Friday April 12, 2019
Today’s Focus wealth and faith
Today’s Scripture Reading Luke 16:19-31
19 Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. 20 At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21 As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores.
22 “Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the heavenly banquet.[e] The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and he went to the place of the dead.[f] There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side.
24 “The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’
25 “But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’
27 “Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. 28 For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’
29 “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’
30 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’
31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Daily Reflection Lois Malcolm
Professor of Systematic Theology
Saint Paul, Minn
Luke makes clear that the poor are a focus of Jesus’ ministry. In his inaugural sermon, Jesus declares that he has been anointed by the Spirit of the Lord “to bring good news to the poor” (4:18; see also 7:22). Jesus admonishes his followers not just to invite to their parties the friends and neighbors who can repay them, but to extend their invitations to “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” (14:13). This is echoed when Jesus describes the kingdom of God as a wedding banquet where the invitation has been extended to “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” (14:21).
Yet if the poor have good news preached to them, then the rich receive a somewhat different message. The rich young ruler who asks Jesus how he can inherit eternal life is told that he is to sell all he has and distribute the money to the poor. When this makes him sad (because of his wealth) Jesus comments that the rich tend to have more difficulty entering the kingdom of God (18:18-30). Like the rich fool, the wealthy store their treasure in ever larger barns they cannot take with them after they die (12:8-21). They may store up “treasures for themselves,” but they are not “rich toward God” (12:21).
But being “rich toward God” — and having “treasure in heaven”– is not just about piety. It is also about selling possessions and distributing wealth to the poor (12:33; 18:22). After he encounters Jesus, Zaccheus gives half of his possessions to the poor and repays anyone he has defrauded four times as much (19:1-10). As the church emerges in Acts, new converts would “sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need” (2:45; 4:32-34).
The story of the rich man and Lazarus might be difficult for many North Americans, whose lifestyle stands in sharp contrast with a majority of people in the world who live on much less. Like so much else that Luke says about money and possessions, it stands as a stinging indictment not only of the great confidence we place in financial security, but also of the drastic inequities between rich and poor we allow to perpetuate.
In this story, God’s eternal judgment has everything to do with how we use wealth in this life and whether we attend to those less fortunate in our midst. Our temptation is to explain away a story like this and to remove its blatant depiction of how God will ultimately vindicate the cause of the poor. But the message has been clearly stated. Like the rich man’s five brothers, we have been given all the warning we need
Some questions for reflection
- Can the faithful believer, after reading and reflecting on this section of Scripture easily justify a difference between how we treat and utilize wealth and our faith?
- What about this Scripture either brings you great joy or great sadness?
Today’s discipleship challenge
Today I invite you to make up your own “Discipleship challenge” and share it with your group or a trusted friend!
God of compassion, Whose Son became poor for our sake: Help us to see the face of Christ in those who are poor, and in serving them to serve You. Give us generous hearts so that those living in poverty may have adequate food, clothing, and shelter. By Your Spirit move us to affirm the dignity of all people and to work for just laws that protect the most vulnerable in society; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.