The Gospel at MP today was from Luke. It is one of those parables which most people remember. There are two guys, one rich and another poor. The poor one is named Lazarus. [which creates all manner of speculation about the connection to John's Gospel and the story of a man by the same name. It is unusual for characters in parables to have names. Very unusual. And the idea that someone will rise from the dead in both stories is probably not a coincidence....]
The rich guy lives it up and dies and ends up in torment in Hades. Meanwhile, the poor man also dies and is in the bosom of Abraham. Whether Jesus is giving us the inside scoop on post-earthly existence or just employing popular motiffs for the sake of His story is an open question. The key is the rich man in his torment begs for a drop of water on his parched tongue, which it is not possible for Lazarus to do. However, there is a lesson, Abraham basically says, "you had it good and Lazarus had it bad, on earth. Things have changed." The technical term is "eschatological reversal" which is the fancy theological way of saying, "things end up differently on the other side."
One constant theme of the Bible (both covenants) is that God takes special interest in the poor and that we are answerable for how we spend our money. (God does not seem to think it is the government's role to take money for this purpose, nor does God say "you earned it, forget those other folks." We must choose to be generous.) Judgment in many streams of the revelation in Scripture looks like we are answerable for how much charitable giving we did, in particular to the poor and needy. Now the saved by faith crowd can continue bleeting "you cannot buy your way into heaven" and I will not disagree. However, I would hasten to add that while you cannot buy your way into heaven you can stingy your way into hell. If you ignore the poor and needy, says the Lord, prepare to be hot and thirsty, on the outside looking in!
Where I live, we have lots of big houses. Twenty five hundred square feet is nothing. Many have double that. I often wonder, as I look at my house, which seems too large to me, but mine is the minority opinion around here, I wonder if I am the rich man, headed for Hades. It is why I emphasize our outreach to the poor. Tonight we have a fundraiser, a catfish dinner. As has been the case every year for the last seven, the weather is awful. We have never yet been rained out. Rain storms have skirted our location and appeared just as we finished. I am praying tonight will be a similar success. The Church Health Center and Neighborhood Christian Center are wonderful groups which notice the poor and needy and serve them. It was my dream to raise many thousands of dollars tonight for each of them. Now, I am worried. But it is out of my hands....
My eyes are drawn to big houses which make me go "wow!" I am not always so focused on the poor. The fundraiser tonight and the Gospel this morning ask the question, "what are you looking at?" Are you wishing you had that big house? Is the house what it is all about? Do you find yourself jealous or envious? Or are you looking for the outcast, the marginal and the needy? Are you thankful for what you have so you can share it with those who have not?
There is a theory that those who give please God. It seems that He blesses them with abundance because He knows they will use it well. I am not sure it works that simply or cleanly. Fact is lots and lots of houses in these parts testify to the fact that we Christians can get pretty caught up in living large and the multitude of "Lasarus"-types in our local area testify to our lack of abundant giving. But tonight we will give. And more in the days ahead. Perhaps not all that we should, but certainly more than we would have otherwise. God will be the judge if we looked to the big house rather than the big need of our broken neighbor. Faith in Jesus and hope in His mercy, accompanied by a generous spirit, give one courage to face the day of judgment. Now I continue to pray that the storms miss us and the 300 folks show up and all the food will generate $10,000 in giving!!!