“Remember that you received what was good during your lifetime”

People in positions of privilege often can’t see the real point of Jesus’ teachings, as we learn today in Luke 16:19-31.

Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man’s table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me.
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.’
Abraham replied,
‘My child, remember that you received
what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go
from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’
He said, ‘Then I beg you, father,
send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers,
so that he may warn them,
lest they too come to this place of torment.’
But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them listen to them.’
He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham,
but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”

Some interesting messages in today’s reading. One for those who live in comfort while those who are poor or disadvantaged live in discomfort, without doing anything to help them. Another for those who have God’s truth right before them but will refuse to listen, even if He were raised from the dead.

And this last message raises an interesting thought. Many claim to believe in Jesus the risen Christ. It’s easy to believe in someone you’re brought up to believe in, someone you’re taught to believe in, someone who is part of your cultural heritage. But what if God had waited until today to bring His Son to life on Earth? What if Jesus had walked the Earth now as a penniless rabbi who preached the streets, healing the sick and challenging the authority of its leaders? Who didn’t have a job but preached feeding the poor and taking care of widows and orphans and befriending the tax collector and giving to the government what is the government’s and spent time with sinners instead of with the self-righteous? How many of these same people would actually recognize this Jesus? How many would have stood by His side at the cross and how many would have chosen Barabbas instead? How many would have believed He had risen from the dead?

It’s easy to say you believe from the comfort of your cultural and temporal biases. It’s easy to say you believe because it lets you be one of the community in your comfort zone. But Jesus’ real messages are often ignored by those who say they believe. “Christian” becomes a convenient title instead of an actual belief. And then it goes back to that first message, “Remember that you received what was good during your lifetime,” for your belief wasn’t real and it was only for what comforted or benefited you.

Belief in Jesus the Christ requires that we read His words and get His whole message. Not just the parts that comfort us. They require that we love God first and others second, and that requires that we help one another out of that love. There would be no Lazaruses  suffering today if there were so many real Christians.

So maybe we should all look inward at what we believe and check them against what Jesus actually says and does in the Gospels and get real. After we die and look for a place in heaven, it will be too late.

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