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.