How does God define true wealth? This weekend we hear the familiar story of the Rich Man and Lazarus from the Gospel of Luke. The rich man has fine meals every day, while Lazarus starves at the rich man’s doorstep. Luke tells us that Lazarus “would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.” But the rich man never offered anything to Lazarus.
Lazarus died and went to heaven, and was carried to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man died, and went straight to hell. The rich man cried out and asked Abraham to have pity on him. He wanted Abraham to send Lazarus to bring him some cool water. Then the rich man asked Abraham to send someone to warn his brothers, so they would not join him in hell. Both requests were denied. Abraham told him ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.”
The Bible tells us we are all created in the image and likeness of God. Each human being on this planet. What would the world look like if we valued each person as being of equal worth? Or to ask the question the other way around: Why do we find it so hard to value people equally?
Back in Jesus’ time, wealth was often viewed as a sign of divine favor, while poverty was viewed as evidence of sin. So, the first people to hear this parable would not assume that the rich man was evil and that the poor man was good. The rich man’s sin was not that he was rich, but that, during his earthly life, he did not “see” Lazarus, despite his daily presence at the entrance to his home.
In our world today, many subscribe to the “Greed is Good” gospel. More of everything is better. After all, you deserve it! But we know better. We know that as Christian stewards, we are called to share with others. Today’s Gospel is still valid today. We don’t want to end up like the rich man!
Our task as Christians is to live as if another world is possible, a world in which all are equally valued – and through our actions to help to bring this world into being.
Tony Cooper-Stewardship and Development