Luke 16:19-31: In touching distance of need.(click for todays passage)

Who is at your ‘gate’? What needs are in touching distance of your life and home? Do you have eyes to see them? It would have been so easy for the rich man to help Lazarus. A small contribution from his ‘table’ would have made such a difference. Having plenty can make you hard-hearted and indifferent and judgmental towards those whose lives, unlike yours, are filled with daily struggle.

Death is the great leveller. A poem often quoted by David Pawson says, ‘Death lays its icy hand on kings. Sceptre and crown must tumble down, and in the dust be equal made, with the poor crooked scythe and spade.’ Lazarus and the rich man had this in common – they were both mortal: ‘The rich man also died…’ (22). His riches could not protect him from the inevitable. Jesus’ parable shows that although the rich man was dead and buried, he was very much alive. He could look up, and see, and call and feel. He had desires and could express them. He did not like where he was. He didn’t want to be there, nor did he want those he loved to join him. That is a telling factor.

Life is short and eternity is long, and it is vital to face the question of where you will spend it. Will it be in the place of heavenly bliss or one of eternal torment? Now is the time to deal with this issue because one day it will be too late (26). The way to prepare is to heed God’s Word and repent (27-31). The rich man’s coldness of heart was evidence of an unrepentant heart. People who are right with God show it by serving the needs in front of them; they express their faith in works. The problem was not that the rich man had a lot of stuff, but that he failed to ‘see’ and serve the needy at his ‘gate’. But repentance changes all of that (1 Timothy 6:17-19). If the rich man had repented he would have lived differently. I was thinking about the man who superintended Hudson Taylor’s prayer ministry while the missionary was serving in China. He was a wealthy and able man and he used his skills and resources to play a vital part in the mission. Not only did he give generously to the work, but when Hudson and his family were back in the U.K. they had a lovely place to stay in this man’s palatial house. 

Please don’t misunderstand this story. It is not saying, ‘Be kind to the poor and you’ll get into heaven.’ It is rather a call to repentance; to turn away from being the sort of person described in (13-15), one who loves and serves money, and not God.

One other thought struck me as I wrote this morning. In this world it is the poor who are often nameless and faceless, and the rich who have the power and the fame. But in Jesus’ story it is the poor man who is named. Does that say something, I wonder, about how the values of God’s Kingdom are diametrically opposite those found in the rest of the world?

Prayer: Lord, help me to really see the needs at my gate, and do what I can to serve.