Thursday, 16 March 2017

Rich Man Poor Man - How about you?



“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ Luke 16:19-31.

I am sure you all know this parable by Jesus. The story continues that the rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to go and warn the rich man's family to mend their ways. And this request too is denied.

So ... what have we to learn from this parable in today's modern times?


These days we have people so rich that they treat their pets better than many poor people are treated. Years ago I knew a couple who had a little dog. You know the kind ... a little bijou type dog like a small poodle or such like. They liked that dog very much. So much so that they put a plate full of best cuts of ham, or other meats, on the table and then they would lift the dog on a high chair and he would eat at table with them.

The first time this happened I was astounded. I said nothing of course; but somehow I felt bad that the dog was fed the best meat one could buy when there are so many folks going hungry.

For all I know, maybe this couple were very generous in life. Maybe they gave a lot of money to charity, or looked after the down-and-outs in the local homeless shelter. But somehow, seeing that dog eating expensive meats that I could not afford made me feel bad.

What do we learn from the Lazarus story?

How much should we give to charity? What is enough? Or not enough?

In another parable Jesus tells us of the poor widow who gave her last pennies in the collection plate. He says that her gift was worth more than that of rich people, because she gave until it hurt.

What does give until it hurts mean for us these days? Is it OK to give to charities so much that it begins to affect our family and our loved ones? Is it acceptable that our children should go without something because we have been generous towards the poor? Where do you draw the line between your family not having something at the expense of a poor man having a good meal for the first time in ages.

I once was having a meal with a priest. There were many of us round the table. I was young and perhaps foolish in what I thought or said. I asked him, "Father, is it OK for us to be having such a feast here; when there are so many people starving in the world?"

He was a wise man. He smiled and said, "There will always be starving people in the world. I know the temptation is to give all you have to the poor to the point of you going without. But if you did that, then you too will be poor and relying on others for charity. What you should do is give to the poor as much as you can afford, and thank God that you have plenty for yourself, and trust Him that He will look after the poor. You are God's instrument in life to give to those less well off than yourself."

I suppose the lesson to be learnt here is that we should not deny things for ourselves and our families. There's nothing wrong in working hard and being well-off. Indeed, Christ encourages people to work hard in the parable of the servants given talents which they increase in time.

But in our riches, we need to remember those less well-off than us; and to give them "enough" as much as we can.

What is enough? Or not enough?

This is something you will have to discuss with God when you get to meet Him.

18 comments:

  1. I don't know. Sounds like that priest might be in hell. Doesn't it sound like Satan reasoning? But I have to admit, while I try to give often to the poor and needy, it is nowhere near enough. I still live comfortably. So I'm not chastising anyone. I do not live up the Christ's standard either.

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    1. Interesting point of view, Manny. I guess what that priest was trying to say is that we cannot deny ourselves everything always. At Christmas, Thanksgiving and other occasions we too celebrate by having a feast; whilst others not far from us may be starving.

      It's a difficult subject; hence the reason I raise it. How much does God want us to give to the poor? All that we have until we too are poor?

      God bless you.

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    2. We'll check out Matt 19:21 and Luke 18:22. I think He does. Again I need to admit I don't do it myself.

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    3. Thank you Manny for this discussion. It helps me clarify my mind a little.

      In both references you mention, Jesus says "sell everything and give it to the poor". We must be careful however not to take evrything too literally. Let me give you an example.

      Say, for instance you have a vision of Christ. As sure as you can be, you know it is Him. Just like Abraham, Moses and the prophets knew God spoke to them. Let's say He tells you to sell everything and give it to the poor. Would you sell your house and belongings, leave your job, leave your wife, son and family, and give everything to the poor? Do you not have a responsibility to your family and loved ones?

      Christ did not mean it literally that we should all sell everything we have. It is not physically possible for a start.

      If EVERYONE sold ALL they have by implication there should be someone to buy it. If EVERYONE sold all they have then EVERYONE would become poor and exacerbate the problem of poverty.

      What Christ is teaching here is that the rich, (whether people or nations), should help those worse off than them. Christ is not against being rich. The parable of the talents and other stories prove that. He is asking us to be responsible with the wealth, (talents), God has given us.

      Jesus is not against having a feast. His first miracle in Cana was at a wedding feast. His many stories involve feasts and He sat at many feasts with tax collectors and sinners.

      The central point here, and in my post, is "what is enough"? How much of my earnings should I give to the poor? There are those who believe they should give 10% of their earnings. If I did this, in today's society, it would leave a big hole in my finances to the detriment of my family.

      We are all rich in one way or another. Some more so than others. But most of us, say here on the internet, at least have a computer and electricity to run it. So we have something compared to those who don't even have a home. So, how much of what we have should we give to those who have not? I hope when I meet God He will not find me wanting.

      Thank you again, Manny for this conversation.

      God bless you and your family.

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    4. What do you mean it's impossible? Have you heard of St. Anthony of the Desert? Go read his conversion story. I think it deals directly with Matt 19:21. Have you heard of St. Francis of Assisi? Or St. Dominic de Guzman? All the Mendicant Orders from their inception down to today give up everything they own. Are you saying there aren't Franciscans or Dominicans or Carmelites today? And those aren't the only three.

      Jesus says if you want to be perfect do so. Notice what Christ says after he tells the apostles say then who can be saved? " When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?”
      “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

      What I take from that is, he means it. He is asking the impossible, but God will ultimately have mercy. It's probably the difference between heaven and purgatory.

      What is enough? There are many people who live from month to month just making expenses meet. And they have families. I'm reminded also of Matt 6:25, about worrying for your living needs. "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them." I've been blessed and do not live month to month, but I am not perfect.

      I would be cautious to say Jesus doesn't mean things literally. In order to do so you have to use the satanic logic of the snake with Eve: God didn't really mean not to eat that apple. Yes He did.

      I remember you talking about divorce, and feeling Jesus didn't really mean to be so strict. Or something like that. Are you picking and choosing what Jesus means literally or not based on how difficult it is? Jesus meant literally in John 6 that one had to eat His flesh. A disciple says, "“This saying is hard; who can accept it?” And many left. Yes He did mean it. Just because it's difficult does mean Jesus didn't mean it.

      Again, I am not the model of virtue here. I also do not give all that I have or even 10%. I ask for God's mercy every day.

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    5. Thank you Manny for coming back. You make a very powerful argument and I admit I have no response to it. But I'll admit to being afraid. If He really means it; if He really means that we should sell ALL that we have and give it to the poor, then I for one am damned because I do not do so. I have responsibilities to my family which, in my mind, come first. That's the bit I find difficult to undrestand, Manny. He means it literally that we should sell ALL and give it to the poor. Not even the Pope does that. He lives in a palace surrounded by riches worth a fortune. I know some say they don't belong to him personally. But riches they are. Gathered by the Church over the years. Cardinals and Bishops and priests wear expensive clothes with expensive rings on their fingers and live in houses that the homeless would envy. One of the priests I know drives the latest model topo of the range car. So ... are they and am I too just doomed?

      You and I don't give even 10% and ask for God's mercy. Is that enough? Is that not a let out clause? "God, I gave what I thought was OK, now let Your mercy get me into Heaven!"

      You say I mentioned divorce. This is something else I have never understood. Does God want someone to live in a violent, brutal, crime-ridden marriage? Is there not a time when for the sake of the children and a battered wife that divorce is the answer? What if one partner continuously is un-faithful to the point of putting his spouse at health risk. Is divorce still not the answer?

      Suddenly, being a Christian has become a lot more difficult.

      God bless you and yours, Manny. Thanx again for your wise insight.

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    6. On divorce, yes you can and should separate a spouse under those conditions. You are just not allowed to remarry. I said that last time too.

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    7. Agreed Manny. It does seem harsh though that you are not allowed to re-marry. Especially if you are the innocent party and did nothing to destroy the marriage. I have seen such cases. One where the spouse was continuously un-faithful and un-repentant. Divorce was the only outcome. Why punish the innocent spouse by not allowing them to re-marry? Is it right they should scrimp and save to bring up a family alone with little income? Is it right to deny them the chance to love and be happy again? Does God really want that?

      I am confused.

      God bless you Manny.

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    8. Is that a let out clause? Purgatory is a let out clause. Purgatory is the greatest act of mercy that god has given us. Priests around here don't wear expensive clothing. Cardinals and Bishops wear their religious garb. I imagine most of those things are gifts.

      You said: "Is it right to deny them the chance to love and be happy again? Does God really want that?"

      There are so many things wrong underlying your assumption. (1) Many people are called to live unmarried lives. Priests, nuns, religious orders. The statistics have shown they are the most happy and satisfied people in my country. So, no, you are not doomed to unhappiness if you do not marry. If anything, marriage has led the divorced couple to unhappiness. (2) What about what divorce has done to society? What about all the unhappiness divorce has caused throughout society? Divorce has caused society to spiral downward. There are studies that show that atheism has grown as family structure has broken down. You want to focus on the selfishness of some people to strive to be happy. What about the unhappiness that has been caused by those that have divorce? (3) Are you going to question Christ? Don't you think He knows what is best for you and for society? Christ repeatedly calls us to sacrifice for the greater good. Such as the subject of your very post here. No matter how much one gives, even it's not enough, it is still a sacrifice and pulls one away from what appears to make us happy.

      Christ says, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?"
      Luke 9:24-25

      As Christians we are required to "deny" ourselves. That means yes, we are not supposed to insist on what we think will make us happy.

      And what about Christ when He is asked to make His sacrifice. He asks God to make Him happy: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me." Yet Christ shows how to respond: "yet not my will, but yours be done."

      Nothing personal Victor, but you seem to have a very saccharine view of Christianity. You need to read more of the lives of the saints and their sacrifices they were called to make and the happiness they derived from them. I would start with the life of St. Damien of Molokai. At the expense of his "happiness" he went to live among the lepers and died among them at the "old" age of 49, from leprosy. Serving God is our primary duty.

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    9. Thank you Manny for taking the time to write about this. I really appreciate it. I mean it.

      You raise a number of points which I'll answer, perhaps to clear my own mind, if nothing else.

      I know about St Damien of Molokai. An order of priests we had in our church were from Sacre Coeur Sacre Coeur, the or der of St Damien.

      But, people like him, and those people who become priests and nuns, choose to do so. This is important. They choose to become priests and nuns and to live a life of celibacy. Happy or not as it may be. Indeed, some of them leave that life to get married. Are they doomed to hell for doing so? I know at least three priests from our church who have done so over the years.

      Marriage and raising a family is also a choice. A holy choice sacred when people take their vows. And yes, many fail in their marriages for a variety of reasons; often with one spouse being totally and completely innocent. You are right. Divorce has led to the breakdown of society and it is wrong. Very wrong. But often necessary. Sometimes it is imperative to do the wrong thing for the right reasons. Believe me, I have seen it often, Manny. Continuous and unrepentant infidelity, violence in marriage, lies and deceipt, and worse.

      Necessary as it is sometimes, divorce leaves innocent victims. All I ask is: Does God really want that? Someone to suffer for life for something he/she is innocent of? Is that really God's mercy, forgiveness and justice?

      Let me give you an example Manny, to illustrate what I mean.

      A young lady in her late 20s, Catholic marries a Catholic with the intention to live happily ever after, as they say. After the wedding, she finds out he was married before and divorced.

      What a dilemma. To have relationship with him means adultery, (according to the Bible and our Church). To live with him as if nothing happens is impossible.

      She divorced him. But is unable to re-ammy unless/until our Church annuls the marries. This takes time ... a long time ... her biological clock is ticking ... she is denied by the Church of happiness and a family until they pronounce she can re-marry. The husband has vanished which delays the Church's decision even more.

      Were she not Catholic she would have re-married in another Church or in a civil ceremony. By holding on to her Catholic faith she is sacrificing her chosen calling - to be a mother. Just like the priests and nuns who cjoose to be chaste. She chose to be a mother some day.

      There is a lot that we don't understand Manny about what the Bible says, what God wants of us, and what our Church (and other churches) teaches. Our current Pope has not exactly made things clear; but confused people even more with his pronouncements.

      As for poverty and giving our all to the poor. This too is confusing Manny. The priests in your town and mine, and elsewhere live in luxury compared to the homeless I meet in my town, and possible yours, living in the cold on a park bench or an alleyway. (The examples of poverty in my Father Ignatius stories are based on real cases I have seen in London, Edinburgh and elsewhere in the UK). Poverty really exists. In individuals as well as in nations. Yet the Pope, and his priests everywhere, (as well as other denominations), have not sold their all and given it to the poor.

      Very difficult subjects, Manny. Some days I wonder if I, and many like me, are saved. Has God given up on people like me?

      God bless you, my friend.

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    10. I know the current Pope has confused things. But Catholic teaching from the very beginning has never supported divorce. Never. Your examples are irrelevant. God has made it clear right in the Bible. This is not even disputable. The answer is Yes, God is asking you not to re-marry. It's thy (God's) will be done, not mine. And if you love God, you will be happy for it.

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    11. As ever, you make a good case Manny. You argue forcibly and you are right.

      I have discussed this subject with many priests and in different circumstances at different times. They all told me that the Catholic Church accepts divorce as a fact. Indeed, sometimes it is necessary. One priest told me, refering to a particular case, that he would in fact recommend divorce. He explained that marriage is the union of man and woman in mutual love and respect. In that case one partner had no respect at all and their behaviour meant that the spouse lived in a living hell. The priest said God does not ask for that in a marriage.

      So I agree. Divorce is wrong. Against what the Bible says. But often necessary.

      Then we come to annulments. Which take time. In some parishes up to a number of years, in others just six months.

      Then the confusion.

      Did you know that if a Catholic marries a protestant in a protestant church and then divorces; he/she can marry again in a Catholic church. The Catholic Church does not recognise the previous marriage because it did not take part in a Catholic Church. So no need for annulment. Just marry again in a Catholic Church.

      UNLESS ... unless in the previous marriage there was a Catholic priest in the congregation as a guest. If he witnessed the marriage, then the Catholic Church recognises it and you need an annulment before you re-marry.

      This is in effect means that the Catholic Church does not recognise a marriage which takes place outside/outwith a Catholic Church. Does this mean all these people are living in sin?

      I have researched divorce/re-marriage Manny, as part of my Father Ignatius stories.

      See: http://timeforreflections.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/marriage-divorce-annulment.html

      God bless you my friend. I really appreciate your thoughts and discussions.

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  2. I think the Holy Spirit is faithful to give us discernment and wisdom to know when we have done what we should. My heart often breaks over things like this, as I do not like to think of anyone doing without, while there is so much excess in our lives. God is faithful to match us with people who need the things we don't use or need, and I believe He will orchestrate these types of meetings and encounters to give us the opportunity to do what we can to help. Thank you for this thought-provoking post, my friend.

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    1. Thank you Cheryl for a very wise answer. You have helped me enormously in seeing this in perspective. Thank you again.

      God bless you and yours.

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  3. Thank you for posting on this subject which is dear to my heart. Yes, the question is always how much is enough? I like Cheryl rely upon the Holy Spirit to nudge me when I need to give more.
    Blessings, My Friend!

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    1. Good point, Lulu. I really don't know, or understand, what is enough. Please read the discussion with Manny above. Even Church leaders like the Pope live in luxury compared to the homeless I see in my town every day. If I were to give them my everything then I would be homeless too. So will my family. What is so clever about that?

      I can see Manny's argument; but I don't understand it. Did Christ mean everything He said literally? No figure of speech? Or was He talking in a language understood by those who heard Him, and miss-interpreted by those who wrote/translated the Bible?

      God bless you, Lulu.

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  4. Hi Victor! I was just talking to my sister about this very subject. It's challenging to figure out what we should give responsibly, and where our money will do the most good.
    My mother really liked a charity that ran an RV through poor neighborhoods, passing out food, and had a nurse practitioner on board to help with health concerns. I think that's a perfect place for my donations.
    May we all refrain from pointing away from ourselves, and instead think about our own actions. God is the judge. Not me.
    Blessings,
    Ceil

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    1. Thank you Ceil. The idea of an RV handing out food and help with health concerns sounds good. My worries is how much should I give. How much is enough without affecting the well-being of my family.

      God bless you and your family, Ceil.

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