Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
In this week’s Gospel passage Jesus’ story of the rich man should set us back on our heels. It should surprise us, as many of us have become like the rich man. We are used to having all we need. We are used to ignoring some parts of society, especially those that look different, act different, and, yes, smell different from our ideals. The division between different cultures in my native country is growing sharper and sharper by the year, especially evident in the past thirteen to fifteen years, as different groups have grown more hostile toward one another. Many would rather the people who are different from themselves would just go away, or just die.
What does Jesus say in this passage? First, what he does NOT say. The rich man is not excluded from heavenly bliss due to his riches. The poor man is not included in heavenly bliss due to his poverty. That would contradict many other passages of Scripture. Most notably, we recall that Abraham was a very rich man, and he is in the place of bliss. It isn’t about money. The passage also makes no condemnation of rich people using their riches. The clothing and feasting of the rich man is never spoken against. His lack of care for his neighbor is, as the poor man would like what falls from the table but is unable to get it. The household dogs presumably are treated well, but the poor man, to think in terms of the culture I live in, finds the trash cans are kept locked up.
Now, what does Jesus say? He says two very important things. First, there is no changing our status after death. We are ushered into bliss or into torment. The rich man can accept this, but he wants to see if someone can come back from the dead and warn his brothers. The other thing Jesus says is that even if someone rises from the dead they won’t believe. What’s the proof for that? Jesus, who rose from the dead, and who calls people to believe him as Abraham believed him, is rejected and scorned by those who are like the rich man and his brothers.
If we are trusting in our wealth, our property, our influence, our power to make a way in this world, it will all prove a futile trust. If, on the other hand, we entrust our resources, our energy, our very lives to God in his gracious mercy as shown through Jesus, all will work out well. It is our trust in God or our trust in ourselves that makes the difference between being like the rich man and like Lazarus. Let’s be more like Lazarus. He receives his comfort. That’s a very good thing.
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