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.’ Luke 16:19-24
Lazarus lay on a stretcher. Sores covered his body and he cringed as the dogs came and licked them. The feel of their tongue on raw flesh made him cry out in pain. His only hope lay in a person who would pass by and have compassion on him. People walked inches from his stretcher, could hear his moans, smell his disease, and see his obvious frailty. How could no one have the smallest consideration for this level of distress?
An incredibly rich man passed him every day for Lazarus lay at the gate of the rich man’s estate. Every time the master of the estate left, and then returned, he would see Lazarus. Tired of encountering him, would he not tell a servant to tend to him? Would he not instruct someone to bring out leftovers from his next party? It would cost him nothing. But instead, there was only a sneer at Lazarus’ request for crumbs. Purple linen never grazed the rags of the beggar.
Ah, but how eternity changed things. The rich man was the one in distress, experiencing an agony that far exceeded what Lazarus felt on earth. The rich man asked for something far less than crumbs; just a drop of water. That’s all. But Lazarus could not tend to him. This was eternity and only God rules. The verdict is a final one.
This story is yet another reminder that God looks at the heart. In this case, the one with the heart for God was the beggar. Around the corner, it might have played out differently as a different rich man reached out to a servant for help. The point of it all is not that God despises the rich and rewards the poor. God simply rewards those who fear him, rich or poor. Any of us has the power to heal and any of us can wear our power poorly.
As the spiritual and physical needs of people grow more profound in the days ahead, I will find my world intersecting more with those I formerly passed by. Not wanting the interruption, and not wanting to get my hands dirty, may I not fail to have the heart of King Jesus who invited beggars to the King’s palace for a feast.
And finally, life has many seasons. I am the beggar. I am the rich man. As a beggar, there is grace for every need no matter who denies me. As a rich man, I follow Christ who showed me how to be a servant by laying aside his royal robes to walk the path of humiliation.
With eternity in view, I align my perspectives. Amen