“I’m not a bad person…I just live my life and don’t bother anyone.” How many times have you heard this before? It’s a popular sentiment in our culture. We tend to assume that doing wrong means harming other people by our direct actions. We associate doing what is wrong with actions like lying, cheating, stealing, murdering, etc. We think that if we don’t go out of our way to harm others, we must be good people. But while Jesus would agree that going out of your way to bring harm upon someone is wrong, the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus tells a deeper story about righteousness. It proclaims that indifference to the sufferings of others is also missing the mark of the will of God.
One of the most striking features of the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is that the rich man that ends up in the place of torment after his death has not been doing any active wrong to his neighbors. His life is described as a very good material life where he had fine clothes, an abundance of food and a home protected by a gate. He sounds like a fortunate man continually enjoying his earthly blessings. But at the gate of his property lay a poor man who was sick and crippled. This man was miserable. He was filled with sores and was so hungry he would have gladly welcomed the leftovers from the rich man’s table. Yet the way that Jesus tells the story we are led to believe that the rich man never paid attention to the poor man at his gate. We don’t hear about him giving him a meal, or a shower, or getting medicine. We never even hear about them having a conversation. They just live parallel lives.
What we do hear, after both the rich man and Lazarus are dead, is Abraham telling the rich man that he used up all his blessings and good fortune in his earthly life. We see in this parable a picture that reflects the previous words of Jesus in Luke 6: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” It is meant to be a wake-up call for us, so that we realize that there is more to being a good person than “minding your own business”. Love as God calls us to love leads us to care about the sufferings of others, extending mercy and grace. Love as Jesus proclaims it does not turn away from the pain of those who are near to us. We must not be like the indifferent rich man.
Today is a good day to push against the forces of indifference and neglect towards others in your life. Take the time to look at your budget as a moral document. When you look at what you spend, is it all for yourself or do you remember others? Do you have the ability to alleviate someone else’s pain? Plan to do this. Also, look at your calendar as a moral document. When you look at how you spend your time, is it all consumed with your own advancement, your own friends, and your own pursuits? Or do you stop for people who crave a minute’s notice and a kind word? Decide to care with decisions that will show up in your pocketbook and in your planner. Stretch yourself into love. Be better than the rich man in the parable. Jesus is begging you.