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Wealth and Poverty

Luke 16:19-21
‘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. (NIVUK)

Stories about wealth always seemed to attract the attention of the Pharisees, because they loved money (Luke 16:14) and despised those who were poor.  So, the beginning of this parable fitted their comfort zone nicely, although they did not know that the story would have a sting in its tail for them.  The scene is set: the rich man was flaunting his wealth and had no care for the future or for anybody else; but the poor man was suffering with a skin disease and was hungry with only dogs to comfort him.  Although the rich man had more than enough food, he would not share it with the beggar, and so proved to be callously obsessed with himself.

Such an opening scene made the Pharisees relax.  They wrongly believed it was right for the wealthy religious people to not only live in luxury but to be seen to have an opulent lifestyle.  They were kings in their own eyes and paraded their holiness as they strutted in designer clothes.  By contrast, they thought that poor people were designed to be like that; their best use was to increase the splendour of those with money by showing their dependence on whatever fell off the table at each banquet.  What worldly thinking; so far from biblical righteousness.  Such pride has no place in God’s kingdom (James 2:1-4); it is underwritten by the devil and results in many kinds of unholy lifestyles (James 3:13-16).   

Jesus loved the poor because they were made in God's image (Genesis 1:26-27), even though His glorious nature may have been so obscured; but the religious people loved themselves.  Jesus was building a stark picture of the contrast between those who thought they had everything they wanted and those who were heavily burdened by their great needs but had no way of meeting them.  As the story unfolds, we will see that God is well able to satisfy the poor, weak, sick and hungry although their reward for trusting Him may not come in this life.

Injustice is unholiness: it always starts with indifference - the calculated carelessness which chooses to ignore a need rather than to meet it at personal expense.  Of course, you may say, this is a corrupted and sinful world and inevitably some will be disadvantaged ... that's just the way it is.  But if God cares about them, why shouldn't we?  And, if we do not care, our hearts will become hardened so that we cannot respond.  By contrast, those who truly love the Lord will not be complacent or arrogantly self-serving. Micah 6:8 says, "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Those who disregard this basic instruction cannot wholeheartedly love the Lord and are in danger of the judgement which will be described as the parable continues.

Dear Lord. Thank You for Your compassion towards those who are most affected by the corruption of Your perfect creation and the disruption of godly society. Please forgive me when I choose to ignore my responsibility to relieve the needs of the oppressed and point them to Your eternal comfort. Help me to develop a godly attitude so that I may see the corruption around me and be stirred in my heart to be part of Your solution to their needs. Please give me gratitude for Your salvation which will overflow into Christ-like expressions of mercy to those I encounter. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams