9 June 2012

Luke 16:19-31

"Love your neighbour" (Matthew 19:19)


It is said that when Queen Victoria travelled up through the industrialised north of England on the train she had the blinds drawn on her carriage to prevent her seeing the landscape through which she was passing.

That story came to mind when I read today's passage. Here we have a very rich man, who lived a life of plenty, protected from the world. No doubt he had many servants and when he left his house in his carriage he was protected from the sites of the real world by blinds discreetly drawn. At his gate we are told sits, or lies, a beggar, probably suffering from major sickness who has to scrabble for his food in the rich man's bins when he can get away with it.

Here are two people living within yards of one another, but one seemingly totally unaware of the needs of the other. Eventually his deprivation brings about the death of Lazarus and he, I suspect, much to his surprise finds himself in the presence of Abraham and a life he had only dreamt of before. The rich man also died, but instead of the bosom of Abraham he finds himself in Hades (Hell). He pleads his case, and is chastened to realise that his unawareness had prevented him gaining the salvation he longed for.

A church I know was beginning a food parcel ministry for the homeless and the poor in the community. There were however some members who were unhappy about the new ministry, not because they were unwilling to give their money or even bring some food, but because those receiving the parcels were not seen as their neighbour.

St Teresa of Avila writes, "Our Lord asks but two things of us: love for him and for our neighbour. I think the most certain sign that we keep these commandments is that we have a genuine love for others. We cannot know whether we love God although there may be strong reasons for thinking so, but there can be no doubt about whether we love our neighbour or no."

To Ponder

How often do you walk past a beggar in the street pretending you have not seen him or her?

Do you judge such people without knowing their story? How might you change your behaviour for the better?

Do you ever say to yourself, there but for the grace of God, go I? And then what?

Bible notes author

The Revd Pat Billsborrow

Pat Billsborrow is a supernumerary minister in the Northwich and Winsford Circuit, and is at present part of a district ministry team working within that circuit with pastoral care of four churches. She is ecumenical officer in the Cheshire part of the Chester and Stoke on Trent Methodist District.