Dives and Lazarus
Lk 16.19: "There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.
20: And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores,
21: who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22: The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried;
23: and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom.
24: And he called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.'
25: But Abraham said, `Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.
26: And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.'
27: And he said, `Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house,
28: for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.'
29: But Abraham said, `They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.'
30: And he said, `No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'
31: He said to him, `If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'"
Here ends the reading from the Holy Scripture.
Are We Christians, or Are We Not?
As Jesus tells this parable, we can see that it is his teaching that the rich man (Dives in Latin) was an evil-doer. Actually, Dives did nothing to Lazarus, he never so much as touched him, and yet we see him paying a terrible price for what he failed to do.
This isn't Jesus' first lesson in human responsibility. Over and over he asks us to help the helpless, to feed the hungry, to cloth the naked, to visit the sick and shut-ins, to free the prisoners. "I have come to 'bind-up the broken-hearted'."
America today, is in that mansion with Dives; we can ignore Lazarus' plight, and perhaps pay the price Dives did, or we can reach out with humanitarian aid. Not only was Lazarus hungry, he was also in need of medical attention, and he probably had no home. The juxtaposition of such poverty and wealth cries out to us. Where is our sense of Justice?
We call ourselves a Democracy, but our government is run by the Billionaires. They have convinced some of us that a 'Welfare State' is the epitome of evil – that if people only had some get up and go, they would get a job, buy a home, get an education, and become a model citizen. Dives has never been in the ghetto, but he is convinced that it is of their own making. This is the life they choose.
Modern activists know better. The poor are in that ghetto because they can't get out. They are trapped in a lifestyle that they abhor, but are helpless to escape. They are trapped in part because they can't get a job. The billionaires have sent all the jobs overseas, and to the third-world countries, where workers are paid a few dollars a day, with no health benefits, and no safety program in place. These factories use child labor, convict labor, or other virtual slaves. The billionaires offer our unemployed a 'job' in the Armed Services, where they are turned into killing machines.
Fr Wm J Byron, a Jesuit Priest in Washington DC, calls this parable 'The Gospel of Dives and Lazarus'. Where is the Good News in this parable? Father Byron thinks it is in the fact that millions of Americans have not yet heard the Gospel. We have huge opportunities for mission. The majority of our people worship the god of Success, which is of course Idolatry, and they let themselves be consumed by Pride, Greed, and the Desire for Power. Not that all this focus on themselves has brought anyone happiness. Most are still miserable in their self-indulgence.
Americans are obese in part because the Billionaires are getting richer by pushing the unhealthy Fast-food we gobble up like pigs at the trough, and partly because we have nothing else in our lives. One of the reasons we have nothing else in our lives is because the Billionaires want it that way. An ignorant consumer is a dedicated consumer – one who will succumb to the seduction of the TV commercials, and buy things he does not need. TV has sucked-out our brains. We are blind automatons – being led by the nose wherever the Billionaires want us to go.
They won't like it but we could put on top-quality educational TV programs that would soon drive the obnoxious commercials off the air. We should encourage all of our major Universities to prepare the best educational programs they can – we know they can do it because they have been doing it right along. It’s just that they are fighting a losing battle in congress. The billionaires don't like educational TV, nor do those who wallow in their own ignorance. My mind is made up – don't confuse me with facts. Let's put on Educational TV and send the bill to the billionaires.
“Millions have not yet heard the Gospel in any meaningful way.”
Millions who have heard it and claim to have accepted the Gospel have not yet let it turn them around toward love, justice, and peace.
The Christian Church must take a stand today – are we with Jesus, or are we against him? Looking out for our poor and down-trodden is not a 'welfare State' – it is a humanitarian state. Back when I was a boy, FDR inaugurated a program to put the unemployed to work, he created jobs – as many as were needed – and he gave everyone a job who wanted a job. This wasn't your city-hall make-work program – these were useful, constructive jobs, and they accomplished a lot of useful things. I, for one, was able to attend the UNM through one such program. Today, we can do the same thing. There is enough useful constructive work here in this town to keep an army busy for years. It won't make any money for the billionaires, but it will build a better America, and that should please us all.
A proposal that I think will save us a lot of money, if we can get it passed, is that we legalize disclaimers. A used car can be sold 'as is', the dry-cleaners can put up a notice 'Not responsible for goods left over 30 days.' I don't know whether these are legal or not, but they are disclaimers. It is ridiculous that MDs have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for liability insurance just so Americans can play the Sue-happy Lottery. It is painful when we realize that many good physicians have just quit trying. The lawyers won't like it, but we can legalize disclaimers.
Universal Health Care is a new catchword. If we keep harping on it, we will get it. Actually, we have it now, but it is such a muddled mess that a lot of people are falling thru the cracks. Let’s make it official, and send the bill to the billionaires. In addition, to physical health care, this care should include Emotional Health Care. Every citizen should have a personal counselor – one who can spend up to an hour a day with him or her. I know people, and you probably do too, who are walking time bombs – they are trouble waiting to happen. Recently a man was arrested in Albuquerque for the 41st time in 8 yrs for an assault on a police woman. Everybody knew he had emotional health problems, but the machinery was not there to help him.
The prisons are full of people who would benefit from personal counseling; in fact with a little personal attention many might be able to begin to live normal constructive lives on the outside. In addition to a personal counselor, they would have the attention of a parole officer who would provide additional guidance daily. This is a worthwhile program, but it would be a thousand times better to provide this counseling before the crime was committed. This is not some wild scheme; it is something that has been proven to work in many trials. All some people need is a little attention. Others need more than that; if they need in-depth counseling – let's provide it.
So! As of today, what is our mission?
I don't think any of us are going to 'sell what we have and give to the poor'. Personally, I don't think that is the solution. It recognizes the problem, but the solution is a little more elusive. If we are fortunate enough to have a little money, we can probably put it to better use than give it to the poor, who would be poor again tomorrow even if we did give it to them.
Dorothy Day had a novel idea – instead of investing our national resources in war and world domination, let's invest in the nation's poor and disenfranchised. A simple hand-out will not do it – we need to put time and effort as well as money into rehabilitating our poor and distressed.
Individual efforts are commendable, but essentially futile. It will take a major effort by the nation to pull this off. That is, we need to get the nation behind us on this program. How can we do that? Jesus sent out his disciples two by two – eventually 72 of them – and he told them to visit the homes. Can we build on that idea?
We realize that Americans have become disillusioned with our political system, and we can understand why. The Billionaires have bought both parties. No matter which party wins, the billionaires run the show.
It won't be easy to reach people, but we aren't called to be successful, we are called to be faithful – we are called to do the best we can with what we have. Jesus knew that his disciples would not always be successful – that some homes would reject his message. If that happens he said, be on your way.
Our message is that we want a humanitarian nation – we want to invest our resources in our people. We want to take care of Lazarus – to feed him, to house him, to give him medical attention. We want to provide him with a job if he is able to work. We want to give him an education if he wants one.
And we want to take care of Dives, the rich man. There is something wrong with a billionaire whose sole interest in life is to make more money. He needs psychological attention. Dives was hardly aware of Lazarus – of poverty in general – of the injustice of the system that permitted such poverty. Dives needs to hear our message too.
It must be stressed that Dives was not vicious, but even if he were, he would not deserve our animosity. He is a sick man, and we should treat him as such.
Christians are called to love one another – not just our friends – everybody.
Listen to Amos (5.24) – ‘Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.’
May God add his blessing to this message.
Thank you all for your patience.
End of book: To review: Goto Intro
Chap 1 – Why a New Theology?
Chap 2 – What Place Does the Bible Have in our World Today?
Chap 3 – What about the Problem of Theodicy?
Chap 4 – What is Evil?
Chap 5 – The King of the Jews?
Chap 6 – What is the will of God?
Chap 7 – God on Violence
Chap 8 –
Chap 9 –
Chap 10 – Does Jesus call Us to Action?