I recently read the story of the rich man and Lazarus from Luke Chapter 16 in the Bible. In case the story is unfamiliar to you, Lazarus was a poor beggar covered in sores and an unnamed rich man wore purple linens and feasted sumptuously every day. Lazarus sat outside the rich man’s gates and begged. Eventually both men died and Lazarus went to heaven and the rich man went to hell. The rich man begged for comfort from Lazarus but Abraham reminded the rich man of how things were when they were alive and explained that a great chasm now existed and there was no way Lazarus could come to the rich man to bring him even a drop of water. The story goes on further but this is where my mind began to wander. The rich man knew poor Lazarus. He saw him outside his gates whenever he left his home. He saw his pain. He saw his weakness. He knew Lazarus’ name and his needs. And he chose not to help.
It struck me that I am much more like the rich man than Lazarus. That most of us are. Most of us have food on our tables (we even go out to eat once in a while), most of us have clothes on our backs – even quality, brand name clothing, and most of us have comfortable homes. It also struck me that I don’t see many Lazarus’ today. No one sits near my home sick and hungry and begging for my help.
You see, in this first world country that we live in, we are insulated from the needy. The government provides food stamps and welfare checks and medical assistance. Non-profits give food and clothing and home repairs and counseling and job skills training. In this wonderful country I call home, I rarely meet Lazarus. I don’t know what his needs are. I don’t know how I can help. I don’t even know his name.
And I’m not really sure what I should do about this. I know what the rich man 2000 years ago should have done. He should have bandaged Lazarus’ wounds and given him food and water. He should have welcomed him into his home and taught him a useful skill so Lazarus could have supported himself or even hired him as a servant.
But today when we don’t see Lazarus, when we don’t know who he or she is and what his or her needs are, what are we to do today? I’m really not sure. For me, I’ve chosen to give my life to a place where “rescue me now, please” is heard every day and where I can be a part of answering those cries.
When a woman calls our office because her hot water tank hasn’t worked for months, or a young parent reaches out because their furnace stopped doing its job, or an elderly widow calls because her roof is leaking and her ceiling is caving in, I know my work is making a difference. When I hear about an impoverished single mom raising her child with special needs by herself or a widow trying to get by on less than $10,000 a year or a woman carrying her disabled husband from the car to the house because they don’t have a wheelchair ramp and can’t afford one I know that I am right where I need to be to help God’s children.
We live in a world that insulates us from the needs of others. Shootings in the ghetto neighborhoods of Pittsburgh seem so distant even though, in reality, I can visit those areas within a half hour after leaving my home. People living without heat or hot water seem so far away – maybe in a third world country – but in reality, my children go to school with kids who don’t have these basics in their home. Lonely widows who have no money for a Thanksgiving dinner and no one to share the meal with anyway aren’t visible to me but, in reality, there’s at least one living right down the road from my house. Kids who don’t ever get to celebrate their birthday because there’s no money for such things, who think that the only kids who do receive birthday gifts are kids on TV, live pretty close to me, too. And although I believe wholeheartedly that the most precious gift came to us on Christmas morning a little more than 2000 years ago, I still believe that having a gift sitting under a Christmas tree today is pretty important whether you are 3 or 93 and I know that even though I don’t see their pain or hear their quiet pleas that there are people in my own community who haven’t received such a gift in years.
And so when you hear the stories from Hosanna Industries or other mission organizations, when your eyes are opened to needs around you, when you heart feels the pain of another person’s hurt, please do something about it. Don’t let yourself be insulated any longer. Step out of your comfort zone. Make a difference in the world. Don’t make today’s Lazarus wait until he or she is with Abraham to be comforted.
–Julie Wettach, Mission Worker