Almost all religious practices are designed to break you free from enmeshment with the world’s god: Money.
Do fish know that they are wet? They swim around in water all day every day. Everything that they need is in the water. Their experience of life is so completely wet that I’ll bet they don’t even know that they are wet. To understand that they were “wet” they would need to know what “dry” means. And unless something extraordinary happens to them, they never experience the open air. And most of them probably wouldn’t want to even if they could.
Money, in our society, is like water in the ocean. It is so important to us; it is present in almost everything we do. It guides our actions and our motivations, it can change how we think, what we see and what we know. And it can change who we are aware of and how we treat them. We need to become aware of when money is guiding us and give our money and our lives, again, to the loving arms of Jesus.
Our Gospel passage today (Luke 16:19-31) is a story that Jesus told to draw our attention to how important money can be in the way we treat some people. The rich man (no other name is given to him) lives a life of comfort, security and luxury. And if we’re honest, compared to many parts of the world, so do we.
Lazarus is a poor beggar at the rich man’s gate. One billion people in our world today go to bed hungry each night. Some are very probably covered in sores. Maybe they are also so weak that they can’t push the dogs away when they come to lick their wounds. I’ve been to some of those places. I know some of those people.
Jesus tells this story to drive home his point about the dangers of money that he has been making since Chapter 11 and only concludes in Chapter 18. Here is the thread for those who will see it: Luke 11:41, Luke 12:33, Luke 14:33, Luke 16:1-14, Luke 16:13,19-31, Luke 18:22, Deut 15:11. When you get some time, I encourage you to explore these verses. Read them in context and see the point that Jesus is making about money. It’s dangerous! Give it away! Giving money away is the best way to ensure you’re not worshiping it. We must use money wisely (we still have to swim in this ocean), but we can’t let it control us or it will take us to hell.
Money can’t get you to heaven. Only Jesus can do that. As Martin Luther King Jr said when he preached on this parable just before his death, “The rich man didn’t go to hell because he was rich; the rich man didn’t realize that his wealth was his opportunity. It was his opportunity to bridge the gulf that separated him from his brother Lazarus.”
We need to learn to see those who are separated from us by poverty as our brothers and sisters. Dearly beloved. They don’t want all of our money. They just want us to see them, get to know them, and to ask how we can help.
And we need to allow God’s spirit to liberate us from being as mired in money as a fish is in water. God’s Spirit liberates us to share.
Yours In Christ, Ralph