19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
The community of the parish I served in southern Oregon had been hit hard by the collapse of the timber industry. What had once been the county with one of the highest per capita incomes in the state had fallen to the bottom of that list. I am glad things have rebounded somewhat in that beautiful corner of God’s creation. I think, however, there are still folks who are struggling in that community. The wine industry and other opportunities which have stepped into the economy there have not likely brought the same sort of solid jobs that a certain segment of the society found in sawmills and in the forests of the region.
A significant percentage of the people I served there lived on the edge of solvency. Some were members of my parish, and others were people whom I visited in hospitals and homes because their neighbor saw them in need and had asked me to come. I am not a social worker. I cannot bring significant relief to the problems of poverty which they faced. But I am a pastor and I get to speak of treasures which this world does not recognize.
I do not want to romanticize poverty. I wish I could have done more to help with the suffering and pain of scarcity. I also, however, remain in awe of the hope which I saw in the eyes and heard in the words of these people. Jesus’ ways are sometimes strange to me. I would like to think that being a believer means good things happen to me. Yet sometimes I must wait. These people were confident in Jesus’ promise to them. Jesus tells us that the angels carried poor Lazarus to heaven and Abraham’s side. His name means “God is my help.” I was glad to repeat that God is their help.
The rich man, whom Jesus does not name, was dropped in a grave, buried. No angels for him, just the torment of Hades. He too could have listened to Moses, the prophets, and our Lord. Jesus does not discriminate on socio-economic status. His angelic conveyance is for any believer. Jesus has even risen from the dead to bring this message. Hear what He says when He describes you as a sinner redeemed, a child of God by His grace and mercy, an heir of heaven.