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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Life Giving Stories – The Rich Man and Lazarus

            I wondered if he was dead.  He was just lying there, sprawled out beside the road.  It was dark as we drove by but it was definitely someone.  As we continued driving, I thought “Welcome to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.”
            It was my first time to Ethiopia, my first time to the continent of Africa.  I have lived in cities before so I knew a little bit what to expect but going to a third-world nation assaults all of your senses.  And it is almost overwhelming.  I had similar experiences when I worked in the inner-city of Chicago, touring abandoned apartment buildings that still had people living in them and when I went through Tijuana, Mexico.
            Our natural instinct when we come face-to-face with poverty is to turn away.  We change the channel to not look at the starving African children, we avert our gaze from the panhandler on the off-ramp, we drive by the bag lady pushing her shopping cart.  In our community, we don’t have to avoid scenes of poverty nearly as much because they are more hidden.  We don’t see the elderly woman sitting alone night after night with a solitary dinner that barely provides enough calories but it is all she can afford.  We don’t recognize the eighteen-years-old-and-one-day young man who just aged out of the foster care system and has now been put out on the street to figure out how to survive.  We don’t know about the teen mom with the new baby living with her mom who was a teen mom herself and both too young to have kids and grandkids.  But they are all there.  And Jesus loves them.
            The Bible makes it clear God has a bias toward the poor.  He is especially fond of the widow and the fatherless.  (“ ‘Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’” Deuteronomy 27:19, ESV.)  It is also clear that God does not hate the rich.  But it is quite true more often than not that the rich tend to hate God.  So, if we are a follower of Jesus, what are we to do?
            I remember asking my friend Steve Bryan, who has lived in Ethiopia for the last 20 years, how he deals with all the poverty and need around him.  He clearly couldn’t help every person he saw who was needy.  Steve said he helped the people he could, the people God put in front of him.
            As followers of Jesus, we can’t meet every need – and that is not sin nor failure before God.  What IS sin is helping no one.  Greed and envy are not exclusive sins of the wealthy – some of the most greedy people I have met were those of little resources.  And generosity is not exclusive to the rich – some of the most generous people I have met have had tremendous needs themselves.
            Cold Springs Church is committed to growing up disciples that see with the eyes of Jesus.  We want to be people who see the needs God places in front of us and then begin doing something to meet those needs.  And that is what God wants from us – to be willing to see the need and meet the need.  That is what a disciple of Jesus does.  The rich man’s sin against Lazarus was ignoring the person at his gate.  (Luke 16:19-31)  Jesus tells us that ignorance nor ignoring is not an excuse.
            God doesn’t want you to save the world.  That’s his job.  But he does expect you to open your eyes to the needs at your gate.  And do something.  A heart like that makes God happy.  And a heart like that will be a blessing and experience blessings.
            Who’s at your gate?  Are you willing to do something?
            A Prayer:  God, show us who you put at our gate.  Give us the courage to see and then the wisdom to do what is right.  Amen.

Peace and grace,


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