3/30/2020 – The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus
Passage: Luke 16:19-31
Written By: Emily Burch – Wesley College Pastor & Director
Earlier this winter, a large white cat began sheltering on my back porch. It would sit on the windowsill, whining and crying loudly for someone to let it in until late at night. I’ll be honest, I was quite annoyed, as I am not a cat person. I banged on the window to try to scare it off. I vehemently closed the blinds with the intended communication, “This is not your place and we are not your people. Go home.” David even chased it out of the backyard one night. But, much to my chagrin, the cat kept coming back.
Annie Glover, a U of A student at Wesley who also helps me with some errands at my home, found the cat on the front porch one day when she came to the house. Being the compassionate cat person she is, Annie scooped the cat up to take it to the local animal shelter. While I was nervous we had just abducted some neighbor’s pet, Annie had noticed that the cat was injured and might need medical attention. It turned out that the cat was in really bad shape – so badly injured that the shelter indicated they would try but that it might be too late to save the animal. Fortunately, they were able to find the cat’s owners and return her home. Sadly, the cat eventually died, but, thanks to Annie, in the care of those who loved her.
I, on the other hand, felt like a terrible human being and repented of my hardness of heart.
I chose this parable to write on because these are hard words for me to absorb. Jesus describes a very wealthy man who gives no attention to a beggar, Lazarus, living in degradation at his front entrance. The Greek word for gate in this passage is “pylona,” which refers to a large gateway suitable for a grand house. This is obviously a man of plentiful resources. But, despite his riches, he did nothing to assist his neighbor in obvious need. As the story progresses, Jesus makes it clear not only that Lazarus’s suffering didn’t go unnoticed by the heavenly realms, but that the rich man’s lack of response also did not go unnoticed. His callousness and failure to care for the vulnerable proved the hollowness of his relationship with God, in spite of his assumed knowledge of the law and prophets.
Fayetteville is a town where it is hard not to notice the need all around us. In the midst of the coronavirus scare, I ventured out to Target recently. Even with the store mostly empty of shoppers, there was still a homeless man sitting outside the door, playing his guitar and singing, hoping for donations. On every street corner here, it seems, is the face of another homeless person in our community. I do not give cash because I never know who would use that money to buy groceries versus alcohol or drugs. I support the Salvation Army with a monthly donation and give to Genesis Church’s Housing Assistance Fund. David and I recently bought dinner for a homeless man the week of our honeymoon. And, yet, every time I see someone holding a sign asking for help, I still feel it – the guilt for walking by, the sadness that people live like that, the wonder at what brought them to such a low place, the discomfort about my comfortable life compared with their challenging circumstances, and the penetrating question “Am I doing enough?” I honestly don’t know if I am, but I want to keep trying NOT to be like the protagonist in Jesus’s story.
Every conversation with a student since the U of A canceled in-person classes has exposed more loss due to what is happening. Relationships have been interrupted, study abroad opportunities postponed, practicums canceled, and on-campus jobs made untenable. Seniors are worried whether there will be graduation and if they will find a job. Freshmen and others living on campus have gone home and will not come back this semester. Everyone is losing something in this season. It is easy to get focused on ourselves. But, Jesus’s parable reminds me that there are those for whom life is much more challenging – coronavirus or not. I need to remember.
Those who are always vulnerable in our community will surely be hit even harder by what has unfolded. Here are some ideas to help, if the Lord so leads:
Students can take unused dining dollars to buy food on campus at places like Club Red and donate it to the Full Circle Food Pantry for U of A students & staff in need. To drop off food, contact the pantry – info at fullcircle.uark.edu.
Those in Fayetteville who desire to volunteer can help at Genesis Church. There is a need for people to help make sack lunches and cook meals that will then be transported to the Salvation Army for distribution. Volunteers would work with a small group for these tasks in a sanitary and controlled environment (facilities are being disinfected and only staff and volunteers are allowed at the church). To be placed on the communications list for volunteers, contact Maura Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone can donate to our new Coronavirus Assistance Fund for any students suffering due to loss of income in this season. Our student leadership team has recently designated a portion of our Missions Fund for this purpose. To donate, visit www.uawesley.com/donate. To request assistance (students only), email email@example.com.
Healthy individuals can give blood. Due to the coronavirus, blood drives have been cancelled across the country, causing a severe shortage. Look online for a place to donate blood during this time. A good place to start is https://www.redcrossblood.org/.
All of us can call an older friend or family member who is sheltered and isolated at home to check on them and offer the gift of relationship and assistance.
We can show grace to those with whom we “shelter in place.” Being holed up with others and unable to move about as freely as we would like can cause frustration and friction. But, it’s also a chance to grow in the fruits of the Spirit!! (Galatians 5:22-23)
As we care for ourselves in this scary season, let us also love others well. Let us watch for the Lazaruses at our gate.
Prayer: Lord, how grateful we are for your provision for us in this season. We want to meet the needs of others, as we are able and as you direct. Show us what we can do and what we need to do. In Jesus’s name, Amen.