6:32 PM AKST, November 23, 2012
In the book of Luke there is a story about two men. One was rich. The other was very poor. One ate only the finest foods and he ate all he wanted. The other had very little to eat, in fact he was starving. The rich man wore only the finest robes. The poor man dressed in rags. The writer tells us the poor man's name was Lazarus. He doesn't even give us the name of the rich man.
In the story the rich man never took advantage of Lazarus. He never made fun of him. He never persecuted him. He never abused him as he walked past. The author tells us the rich man's sin was not that he caused Lazarus to be poor. His sin was that he ignored Lazarus. He never offered any help. It was just as though Lazarus was not there. The beggar sat by the rich man's gate but the rich man never paid any attention to him.
The story continues that the beggar died. This is no surprise. But the story continues that the rich man also died. The author of Luke painted a colorful picture of the ultimate destination of the two men. If you like surprise endings, read Luke 16, beginning at the 19th verse.
There are many poor among us. Are we and our churches beacons of help to them? Should this be a concern of your church? If so, how far should it go? Many clergy are being criticized for preaching what has become known as the social gospel. This is the clergyman who spoils our pleasant Sunday morning by reminding us we have neighbors who are starving and then asks us what we are going to do about it. He reminds us that those people who live on the other side of the track are God's children too. He might even use such terms as slum landlords or race relations. His critics say he is preaching too much politics and should, "preach the Gospel." Apparently they never read this story in Luke.
What the Bible story tells us is that if we claim to believe in God, we dare not ignore those in need. Who is the Lazarus in the story? I see him as our neighbor who is in need. Who is the rich man in the story? Guess. "Preach the Gospel"we tell our priests and ministers. The Bible tells us that God so loves us he gave his son to die for you and me. Thinking about that puts on us an obligation to respond to that love beyond what we are doing.
There is another picture parable in the Bible. This time the parable pictures the end of the world. The king speaks: "Come ye blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. for I was hungry and you gave me food." The response came in the form of a question. "Lord, when did we see you hungry and fed you?" The reply: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of my brethren, ye have done it unto me,"
That's the Gospel.
This week's question: Who had Jesus as a guest at a meal with many tax collectors? Last week's question: Who had a dream about cows standing by the riverside? Answer: The Pharaoh (Genesis 41: 3)
(Robert Lind is a retired newspaper editor and publisher. He may be reached at this newspaper or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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