According to the religious talking heads on TV and the preachers preaching from bully pulpits, one might easily conclude that Jesus only cared about three things: what happens between the sheets, our response to unplanned pregnancies and the second amendment.
But even a casual reading of the Gospel reveals that much more than sex, abortion or guns, there was and still is another taboo to be confronted. Money. In fact, there are over two thousand references throughout scripture. In today’s parable, Jesus is at his most forceful, begging the question of the Pharisees then and us now, What is the danger of wealth?
Luke 16:19-31 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up 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.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Renders you indifferent.
Buys you and idol to replace God.
Sets up a class system of privileged and poor.
What’s the danger of wealth?
It is the ultimate seductress, the currency that coddles us into believing that everything can be bought for a price. That even salvation is up for sale. It often comes along with a homeowner’s association fee that pays for a no panhandling ordinance, clearly marked no trespassing signs, and an iron fence that separates us from them. It can bankrupt the capacity to care. Purple robes while the naked try to survive; linen bedding while the houseless shiver without blankets; feasts of gluttony while the hungry compete for crumbs. And, most dangerously, it can impair our spiritual vision, leaving us far sighted to the beggar flying a cardboard sign and rattling a cup at the gate of our lives.
There was a historic practice called Levee Day in Washington D.C. when the White House was open to the public. If you stood in line long enough, then you too would be able to shake the hands with the commander in chief and engage him in a conversation. Abraham Lincoln called Levee Day, “a public opinion bath, and while unpleasant, renovating and invigorating to my perceptions.” In 1864, four black Americans waited for their turn and then demanded their equal rights before the President. Many historians believe those four men influenced the writing of the Emancipation Proclamation and the conversion of this country’s soul.
The Emancipation Proclamation of Christianity declares that choices in this life have direct consequences on the next. And while it may be too late for the rich man and his five brothers, we still have time. Time to realize that the name Lazarus literally means, “God’s help,” a divine grace that loiters on every corner of poverty proclaiming that it’s not enough to just let Jesus into our hearts, we also have to let him into our wallets as well.