“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
When God gives to us, He expects from us.
The last time we spoke we talked about how the Rich Man, he lived an idle life of idle pleasures, squandering the gifts that God had given him on a life of extravagances while those around him struggled and suffered. Given much he didn’t give a care. His interests didn’t lie in the plights of those around him, nor did he seem to ever give it much thought even as Lazarus begged outside of his gates, longing for anything to eat, even the scraps of food that might have fallen from his table. He had no concern aside from himself and that was how he lived his life.
But you see, God, He sees it differently than that. When He blesses us, when He gives to us, when He moves in our lives, He doesn’t just do that just for our own sake, but for each of the people that we can touch. Yes, He has grander plans for our lives, plans where we are uplifted in the love and the hope that He has for us, to find us lost amidst our struggles and guide us to where we need to be. Yet, as is often the case with our God, there is more as He looks to a bigger picture, to a grander design that that which even we ourselves are capable of seeing within our own lives.
You see He knows we don’t exist in a vacuum. He understands that we live in a wider world than just ourselves. We each have the ability and the capacity to affect change not just in our own lives, but to be a force for change, for hope and healing in the lives of others. We can draw people nearer to us, and, in that, offer a piece of ourselves to help them carry the burdens that weigh them down, that force them into despair, ripping from them any happiness or joy, any comfort or peace that they may have. We can shine the light of the Lord our God, and the salvation of Christ Jesus into their lives as we reach through the darkness to grab hold of them, to draw them from it and pull them closer, showing to them that there is more to life than the hurt and anguish that they have come to know.
As the redeemed children of our Heavenly Father, cleansed by the precious blood of the lamb, when we care for one another, when we offer ourselves to them, giving freely without reservation, we then honor God as good stewards of all that He given us and all that He has done for us. Why? Because, in those times, in those moments, we reflect the miracle of His grace on the world. We become extensions of Him as we become grafted on the tree of life and bear His fruits to strengthen, edify and nourish in a world where so many hunger for the love and the hope that He has to offer.
It’s hard to say that the Rich Man lost sight of that, because, in truth, it seemed as if he was so blinded by the world around him, by the glittering gold and the shimmering silver that he couldn’t see it to begin with. With that it was simple for him to turn his back to those around him who were in need because he couldn’t look beyond his own vanity and sense of self to actually notice them or what it was that they were going through. In that he was without love except for the self-love that he could express to himself in the petty vanities that he lived by, the extravagant clothing, the lavish dinners, the life of wealth and ease that afforded him every luxury, never realizing the good he could have done if he just went without even the slightest amount of wasteful and excessive lifestyle, never realizing the difference he could have possibly made. Though He may have heard the words of Moses and the Prophets He ignored the true message of God that lay beneath His words. That message that He calls us to as He tells us care for one another, and that He is near to the broken hearted and those wounded in spirit, knowing that to draw them nearer to us is to draw Him nearer also.
Remember, after all, the word of Lord that was spoke through the Prophets. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22 and 23) Just as His compassion never fails for us, just as His faithfulness is great towards us, so He expects us to be with those around us. After all, we are to “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” (Proverbs 3:3 and 4) Even as He lets His will be known it is ours to listen, realizing that though we will never live up to His perfect standard of love, hope and mercy, knowing that we will never be able to give of ourselves as completely as Christ Jesus, our blessed Savior gave of Himself, it is still ours to seek to try, to never stop trying as we open ourselves up to others in kindness, compassion and care, letting our chief extravagance be the love that we show unto one another.
Yes, in this lost and sinful world, filled with so much need, where sorrow and pain comes so easily it can seem as if it is an overwhelming call to action. Yet though we may face more than we can handle that we may learn to lean on God more fully, God does not ask from us more than He knows that we are capable of giving. He just wants us to offer of ourselves, understanding that “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48) Recognizing that we have been given hope, mercy, grace, and love God calls us to give the same back to those around us, to those who are in need, to those who struggle and suffer, to the best of our abilities and our capabilities. Yes, it may perhaps mean sacrificing of ourselves, time or money or material comfort, but God knows who we are, what we have and what it is that we are truly capable of, and He fits the need that comes into our lives with what we are able to truly give of ourselves in His Holy Name.
Remember dear Brothers and Sisters, this is the God who would withhold nothing from us for our salvation and he is calling you to action. He is the God who gave His only begotten Son, Christ Jesus, to save us from the wretchedness of our despair as He uplifted us from our fallen state, cleansing us from all sin and unrighteousness with the washing blood of the Lamb. Through Christ the ultimate sacrifice was made in love as He showed us what it meant to truly give of oneself, living our lives, paying our price, and shedding His blood in our place. How much more than should we eagerly give of ourselves for the sake of the lost and the suffering, the hurt and the pained as we strive to live according to the path laid out by our dear Savior.
It is Christ Himself who calls us to be a light unto the world. (Matthew 5:14) In that we are reminded that “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” (Proverbs 4:18) We can, if we walk in the love and charity, the compassion and mercy we are called to, be a light in a dark world as we listen to the words of the Lord, the words of Moses and the Prophets, the words of Christ Himself, calling to us and leading us. It is there for us to know and to understand as we search the heart of our Heavenly Father for purpose and meaning and lean upon the Spirit of God for the strength and the courage that we need to be all that we were intended to be. Yes, there are going to be times when it is hard, when we perhaps wish we could live as the Rich Man did, without a care in the world. Yet, we see the price of that vanity, not just in the punishment of those who abandon their faith by abandoning what God asks of them in it, but in the despair of each of those lost souls we abandon when we likewise abandon our fellow man, letting their plight overtake them.
In all that you are, and all that you do, strive to do more and be more, to put behind you the pettiness and the selfishness, the arrogance and the self-righteousness of this world. Never settle for good enough or turn your back on those in sincere need. Live in the Spirit, and bear Its fruits, offering of yourself, peace and love and joy and healing even as you move through this world to bring others a comfort that moves past this world.
Then shall you see the love of God magnified in your life as you realize your gifts in this world were not your true reward, understanding that it truly lies in the Kingdom that knows no end.
Lord, grant this unto us all.
Now may the peace of the Lord, that transcending, encompassing peace that surpasses all human knowledge, understanding and wisdom, keep your hearts and minds, your spirits and souls in Christ Jesus even unto life everlasting, Amen.