It’s hard to say this without sounding judgmental, but some people are just clueless. There, I’ve said it. You can now think quietly about some of those people in your life who really are clueless without being judgmental because I opened the door. Sometimes clueless people learn from their mistakes. I think of the defensive lineman from a professional football team who sacked the quarterback and did a wild victory dance. The game was out of reach. His team was losing. He injured himself and was out for the season. Last year, however, he didn’t make the same mistake. But, not everyone learns from their mistakes.
Jesus told the story of two guys. One was rich and lived in luxury. The other guy, Lazarus, was poor. He sat outside the gates of the rich guy. He was hoping for scraps that had fallen from the table of the rich guy. Someone would have had to sweep them up and throw them in the street for this poor guy to get them. His best friends were the dogs that licked his sores. In the story, both die. Now, here’s the twist to the ancient Jews. Lazarus gets to paradise; the rich guy goes to hell. Most of the Jews of that day believed that wealth was a sign of favor with God. I’m sure the rich guy thought so. He still expected privilege even in hell. “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.’” (Luke 16:24)
Apparently the rich guy knew Lazarus’s name. Perhaps he thought he was being magnanimous in the afterlife: he was going to promote Lazarus from beggar to slave. He was in discomfort and wanted Lazarus to care for him. He didn’t get it, did he? Later, he sought to promote Lazarus to messenger so that his brothers might turn from their evil ways. Jesus said that they wouldn’t repent even if someone came back from the dead. It is interesting that when the real Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, came back from the dead, the Jewish leaders plotted to kill him as well as Jesus. The rich guy, through all of this, didn’t get it. Perhaps he thought he was making a grand gesture by giving Lazarus a chance to be useful. The problem with the rich guy, though, is that he depended so much on his money, his wealth, that he didn’t care about others or else he saw them as tools. God does not look kindly on those who oppress the poor. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if you have a personal relationship with Jesus, you must find ways to help the poor.
Sometimes we don’t get it. We don’t know how to help people that refuse to be helped in the way we want to help them. That’s hard to deal with. The key, though, is that we are still called to find ways to help – and that begins with a change in our attitude. Note that the rich man knew the name of Lazarus. Even though he knew that name, and knew that he sat outside the gate, he still let Lazarus live on his floor sweepings. What if he had sent a meal out to him? What if he had actually invited Lazarus to come in and eat? Ok, maybe he wouldn’t sit at the same table, but…wait…why not sit at the same table? The rich guy could have helped himself in this situation by recognizing that his life was not more important than anyone else’s. Note that in the story they both died. Maybe if he had recognized that Lazarus was a human being too, and not just a tool to be used to get water or warn his brothers, things would have been different. Today, it’s too easy to turn our backs on those who are poor. We don’t give money to those guys on the corner because they’ll use it on drugs. We can’t feed them because laws are set up to prevent it because…well, they just are. Today, and tomorrow, and each day hereafter, you will run into a “Lazarus.” How can you empower that person as a human being? How can you help that person regain their dignity?
Lord God, how easy is it to turn my face from those in need. I can blame their bad decisions, and be right sometimes. I can shake my head at their lack of initiative, and be right sometimes. But let me be right by looking at them as You do. Help me to empower them and treat them with dignity and Your love.