday and I mentioned you can only do three things with your money: you can spend it, save it, or give it away. Money is not dangerous or evil. Money is only a tool. But here’s where the danger comes in, it’s what we do with our resources, or perhaps more appropriately, what our resources do to us. The Bible isn’t clear about what the rich man sin was about. Only that it is implied the rich man never saw the poor man, Lazarus lying at his gate.
Jesus is trying to shock his listens with a different twist to what was expected to be heard. They believed that riches were a sign of God’s approval and reward. They also believed that sickness and poverty are a result of God’s punishment. Not really much different that some of the theology that we hear in our culture is it?
Yet, we come hear from the prophet Amos, “Woe to you who are at ease in Zion.” And then Jesus pricks us with words that we really don’t want to hear. His words reverse our expectations and shifts us from complacency to action.
Fact is if you know about Luke’s gospel and Jesus as the one who is Good News to the poor, you aren’t really surprised by this tough passage. Jesus mission statement as record all the way back in Luke 4 was that “the spirit of the Lord anointed him to bring good news to the poor and proclaim release to the captives.” (lk4:18).
The danger for us is that we can become so smug with the good things in life, that we overlook the poor right outside our door.
So, the question that lies before us is will we heed the danger signals? Will we look with our spiritual eyes upon the world as Jesus sees? And will we respond in faithfulness to the needs of the world.
The question still haunts us, is it a sin to be wealth? What was the sin of the rich man in the story? Was it because he was wealth? His sin was that he had an “I” trouble. Not eye trouble that is treaded with glasses or contacts. His eye trouble was that he wasn’t able to look beyond his own nose. He could not see the world beyond himself, beyond his own desires, beyond his needs, wants, or even “deserves”.
So his sin was what he did with his resources. The sin here is not how much was in the bank balance, but that there were blinders that kept him for seeing the needs of those around. The danger with any of us our wealth seduces us into thinking of our personal wants and into thinking that things can satisfy our spiritual desires. Or, that our believing in our possessions can provide our identity.
So, what will it take to convince us?
We have the scripture to point us to what God desires for us. Rest assured, we have the needy at our gate: people who are poor, hungry, oppressed, and those who have yet to hear and understand the gospel message.
What will it take to convince us? Convince us of who we are in the parable? Convince us of our own blessings? Of our need to share?
It is the generosity and unconditional love and grace of God that gives us life and identity. It is the generosity and unconditional love and grace of God that satisfies our souls. It is the generosity and unconditional love of God that seeks justice for us as God’s grace calls and empowers us to live out our true identity while seeking the needs of the world.
It is the generosity and unconditional love of God and grace of God that gives contemptment with what we have, meaning and hope for our lives, rich or poor.
Are you convinced?