MAY THE WORDS OF MY LIPS AND THE MEDITATION OF OUR HEARTS BE
ALWAYS ACCEPTABLE IN THY SIGHT OH LORD OUR STRENGH AND OUR REDEEMER
The Gift That Keeps On Giving
"There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores." (St. Luke xvi: 19)
When many people hear the story of the rich man and Lazarus they have pangs of conscience. When you read the Scriptures, particularly in Luke's Gospel, you read many statements that Jesus made about people of wealth. It might seem as though Jesus is very much against people with wealth. For example, in an earlier part of this same chapter from St. Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says this, "No man, no servant, can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or be attentive to the one and despise the other. You cannot give yourself to God and money." In another place, Jesus said, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
There was another man named Lazarus who was a good friend of Jesus. He was the brother of Martha and Mary. They lived in Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem and they were quite wealthy. Jesus spent a lot of time with them whenever He was in Jerusalem. The birds have their nests and the fox has his den but the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head if it weren’t for the generosity of other people.
What is it then that Jesus is trying to say to us about wealth? Is He saying to us, "Don't have any"? Or is He saying something different? If you listen to the parable in today's Gospel, you will understand Jesus' attitude toward wealth.
Here is the rich man who had a big fancy house. He had guests over every day for one endless party. He ate well, he drank well. He lived well. He dressed in purple like a king. He had everything he wanted and everything he needed.
Then there was Lazarus who was sitting out by his gate begging. Jesus presents, as only Jesus can, this pathetic figure of Lazarus at the gate begging, covered with sores, filthy. The dogs in the area would come up and lick his sores. He just yearned for a little crust of bread that would drop from the rich man's table, but he'd have to beat the dogs off to get it. What a pathetic sight. When the rich man came home, he'd literally have to step over this individual in order to get into his house.
So what are we to say about this rich man? What was it that Jesus was really telling us about this individual? That he was rich? Jesus did not condemn the man's riches. What He did condemn was the fact that the man didn't care. He did not care. After all, Lazarus wasn't somebody who lived far away from him. He was right at his gate. But the rich man did not care. He would pretend that he didn't even see him. And it was precisely this lack of caring that Jesus would condemn.
What is it that Jesus really wants us to understand about this whole episode? About riches versus poverty? Well I think Jesus would say, everything you have is a gift from God; use it. In other words, be a person who cares about others because this will truly identify you as one of Jesus followers. By this, all men will know that you are His disciple. So are we expected to whip out our Visa cards and take care of whoever is around us in need? Or see if we can alleviate some of the grossest injustices that we see? I don’t think that is what Jesus has in mind at all.
I think Jesus is saying, "What I want you to do is understand this. Everything that you are, everything that you have is a gift from your Father. And because everything is a gift from your Father, be generous with those gifts. Love one another. Share with one another."
One of the hardest things that I find about myself is that I really don't always want to give of what I have. For instance, sometimes I really don't want to listen to an individual because that person goes on and on with a story that I've heard fifteen times before. I don't want to hear. Jesus is trying to tell me that is not what I am to do with the gift that I have. Sometimes our generosity means lending a willing ear to someone who needs that ear, someone who is alone in a small apartment during the long winter months, as the snow piles up outside and just wants to talk to someone when they are finally out and about. Or sometimes our generosity involves a simple touch, a hug for someone who needs it. Or maybe it's just a word of comfort, sharing our wisdom or giving our time, not our money, to an individual or to Christ’s Church.
But if we are all too busy, too lazy or if we don't really want to be bothered, then, there is something wrong with us. We are like that rich man: so blessed, and yet we don't give anything away. We don't want to get involved. Jesus is saying that is not the way we should be. We are to give of what we have to those who need it. Wealth does not always mean money.
Look around you here this morning and remember that just five months ago Grace Anglican Church started with nothing. Today we have so much because you have all given of the gifts God gave you. And I know because you have told me that you are going to give more of your time and talents. And giving to His church is not the only sharing of your gifts that you do. In the coming months we pray that others will join us and thank God for the gifts He has given them. We as His flock will continue to give unto others as the church grows and we develop our community outreach programs. Let's not hold back. Let's understand that like the rich man, we have a choice.
We love the God that we do not see. We also need to love the brother and sister that we do see by giving of the gifts God has given us.
And now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost be ascribed all might, majesty, power and dominion as is most justly due this day; world without end. AMEN