Jesus said, “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”Luke 16:19-31
One of Jesus’ parables from the gospel of Luke, the story of Lazarus is quite troubling for many of us who have never had to beg for food. It is an outright condemnation of those who intentionally turn their heads the other way when they see someone in need. What is more, there seems to be little hope…
Have you ever been on a mission trip?
When I was younger, mission trips with my youth group were the life-altering experiences that largely set me on the path toward God. There were other people and influences, of course. But those weeks spent away serving others, outside my comfort zone – they were the highlights of my young faith journey.
Now, there is nothing wrong with these trips. In fact, I highly recommend them, especially for young people and youth groups who need bonding time.
However, if the only serving of others we ever do is away from home, we have completely missed the message of the Gospel.
There are always Lazaruses at our gates. There is always someone in need nearby. Sometimes they look like people holding signs on corners looking for a bite to eat. Other times they look like strangers wandering our streets with eyes that cannot focus for all they have seen. And still other times they come to us truly begging for help with utilities or groceries or prescriptions.
Oh yes, there are countless ways Lazarus is with us.
Many of us may not realize it (or want to talk about it), but we often turn away. Whether out of pain or guilt or fear… we intentionally do not acknowledge the person in need.
In this parable, Jesus shows us what happens to those who continuously turn away from their neighbors. Because those who turn away from their neighbors are turning away from God.
For all of us who would follow God, follow Christ, it is ours to not only give to all who beg of us (yep, Jesus said that exactly), it is also ours to work together to see the sources of poverty eradicated. To see not only mouths fed, but also see people educated, living healthy lives, and able to joyfully contribute to society through work and more.
Jesus was about resurrecting the whole person. Not just the afterlife.
That is our call, too.
So where do you see Lazarus in your world? What can you do to serve them and all the Lazaruses at our doorsteps and around the globe?