30 September 2007Luke 16:19-31
"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table..." (v.19-21)
The writer of Luke's Gospel has brought together a collection of
parables told by Jesus. These are stories full of meaning about
Jesus and the ways of God in the world. The story of the Rich Man
and Lazarus stresses the great responsibility laid upon those who
The setting of the story draws on some images of life after death which were common at the time. These should not, however, be used to develop ideas of the nature of heaven and hell. The setting merely emphasises in a vivid way the importance of treating those in poverty with justice and kindness.
This, the rich man fails to do, and Lazarus (meaning 'God helps') is left poor and suffering at his gate. Realising the error of his ways, the rich man wishes to warn his family, but the Hebrew scriptures ('Moses and the prophets') clearly already teach justice for the poor and people refuse to listen.
Even if someone rises from the dead to warn them - such as Jesus perhaps - people will continue to ignore the plight of the poor; this is not the way of God.
Who are the poor in your community, this country, the world? What does it mean for them to be treated with justice and kindness?
At this Harvest season we are in the middle of British Food Fortnight (www.britishfoodfortnight.co.uk) and at the beginning of the Year of Food and Farming(www.yearoffoodandfarming.org.uk). Many who produce our food - in this country and elsewhere - struggle to make a living. What are our responsibilities towards them?