Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It’s Not Enough to Just Give Thanks For What You Have

My passion is to know Jesus and make Jesus known to others. And by “Jesus” I’m not interested in some “cultural Jesus” or some “American Jesus.” Jesus, remember, was not born in Monroe.

I recently preached on Jesus’ story about a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus. In the story the rich man is outrageously, hideously rich, and Lazarus is phenomenally rock-bottomly poor. Lazarus wears Armani suits, eats every day at Carl’s Chop House, and lives in a gated community. Lazarus wears open, oozing sores, would like to eat the rich man’s table scraps, and his home is on the ground outside the rich man’s gate.

The rich man sees Lazarus everyday or, better, steps over Lazarus on his way to shop at Neiman Marcus. He’s dressed in fine purple linen imported from Egypt. He doesn’t even see the dogs who lick Lazarus’s open sores after they’ve been dining on dead carcasses.

There’s a huge gap, a monstrous abyss, between the world of the rich man and the world of Lazarus even though physically they are very close.

As the Pharisees hear Jesus tell this story it must have outraged them because Jesus has just identified them as lovers of money.

Then, Mr Rich Man dies. He has a funeral unlike the funeral you and I will ever have. And Lazarus dies too, only he gets no funeral or burial. But, in the story Jesus tells, he does get the greatest funeral procession ever recorded as angels carry him away to sit at the Great Banquet next to the Big Three - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (as well as the prophets of God).

The rich, self-aggrandizing guy sits on the other rim of what looks to him like the Grand Canyon, and sees Lazarus… sitting at the BIGGEST FOOD-THING ever known. Still thinking he’s in his gated community replete with servants who wait on him, he asks Abraham to send lowly, slavish, disgusting Lazarus over and give him some water because he’s parched. Abraham says, sorry… this gap is now fixed.

What’s happened is that the gap in the rich man’s heart between him and Lazarus, and also between him and God, becomes an eternal reality. He gets the desires of his heart, which is to be apart from the true heart of God.

The prophets, says Abraham, told you all about this. Remember Amos 5? You failed to have compassion on the poor. You failed to act. You failed to pro-actively attend to Lazarus and his likes. You built your own little earthly kingdom on the backs of the poor, stepping over them with your Guccis on your way to the spa.

So…? What’s Jesus saying here? I think Jesus, the Real One, is telling us that to occasionally or even often say “Thank you God that I have so much!!” but NOT use what we have been given to help the poor is far, far from the heart of God. To thank God for what we’ve been given and not to spend our money and resources on eternal things and the things Jesus is passionate about (= the poor) is scandalous. At least, according to my Bible, and Matthew-Mark-Luke-and John.