Summary: Sermon on the rich man and Lazarus that addresses the parable from the perspective of the hungry in our world. It reminds us that our faith is not just something between us and Jesus, but also something between us and Lazarus.

“The Five Second Rule”

Sermon on Luke 16:19-31

Pentecost +18-C

September 30, 2007

Rev. J. Curtis Goforth, O.S.L.

“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.”

-Luke 16:19-21

It’s amazing what a difference five seconds can make. Have you ever heard of the “five second rule?” In some very questionable circles, it is expanded to the “ten second rule.” But I bet most of you know that when I mention the five second rule, it refers to eating a piece of food after it’s fallen on the floor, but only if it hasn’t been there for more than five (or ten) seconds. Most of you probably think that’s gross.

But one thing’s for sure—my 13 month old daughter Cora doesn’t care about the five second rule. If one of those little goldfish has somehow found its way under the edge of the sofa three weeks ago, Cora doesn’t care. I think she’s actually better at finding lost pieces of food that have fallen on the floor than our dog is—and he’s pretty good at finding food we never knew was there! We just changed Cora’s car seat to the next size up and her old car seat was lying on the floor by the front door. She started playing in it, and it wasn’t three seconds of not paying attention till we saw that she was eating a piece of graham cracker that was a good month old!

And she’s so sneaky about it. It’s almost like she knows that we are watching her and that she knows not to eat food that’s fallen on the floor or gotten lost in her car seat months ago, but she does it anyway. I’m the opposite. I mean, the five second rule is a fun thing to do, but only if my wife Jennifer or somebody else is watching. I honestly am kind of repulsed by eating food that’s fallen to the floor, but I do it anyway just to get Jennifer or some kid going.

You’ll never see somebody casually reach down and put that French fry in their mouth after it’s fallen on the floor. There’s no being sneaky about the five second rule. No, you draw attention to it by invoking the five second rule, and then to the absolute chagrin of whatever female is around you, you put that hairy French fry in your mouth and pretend that it actually tastes good. You have to love the five second rule. I can’t decide if it was invented by an elementary school boy or by a college student in a fraternity somewhere, but whoever it was that invented this rule was just brilliant—and they’re probably dead by now from ingesting a disease-ridden morsel of food that had fallen under the couch in a frat house decades ago.

Even though I occasionally eat food that’s fallen on the floor, I only do it as a joke or to win a dollar in a bet. But there are people in our community that would love to have the food we throw down or throw out—five second rule or not. The Bible is riddled with stories about the hungry, and hunger is no laughing matter. Our gospel lesson this morning tells us a story about hunger. Here we are given the story of a beggar who sat by the gates of a rich man’s house longing for the food that fell from his table. And in the only place in the New Testament, the beggar is referred to by name—Lazarus. It’s important to note that the poor man in the story is named. The poor have names other than the adjectives our world names them with. Though his name was Lazarus, this isn’t the same Lazarus that lived in Bethany whom Jesus brought back from the dead. Lazarus was a fairly common name, and unfortunately, hunger was a fairly common problem.

When Jesus tells us that Lazarus longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table, he was not talking about a French fry that just happened to fall out of his happy meal. You have to remember that at this point in time, it was customary to have some flat bread around during a meal. You would not only use it to scoop up things like mashed up fava beans or chick peas, but the bread was what you wiped your hands with. The very rich of this time wouldn’t even eat the bread but they would only wipe the grease from their hands with it and then throw it on the floor for the dogs to eat later. Lazarus longed for the food which the rich man threw out.

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