Exodus 13; Luke 16; Job 31; 2 Corinthians 1: Proverbs 2
Luke 16:19-31 is the parable of the Rich Man and the Beggar (or Lazarus) It is a heart wrenching tale, one of several that Jesus told to illustrate how difficult it is for lovers of money to enter the kingdom of heaven. In essence, the beggar spent his days laying outside the gates of the rich man hoping for even a crumb to fall that he might eat, and even the dogs who were there for the same reason were licking the beggar’s wounds. But the rich man joyfully lived in the splendor of extravagance without a care for the beggar. Then both men died and the beggar is lifted into the “bosom of Abraham” while the rich man is buried into the torment of Hades. Now the rich man can see in the distance how the beggar is cared for by Abraham and asks Abraham to send him the beggar to bring his parched lips relief from the agony of the flames of Hades. No doubt there is great, unimaginable suffering taking place. But Abraham informs him it is not possible-the chasm between heaven and hades is too great and no one can cross it either way. So the rich man begs Abraham to send the beggar back to his brothers to warn them of the impending doom so that they might escape the fiery torment he is suffering. “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” And of course we know that Jesus has become that person risen from the dead-and still people are not persuaded. Such a sad state of affairs.
I guess I am turning this one it’s head this morning by way of reminder to not be like the rich man in the tale. Oh, not for fear that I will somehow lose my salvation-but more from the standpoint of how I am now the rich man because of the riches bestowed upon me by Christ. I am surrounded by beggars-they may be the poor in spirit, they may be the ones who are wandering lost in this world-and I have the riches of the universe to share with them. Put in that perspective how can I not have great compassion?
And yet I see things like the following happening in our world today. A fellow believer came under vicious attack for his beliefs and responded with kindness, with wisdom, and withdrew from the situation that caused the uproar with a gentle word. And yet the comments from several other believers were like a declaration of all out war. Rather than view these poor lost souls as people in need of God’s grace and mercy, rather than share the riches of His grace-they struck back in anger and hatred.
That just cannot be how we relate to the world. Jesus came into the world and showed great compassion for those who were His enemies. (Romans 5:10 reminds us that Christ died for us while we were yet His enemies.) He has commanded us to do the same: “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28) and “But love your enemies, and do good… and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” (Luke 6:35.) I think it is pretty clear what our marching orders are here. And while I cannot force feed them the crumbs that fall from my table, I will make the crumbs available and pray that they too will taste and see how good the Lord is.
Grace, peace, and mercy,