Amos 6:1a, 4-7
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Peace be with you!
As Christians, we pride ourselves on our acceptance of outsiders. We say we welcome strangers – those different from us–but do we?
The Gospel reading contains one of those parables that seem harsh toward individuals who are privileged with an abundant cash flow. In the parable, a rich man has the finest clothes and the best food, while a poor man begs at his gate hoping for crumbs from the rich man’s table (Luke 16:19-21). The two men both die: the angels take the poor man to be in heaven with Abraham and the rich man goes to Hades (Luke 16:22).
For most of the week, I felt attacked by Jesus’ parable: people with money go to Hades while the poor go to heaven. I am not the richest person in the world, but compared to most of my friends, I am doing well. I own my home, travel almost monthly, work from home, and do what I want. The financial gap between me and my friends has always been a sore spot for me and the burden weighs me down. To be honest, this parable sheds light in dark corners where I’d rather not look in.
To get out of my dark corners, I took a closer look at the rich man’s character. While alive, the rich man eats more than his fair share (Luke 16:19b). His dinner table is piled high with meats, vegetables, fruits, breads, and desserts every night. The rich man always has more than enough food to feed a small army, yet he lets a poor man named Lazarus go hungry every night. Though Lazarus sleeps at his gate, hoping for crumbs from his table, the rich man does not care for him (Luke 16:21). The rich man has a large appetite and only cares for himself.
Today the rich man is be the person who puts on blinders as he walks past the powerless – the widows, the orphans, the foreigners, the needy, the poor, the disabled, the sick, the homeless, the psychosocially broken, and [whoever “it” is] who needs God’s grace, love, and forgiveness. The rich man of today feels he is above everyone else: he has paid his dues, climbed the corporate ladder, and made it to the corner office. He goes home to a big house with enough space and food for a small army. The rich man in today’s society, like the rich man in the parable, ignores the basic needs of those less fortunate than him.
Recently I had an experience which connected me not just with the rich man in this story but also with the needy beggar. I travel almost monthly to visit friends and family. When I flew to Minnesota two months ago, I had a connecting flight in Milwaukee. The older gentleman who sat by me leaned over to his elderly father and said, “I cannot believe she is flying alone. Someone should be with her to help her.” The gentleman made it seem as though I was a burden because the airport staff had to help me on and off the airplane. To this stranger, I appear more needy than I really am due to my spastic muscle movements and my speech pattern which is difficult to understand. If the gentleman took the time to understand me and get to know me, he would have found out I only need help with simple activities, like filling my water bottle and getting my bags on and off the plane. He would have discovered that I do all of my own transfers and go about my day like most people. I made the gentleman uncomfortable based on his first impression of me being needy.
The world is full of needy people. Every day everyone needs help with something – to vent, to borrow a few dollars, to run an idea past someone else, to ride with someone to work, to have someone babysit the children after school, and [whatever “it” is] you cannot do without help. Anyone who says they did [whatever “it” is] on their own is lying, because no one can survive without help from others. We forget we need each other to get through this life in the world. We are needy people.
Jesus understands we are needy people, even when we deny this fact. Jesus tells us the parable to not see the needy individuals in our lives as burdens, but instead to see ourselves as responsible to help each other. The rich man ignored Lazarus every day as he came and went through his gate; he left him to die.
Ignoring the needs of others goes against Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27). Walking past a homeless person every day is not honoring our Lord. We are called to share our resources as we discussed last week. We can help our neighbors through the food pantry, homeless shelter, providing scholarships, new business support, being a big brother or sister, tutoring children with learning disabilities, or [whatever “it” is] you can do to help your neighbor. With the government shutting down, our neighbors need our help more than before. Children rely on Head Start for meals; parents need free or subsidized childcare, so they can work and continue to provide for their children.
The world is full of needy people like you and me. Jesus saw just how needy we were when he walked on earth. We were so needy that Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten son, came down from heaven, walked with us, battled with the Devil, was beaten, died on the cross, and conquered death through his resurrection, so we may live in a relationship with the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Why? Because we could not do it on our own will power. We are sinful, needy people who need Jesus Christ to die for our sins and to conquer death.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for warning us against ignoring our needy neighbor. Help us to care for others as they care for our needs. Lead us in love and grace as we show respect for those who appear different and needier than us. Make us mindful of how we are all needy and are all in need of Jesus dying on the cross and rising from the dead. Thank you for loving us so much that you had your only begotten son, Jesus Christ, be beaten, crucified, die on the cross, and resurrect to new life – all so we can be in a relationship with you. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant located here.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. How do you help your needy neighbor? How are you involved in social justice?
2. How are you needy? How do others respond to your needs?
3. How can your church and others in your area help those affected by the government shutting down?