“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things,but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31)
What does it take to get our attention?
If you day to day life is anything like mine, we spend our days with blinders on, doing what needs to be done each day for our lives to continue rolling in the direction they are going.
Our daily schedules are probably some fashion of this:
- spend mornings getting ready to go to work or school
- get in car
- everyone goes to work/school and stays put all day in same place
- get in car to go home
- have dinner
- do homework, work at home or watch TV
- go to bed
If we are lucky, we get the chance to interact with others outside our families at work or school, and maybe at an extracurricular activity or two through the kids or at church.
What does it take to change us from our day to day routine? What is big enough/loud enough/intrusive enough to get our attention so that we see outside of ourselves?
I think that is what Jesus is addressing in this parable - what does it take to get us to notice?
In this parable, the rich man didn’t intentionally ignore the beggar. I believe that the beggar was actually a nonentity in the rich man’s life - an unincluded. He didn’t even register on the rich man’s radar as someone to make the effort to ignore. Even though the beggar lay at the rich man’s gate, the rich man was simply too busy doing his daily “rich-man routine”that he never paid attention.
When the rich man did finally notice, though, it was because he personally needed help. He needed relief from eternal torment and noticed the beggar at Abraham’s side as someone who was available to help him.
What I find very interesting is that even when the rich man is in the middle of experiencing the painful torment similar to what the beggar had faced every day during his life, the rich man still cannot “see” the nonentities and unincludeds that need to be seen and are still experiencing living torment. You see, his request for Abraham to send the beggar to his brothers had nothing to do with helping his brothers to be aware and engaged in the lives of those around them; rather he wanted to warn them so they don’t experience the same fate he is experiencing. He selfishly wanted to spare his family pain, not have his family react to help others that needed it.
The rich man wanted something big enough/loud enough/intrusive enough like the appearance of a dead man come back to life to catch his brothers’ attention and shake them up - scare them - so they will act differently. But not so that they would actually “see” and make a difference in the lives around them.
What does it take for our perspective to shift? Are we humbly open to God’s calling through scripture and His Spirit to act when our routine wouldn’t normally allow us to do so? Can we change our center so that God is at the center of our routines each day? Are we open to allowing His priorities guide what needs to be done each day, even if it’s different than what we consider important?
Or are we waiting for something big enough/loud enough/intrusive enough to jar us into acting?