Summary: A sermon about the haves and the have not's.
“The Hollow Life”
A famous rich person said the following at a college commencement:
“A couple of years ago I found out what ‘you can’t take it with you’ means.
I found out while I was lying in the ditch at the side of a country road, covered in mud and blood…
…I had a MasterCard in my wallet, but when you’re lying in a ditch with broken glass in your hair, no one accepts MasterCard.
In the months that followed, I got a painful but extremely valuable look at life.
We come in naked and broke.
Warren Buffett? Going out broke.
Bill Gates? Going out broke.
Tom Hanks? Going out broke.
Me? Broke. Not a crying dime.
Should you give away what you have?
Of course you should.
I want you to consider making your lives one long gift to others, and why not?”
That is powerful.
Let’s all make our lives one long gift to others.
It truly is the only way to happiness.
It is the only way to really be following Jesus.
Are we doing this?
Are we on our way to doing this?
Do we want to do this?
Jesus is very clear about what to do with our possessions and money.
If our possessions rule us, that’s where our treasure is…
…that’s where our heart is.
As Jesus says, “You cannot serve both God and money.”
This is a hard teaching, though, isn’t it?
Even if we are not wealthy, oftentimes, our pursuit of wealth takes first place over our concern for other people and for God.
But if we put our trust in God first, we will be freed to give what we don’t need away in order to help others.
Trusting in God is the only cure for greed and selfishness.
Jesus’ parable for this morning is apt to make a lot of us uncomfortable…
…and if it doesn’t make us uncomfortable…
…we are either just like Lazarus laying outside of a rich man’s gate or we have hardened our heart to such a degree that we don’t care at all.
Not long ago I was standing with some people having a conversation.
I don’t remember many of the details, but I do remember that the subject of the “haves” and the “have nots” came up.
One of the people standing in the group is in charge of one of the largest companies in the entire world.
He makes millions.
In any event, someone—maybe it was me—I honestly can’t remember—said something to the effect that there is a huge divide between the super-rich and everyone else.
The mega-executive’s exact words were “as it should be, as it should be.”
This is how it is in Jesus’ parable for this morning…
…or at least this is how it is between Lazarus and the rich man.
There is no comparing their situations in life.
The only thing they have in common is that they are human beings.
They both came into this world naked and broke and that is the way both will leave.
In the meantime, the rich man lives in luxury every day.
He dresses himself in the most expensive cloths possible.
He lives in a mansion.
He probably throws away more food in a week than Lazarus has seen in his lifetime.
He takes for granted his supposed superiority over Lazarus.
Lazarus is so poor, needy and hungry that he dreams of eating what falls from the rich man’s table.
This gives us just a glimpse of how vast the gap is between these two guys, and also what little sacrifice the rich man would have to make in order to help Lazarus out just a little.
Also, the rich man doesn’t have to go very far in order to find Lazarus, he lies right in front of his eyes day after day.
But not once does it even dawn on the rich man to speak to Lazarus directly, as if he were a fellow human being.
The rich man lives with the assumption that Lazarus is beneath him; he’s just a mooch—covered in sores-- sprawled out on the ground just outside the rich man’s gated home.
And Jesus clearly holds the rich man, with all his resources, all his extras, all his money accountable for the horribly deplorable situation that Lazarus is in.
Lazarus is so poor and so starved and so weak that he can’t even stand up and go beg somewhere else.
He just lays on the ground…
…and the dogs are waiting for him to die so they can have a meal themselves, as they come and lick his sores.
The Jewish Scriptures are filled with commands to care for the helplessly poor, but the rich man ignores all of them—even though, more than likely, he was thought of as a “good religious Jew” by the leaders, especially by those who tend to suck up to the super rich.