Dives and Lazarus.
We’ve just heard a little story which Jesus told about a rich man who didn’t share with a poor man who was begging just outside of his house. In some accounts of this story, the rich man is called Dives, and so this tale is often called the story of Dives and Lazarus.
Now, I don’t suppose Dives was a really bad man, he was just blind to what was going on right under his nose, and when he woke up to the truth, it was all too late.
It’s quite common not to share, and if we feel a bit guilty, well, we can always give away a little bit from our surplus. A couple of pounds to a seller of the “Big Issue”, or an on-line donation on Red Nose day. That always makes us feel better; but is it actually much different from the way in which Dives probably let Lazarus have his scraps?
You see, in the end if we aren’t prepared to share we shall pay a heavy price. That’s what today’s little story should teach us.
We also need to realise that it’s not just about the rich refusing to share with the poor. It will be just as bad for a poor man who refuses to share what little he’s got. Let me tell you another story:
Some time ago in a remote Indian town four beggars used to sleep in the same derelict building, where they’d meet at the end of each day’s begging.
One evening they’d all returned home after they’d had a really bad day. No money at all. However, one of the beggars had a few scraps of meat from a butcher’s shop; another had a few carrots and onions, the third had some potatoes and turnips, and the fourth had a handful of lentils and some rice.
It wasn’t long before they realised that if they each put all of the different foods in to a pot and boiled them up than at least they’d be able to have some hot stew.
The pot of boiling water was soon ready, but the first beggar thought to himself:
“ It’s dark, and the others won’t see what I’m doing. If I just pretend to chuck the meat in they’ll never know, and then I can share the stew and keep the meat for myself.” And that’s what he did.
The other beggars thought exactly the same and then they all sat back waiting for the meal to cook. They were all secretly pleased with the way in which they’d been able to deceive the others whilst not sharing themselves. They weren’t so pleased an hour later when each one helped himself to a dish full of hot water from the cooking pot.
You see, when you refuse to share, the end result will always be bad for you. In the case of the beggars it was straight away. In the case of Dives it was after he’d died. But the end result was the same.
So, as Christians ought we to be giving money to beggars because we fear that if we don’t we shall share the fate of Dives? Should we be giving to the poor in order to gain some brownie points with God? Or, if we don’t have much money could we perhaps increase our standing with the Almighty by sharing our time or our energies with voluntary service?
I don’t think so, because you know, we should always examine our motives for sharing what we have, or for giving to charity.
It’s very easy, and quite wrong to make gifts and donations of money, goods or time in the mistaken belief that by doing so we’re actually gaining credit with God.
It doesn’t work like that. It might give us a warm glow, or ease our conscience, but it doesn’t cut any ice with God.
There’s nothing, absolutely nothing, we can do to earn a place in heaven. All that’s necessary has been done by Jesus as he gave himself for us on a Roman cross outside of Jerusalem. And anything we do, should be out of our reaction to the love of God which we see in the death of Jesus.
We give, and we try to love , in response to the love which gave itself for us. It’s when we sit and think about this that we can begin to make a bit of a response even when that response is poor and probably out of proportion to what we have.
We give and we share, because God loves us and gives and shares his life for us. We may, or we may not, feel full of compassion for those who need what we can share.
But what matters most, is that we sit down and consider carefully, and with prayer, what kind of response God wants us to make.
When we realise that we can bring nothing of value to God except our responsive love, and when we stand in tears at the foot of the cross, then God will gently show us what he would have us do. And perhaps to our surprise he’ll also provide us with the means to do it.
We are all called to respond to the love of Jesus by listening to his voice as he tells us how to respond in love to his love. As he moves us perhaps slowly and gently and step by step to share what he gives us.
As he fills our hearts with responsive love and a realisation that “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me .”
And when we get this right we are inevitably drawn ever more deeply into the joy and peace which Jesus promised to those who follow him.
Now, isn’t that Good News?!