Summary: Jesus’ story knocks us off balance. Position is nothing and relationship is everything. Possessions are not signs of God’s love but tools for God’s blessings
Luke 16:19-31 “Turning the Tables”
Often times we go through life on auto-pilot.
• We may spend most of a day in meetings with a person and not be able to describe what that person was wearing.
• We driving down the highway. We reach a particular point in our journey and realize that we can’t recall a significant part of the trip.
• Our spouses get a different style haircut and we don’t notice it, or we don’t notice it for about three weeks.
On of the main issues before us in Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus is our tendency to go through life with blinders on.
CENTERED ON SELF
The rich man in the story is the epitome of conspicuous consumption. He wore expensive clothes. He feasted sumptuously on a daily basis, and his goal was to live as comfortable and as affluent a life as possible.
There is nothing wrong with wealth. It’s a tough job, when you are wealthy, to keep your priorities straight—to make sure that Jesus is Lord and that money is a tool. The criticism that Jesus appears to level at the rich man is that his lifestyle was self-centered, and his riches identified who he was. (The man does not have a name, he’s family and town relationship is not identified, and his actions and his work are not identified.)
Before we condemn the rich man and call him a schmuck, we need to realize that we share several characteristics with him.
• We are rich, too. Even though we have not made the Forbes list of 400 richest people in America, we are still rich by world standards. We are in the top three percent of the world’s wealthiest people.
• We are sometimes very self-centered. With all the stuff to worry about in our lives, we don’t have any time to worry about anyone else’s trials and tribulations.
• We sometimes allow the things of life to identify who we are. There’s a reason why we have Abercrombie and Fitch, and Hollister shirts and no Goodwill shirts, or Coach Handbags have the name prominently displayed.
One of the challenges of being a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be outward focused. In Matthew, Jesus illustrates this by sharing a story about the end times. People will come before God and God will tell them that they didn’t feed, cloth, visit or care for him—because they didn’t see the people in need.
WE SEE TOO MUCH
In today’s world we sometimes see too much and we are paralyzed trying to figure out what we can do. We see pictures of the devastations of the Tsunami of 2005, or the human suffering caused by Katrina, or the famine in East Africa. Closer to home we see countless homeless, the working poor, and children with little or no health care.
One of the actions we can take is to work together to address the situation beyond our congregation. As a congregation we do this be supporting Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran Social Services, and Lutheran Disaster Relief.
Another way that we can address the needs around us is to meet a need as a congregation. We have done this by holding auctions, and garage sales, providing Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas presents, and working with Habitat for Humanity. It is our goal to expand our ministries as a congregation so that we can reach people and Change lives to a greater degree.
We can also ask the Lord to open our eyes to see the Lazarus who is next to us. The person might be our neighbor, our co-worker, someone we see at the gas station or the grocery store. All around us are people who need simple acts of love and support.
Such actions back up the authority of Scripture in our lives and our claims that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.
A SHINING WITNESS
As the story draws to a close, the rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus back to his brothers so that they may mend their ways and not end up like he did, in Hades. Abraham rejects his request.
The importance of Scripture is lifted up. Abraham says that Moses and the prophets are enough. If they don’t believe the Bible, then they won’t believe if a person comes back from the dead. We know that is true, because many people still do not believe in Jesus—even though he was raised from the dead.
We can’t force people to believe, but we can give them fewer reasons not to believe. Many people reject the Christian faith because of the actions of the church or people who call themselves “Christian.” The truth is that we have been judgmental, we have been unloving, and we have not walked our talk.