The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. So he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.
“The law and the prophets were in effect until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped.
“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.
“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.’”
It’s easy to get caught up in trying to understand single verses, and miss the overall point. I really want to figure out verse 17 (But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped.), which seems to be in contrast to the rest of the passage. But that is one verse out of this whole passage. Maybe the other fifteen have something to say.
This is a message Jesus has repeated time and again throughout the gospels. Following the letter of the Law means nothing if you fail to love and care for your neighbor. So you go to church every Sunday, son’t swear, listen to Christian radio, haven’t gotten a divorce. Who cares? You know what really matters? How have you treated the people in need? What have you done to ease someone’s sufferings? I read this week in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen Covey’s legendary book, that love is a verb. Love is something you do. God wants us to love (verb) our neighbor, not just love (feeling) them.
Now, there’s probably not actually a poor leper named Lazarus sitting on your doorstep every day. That would make it a lot easier, right? But there are still poor people all around. 1 in 4 North Texans lives in hunger. There are kids in my upper-middle class suburban paradise that don’t have enough to eat. The statistics where you live are probably similar, if not worse. As Christians we are called not only to feel bad for them when it’s brought to our attention, but to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
In the past my family has given to the local food bank. A tax return here, an extra paycheck there. But we’ve never done it with any regularity. We’ve been content to tithe and think “that’s good enough.” But after reading this passage I feel strongly compelled to find some money in the budget to give to them monthly. $5 can feed a child for a week. (Or something like that…) What if we just didn’t go out one week a month? That $25 could feed a kid for five weeks! I want to challenge my readers (you are out there, aren’t you?) to do something too. Give to your local food bank. Check out water.org, or kiva.org (microloans are the future of giving), two sites that take a small donation a long way. If you’ve never checked out Tab For a Cause, it’s a great way to raise funds just by browsing the internet. It’s the 21st century. Giving has never been easier or cheaper. Please consider doing something. I’m going to go renew my Kiva loan right now before I have time to forget about it.