Did you notice that Jesus described the lives of the rich man and Lazarus in two sentences?
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. (Luke 16:19-21)
Did you notice that Jesus did not identify the rich man by name, but that he names the beggar Lazarus which means, “God has helped.”
I was 20 years old when I encountered beggars for the first time. I was in the country of India for 7 weeks as part of a mission encounter. As I walked about, I would hear beggars calling out “Sipe” which meant “white man.” In the context in which I found myself, “sipe” could just as easily have meant “rich man.” I encountered beggars who were adults, beggars who were youth, and beggars who were children. I met beggars who were by themselves and beggars who were together. I responded as I was able, but the poverty I encountered was like a tidal wave.
I was 20 years old when I encountered real hunger for the first time. It was at the end of the 7 weeks I was in India. There were some unanticipated expenses and I had 27 cents to my name as I went without food. Flying out of what was then called Bombay, I waited at the airport and wrote down a list of food I would eat when I arrived back in the United States. I still have the list. I keep it in the Bible I used at that time. The list included 24 food items. Among these items were steak, shrimp, ice cream, salad with Thousand Island Dressing, bacon, baked potato, tomatoes, chips, ham, popcorn, cookies, pizza, ice cream, and different types of cake, coconut cake, pound cake, chocolate cake, any kind of cake. Sitting at the airport, I knew that my hunger would end with a meal on the plane.
Lazarus was not certain when his hunger would end as he laid at the gate of the rich man’s home. The unwritten codes of honorable society in the ancient world expected the rich to give money or food, known as alms, to beggars. Certainly, the law of Moses and the call of the prophets was to help the poor. To assist the rich in noticing beggars, there often were benches outside homes where beggars could wait for alms to be given as they were noticed by a feasting host and guests. Verse 19 tells us that every day the rich man feasted sumptuously which means that every day he had the opportunity to notice Lazarus by giving alms of money or food. All which means that every day the rich man did not notice Lazarus.
Rev. Phillip Martin writes about how simple it would have been for the rich man to notice Lazarus.
“In the time before napkins, they say wealthy people used to use pieces of bread to wipe their mouths and then toss it to the floor. That’s what Lazarus wants to eat. He doesn’t get to, of course, but if he could just get one spit-covered piece of leftover bread with some half-chewed pieces of food on it he’d be satisfied. And then there are the open wounds all over his skin. Every day, right there in front of the rich man’s house, right where Lazarus’ friends had laid him, the mangy street dogs come, almost like they expect him to die. The wounds on his skin are oozing with something they like to lick, and poor Lazarus is too weak and tired to shoo them away.
And that’s Lazarus’ day: lying at the rich man’s gate, dreaming about scraps of slobbery bread while dogs lick his wounds. It’s a really, really sad sight. Except the rich man apparently doesn’t see it. And if he does see it, he doesn’t see it for what it is, or, I should say, he doesn’t see Lazarus for who he is. He is someone God helps. And, therefore, Lazarus is an opportunity for the rich man to practice compassion.”
Did you notice that Jesus describes the deaths of the rich man and Lazarus in two sentences?
The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. (Luke 16:22-23)
Did you notice that Jesus tells the eternal story of the rich man noticing Lazarus in two sentences?
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 cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” (Luke 16:24) I don’t think Jesus’ parable about the rich man and Lazarus is an attempt to describe heaven and hell. I do think Jesus’ parable is a description of the chasm-separating consequences of not obeying God’s commandments to care for the poor or the call of the prophets “to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Larry O’Donnell, in his book, Management Waste: 5 Steps to Clean Up the Mess and Lead with Purpose identifies one of the five key characteristics of a good servant leader as noticing. O’Donnell writes, “What is notice? Essentially, the act of noticing is being mindful of the people around you and becoming less self-absorbed and focused on yourself. When you are actively practicing noticing, you place others as more important than yourself. …”
In his blog, The Importance of Noticing, June 10, 2021, O’Donnell states there are four important keys to noticing:
Getting to know the people around you. … Getting to know who they truly are.
Becoming aware of people’s struggles. … When you take notice, you will find opportunities to support others in prayer and let God work through you to bring comfort. Not only are you able to pray for people, but perhaps even pray with them.
Developing your own self-awareness. Be aware of how you come across to others and the ways that they see you.
Letting others notice you. Allow the people who surround you the opportunity of getting to know you on a deeper level, just as you are taking steps to get to know them. Share your life struggles, celebrations, failures and hardships.
Did you notice that Abraham’s statement about the inability of the five brothers to listen to Moses and the prophets and to live with faith in the one who is risen from the dead is an invitation for us to notice as we listen to the Law and the prophets and live with faith in Jesus who is risen from the dead?
“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.” (Luke 16:25-31)
As you tell the story of your life, what are you noticing?
by Pastor Marc Brown
September 25, 2022
Accompanying Scriptures: Luke 16: 19-31
Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for September 25, 2022
Scripture Lesson Luke 16: 19-31
The Good News “Noticing”
Music “How Shall I Come Before the Lord?” by Dean McIntyre
Closing Music “His Eye is on the Sparrow” arr. Gary Norian