Folks Just Dont Get It
hat is the point of Jesus parable about poor Lazarus begging for scraps from the rich mans table? Most would emphasize the sub plot concerning the eternal social problem of rich man versus poor man. However, Jesus seems to simply be using this terrible social plight as a backdrop for a far more serious situation.
We do not want to gloss over the massive social problems created by riches and poverty: Both are contemporary issues in Metro Atlanta. However, it seems that whatever steps we attempt to alleviate hard core generational poverty we will have poor folks always; even amid the hottest economy in the world. Likewise, we will never be able to cure the social and family problems that infect so many who worship money and its seeming benefits.
We will never solve these human conditions because many folks will just never grasp the Abundant Life that results from Christian Discipleship--- Some folks just dont get it.
But, do we get it? What truth is Jesus attempting to help us understand?
Could it be that the sin of the rich man was that he had become disconnected from his people of Abraham; and thus, did not go to the Bosom of Abraham upon his death? But notice that he learned his lesson fast as he looked up from Hades, where he was being tormented... and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames. (23b-24, NRSV). But, it was too late for redemption for there was a great chasm fixed that no one could cross after death.
This formerly rich man, sometimes called Dives, which is Latin for rich man, was use to getting his own way so he implored Abraham to allow Lazarus to cross the chasm to warn his five brothers that what they had been taught in the synagogue about hell was true after all. Isnt this just like folks who worship power and wealth, he is still attempting to work out a deal from hell.
Abrahams response was, They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them. But Dives persisted in arguing his case, No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent. (v. 29-30).
Then verse 30 records the statement of Abraham which I feel is the actual point of Jesus story, If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.
The point is that Some folks just dons get it. I suppose that if God had not given us this blessing, and sometimes bane, called Free Will, we would all behave as pre programmed robots. But, God has given us the right to shake our fist in his face and cry NO!
Jesus parable has proven to be true in our New Testament age because we have had one rise from the grave and speak to us, and yet we persist in our unbelief. The Risen Savior seeks us and we still worship wealth instead of Him: And even more puzzling, some refuse to participate in the job force at all and live out a somewhat fantasy life of listlessness and resulting poverty. Note that not all rich people are evil, and not all poor folks are sinners. Riches and poverty are still just a backdrop for our personal lifes story, the meaning of which is far beyond outward mortal circumstances of daily life. Jesus is pointing us to an eternal definition of what brings abundance to human existence: Hope now, and Heaven beyond.
Some resist this spiritual talk, and just dont understand. One of the many expert guests on CNBCs Rivera Live, remarked about President Clintons meeting with several hundred clergy at a recent White House Annual Prayer Breakfast, at which time he spoke of his repentance and tearfully asked their forgiveness; she asked, What is all this talk about religion, Its embarrassing, he was talking about his soul, what is this about? Could she have lived forty years in America and not have been exposed to spiritual language?
During the Jimmy Carter campaign there was much talk about his being a Born Again Christian. Many news journalists acted like they had never hear that term. I remember how Eric Severeid, considered to be one of the all time great television commentators, asked the question, What is this talk about being Born Again? I have never heard that term. I was reared a mid western Lutheran and was never taught anything like that. My assumption is that little Eric was indeed taught that basic Christian doctrine, especially if he was reared in a Missouri Synod congregation, but he just didnt get it. We produce Methodists who spend Sunday after Sunday in church, but somehow are able to filter out the seemingly other worldly language of the faith. They do not have spiritual ears to hear.
Parents sometimes have a way of taking their children to Sunday School and worship, but also subliminally telling them to not take religion too seriously. They are taught to separate God talk from regular outside the Sanctuary language; and thus, end up at age fifty asking, Why did the Methodist Church not teach me anything about the Holy Spirit?, or Bible study? or Heaven and Hell?
Every now and then some nominal Methodist gets into a campmeeting service, or revival, or hears some unheard of words coming from a preachers mouth on T.V. and asks, Why did First Church not teach me this in Sunday School? The answer usually is, Your Sunday School teachers and Preachers did their best, but you just didnt get it!
Our problem is not that Dives did not catch on, but whether or not we internalize the message that Jesus is trying to tell us through his parable. Do We Get It?
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor