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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, September 29, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | 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.’” (NRSV)

There are times when it’s not crystal clear what choice we should make, because our options seem to be the lesser of two evils or between two goods. But there are other choices we have been taught to make that are clearly the right ones. These include that we should help the suffering, support the weak, assist those who are poor, share with those in need. This is a central theme of our Judeo-Christian faith, repeatedly taught through the voices of Moses and the prophets, Jesus and the apostles, and the church through the ages. The essence of being faithful to God is that we love our neighbors, especially neighbors in need.

The rich man could have listened to the prophets but instead ignored Lazarus, the poor, hungry, sick man who was just outside his gate. The rich man was too caught up in his love for money, too insulated by his wealth, too comfortable to care. It sounds like he would have acted otherwise if he’d known he would be eternally tormented for his hardness of heart. But God doesn’t want us to love our neighbors out of fear of punishment. God wants us to love our neighbors because it is the right thing to do. God has created life to be most meaningful when we show compassion for one another. If we don’t already believe and act on that truth, not even someone coming back from the dead would convince us.

Forgive me, eternal Fount of Love, whenever I have avoided and ignored people in need. May my generosity overflow. Strengthen me to bear others’ burdens. Guide me to work alongside those lacking resources to change the forces that push people to live on the streets, deny access to health care, and pay less than a living wage. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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