“Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.” – Proverbs 21:13
“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” – Luke 6:38
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” – James 1:27
Sunday has my number, and she uses it regularly. Even more food-motivated than I am, our little beagle frequently acts pathetic in my presence until I break down and give her a treat. Sunday inherently knows that, while Paul and Joey can easily resist her whining, I can’t take it. When I walk into the room, she cries and whimpers like a poor, deprived pup, knowing that I’m the least likely of us to just look the other way.
In Luke 16, Jesus tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus. He is preaching in the hostile and heated presence of the Pharisees, who unlike Jesus, can’t be bothered with the common people. Convinced that their spiritual veneer makes them more valuable than everyone else, the Pharisees haven’t a clue about what God values. And interested in only their own blessings, these “covetous” men (Luke 16:14-15) regularly look the other way when confronted with the needs of others, making themselves the sole beneficiaries of their empty religion.
And so it was with the rich man in Jesus’s parable. Lazarus lived within arm’s reach of his wealthy counterpart, wasting away just outside the gates of the rich man’s house. And while the rich man came and went in style, Lazarus suffered with sores, depended on dogs for comfort, and desperately longed for the chance to catch a few crumbs from the rich man’s table (Luke 16:19-21). But there was more to it than money, as evidenced by the condition of each man after death (Verses 22-23). And in eternity, the proverbial tables would be turned, as Lazarus found comfort and a kindred spirit (in the form of Abraham), while the rich man suffered alone (Psalm 9:18, 10:18, 12:5, 72:4, 113:7-8, Proverbs 13:7, 14:21, Matthew 6:19-21).
The fact that Lazarus has a name (unlike most parable characters) has led many to believe that Jesus was relating a true story. But whatever the case, the rich man’s reference to Lazarus is a heartbreaking indictment, and when he begs Abraham for mercy, he actually betrays his own lack of mercy in life with the words, “Send Lazarus” (Luke 16:24).
That chilling two-word admission spells out the cold, hard truth about the rich man. He knew Lazarus and knew him well. Lazarus suffered right in the rich man’s line of sight every day, and yet the rich man was able to go a lifetime without caring, without intervening, without ever sacrificing any of his own comforts to help the beggar. The rich man could not plead ignorance when it came to Lazarus. He was simply self-absorbed and utterly indifferent (Psalm 143:10, Proverbs 3:27, 14:31, 28:27, Micah 6:8, Luke 12:33-34, 14:12-14, James 1:27, 2:5).
That cuts me to the core, because I know I can charge ahead in a fog of brazen busyness and oblivious self-absorption. And I have to ask myself – how many hurting people are right within my line of sight, right outside my door, and all along my hurried way? How often am I so focused on my own agenda that I completely miss opportunities to be a blessing to others? Are there struggling souls right within arm’s reach that I’ve hardened my heart to? Am I so comfortable in this world that I’m failing to invest in the eternal?
Tragically, the rich man finds himself far away from God and out of chances – his eternity sealed, his loved ones out of reach, and an endless road of fire and forever regrets stretched out before him. That’s a lesson I would never want anyone to learn the hard way, and it’s all the more reason to give the gospel of Jesus Christ (Proverbs 31:20, Romans 1:16, 6:23, James 2:14-16, 4:14-17, I John 3:17, Jude 1:22-23).
May we care more about being a blessing than gathering blessings for ourselves. May we open our eyes to the comfortless and become the comforters that God has called us to be. May we never substitute religious routine for really serving as the hands and feet of Jesus. And when a needy soul is within arm’s reach, may we never be satisfied to look the other way.
Who needs your attention today? Someone in your circle or in your line of sight needs your compassion, and very possibly, some concrete help. Don’t look the other way. Ask God to help you to bless others the way He blesses you.