Saturday, March 7, 2015

Lover of Money

For awhile now this journey of Jesus to Jerusalem seems to be filled with nothing but encounters and conversations with Pharisees.  It is obvious that His main journey companions were the Twelve chosen disciples, but the Pharisees were constantly lurking on the edge of the crowd with a listening ear.  They listened not because they wanted to learn from His teachings, but to catch Him in saying something heretical.  One place the presence of the Pharisees can be observed is in the 16th chapter of Luke where the 1st verse records Jesus speaking to the disciples and the 14th and 15th verses records a conversation with a Pharisee.
In this encounter with the religious hierarchy, the gospel refers to the Pharisee as a "lover of money."  The conversation which follows is inside the context of this particular issue.  It in this particular conversation that Jesus tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus.  Tradition gives the rich man the name of Dives, a man who dies and ends up in torment.  Of course, Lazarus, suffers the same fate of death, but he ends up with heavenly angels.  Their eternal ending is the unexpected twist for the Pharisee who lives in a world where righteousness is evidenced by riches and unrighteousness by poverty.  As Jesus tells the story, the downfall of Dives was not that he had riches, or that he mistreated the poor, but that he could walk by a hurting man at his own gate without really caring about him.  He did not kick him, he just stepped around him.  What he had he used to maintain an extravagant lifestyle even though one was dying just feet away.
If the story does not frighten the affluent, we are in more trouble than we thought.  There is no way to look at who we are without seeing ourselves as those who maintain an extravagant lifestyle.  The suffering needy ones may not be in the front yard, but they are unable to make it into the gated communities of our world.  Some of those gates are iron, but some are made of other things that are not physical barriers, but remain barriers nonetheless.  What has always been easy for those of us who share the affluence is the writing of the check which makes us feel justified while stepping around the hurting ones around us.  It is difficult to understand how we can truly think of ourselves as followers of the One who willingly gave everything up on the cross.  Maybe there is a reason Lent calls us to a spirit of repentance.

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