“Compassion for Those God Has Compassion Upon”
Jesus told a story about a rich man who lived in luxury while he ignored a poor man, Lazarus, who sat outside his gate, covered with sores and surrounded by dogs, eating the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Both men died. The rich man went to hell, and the poor man went to heaven. The rich man could see into heaven, and he cried out for relief from the agony of hell. The reply from heaven came, “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.”
This story illustrates God’s response to the needs of the poor. Sick, crippled, and impoverished, Lazarus received compassion from God. Of course, just because someone is poor does not make him righteous before God and therefore fit for heaven. At the same time, though, a quick perusal through Scripture shows that God hears, satisfies, and secures justice for the poor who trust in him.
But this story also illustrates God’s response to those who neglect the poor. He responds to them with condemnation. Again, the Bible does not teach that wealth alone implies unrighteousness or warrants condemnation. The rich man in this story is not in hell because he had money. Instead, he is in hell because he lacked faith in God, leading him to indulge in luxuries while ignoring the poor outside his gate.
Now I have to ask: With whom do you and I identify more—Lazarus or the rich man?
God has made it clear to me that I look a lot like the rich man in this story. I don’t always think of myself as rich, and I’m guessing you may not either. But the reality is, if you and I have running water, shelter over our heads, clothes to wear, food to eat, and some means of transportation, then we are in the top 15 percent of the world’s people for wealth.
You and I both have a choice.
We can stand with the starving or with the overfed.
We can identify with poor Lazarus on his way to heaven or with the rich man on his way to hell.
We can embrace Jesus while we give away our wealth, or we can walk away from Jesus while we hoard our wealth.
Would it be fair to say that your plans for today involve indulging in pleasures while throwing scraps to the poor outside your gate? If so, what would a radically generous alternative look like?