- Luke 16:24-25 (NLT)
Those of us who are of the Christian faith are likely to be familiar with the story of the destitute man named Lazarus (not the same Lazarus who Jesus brought back from the dead) who was covered with sores at the gate to a rich man's home, hoping that somehow the man would perhaps give him the scraps off his table to lessen his hunger and some water to quench his thirst. Instead the rich man ignored him and Lazarus soon died, then went to heaven where Abraham greeted him in a role destined by God. Later, when the rich man died, he found himself in Hades and as he looked up at Abraham, his request for just a drop of water to ease his torment was denied. It is one of a number of stories told by Jesus in His earthly ministry which highlighted the not unusual attitude found in those ancient days among rich toward the poor. Sadly, the problem is still readily found today and it's message from Jesus is that doing so is a grave mistake on a person's soul. Today it also applies to women and men since so many women are tied to their work and their dreams of luxury and material things as well. That's why the references in the story talk about man due to the differences found in Bible times.
Now Jesus isn't talking about a government taking action to force someone to help someone else, no, he's talking about individuals of means voluntarily deciding to help others in need. And even those of limited means are expected to give of their time with their talents to be a help to others of a lesser state. The help to be provided is not about welfare and a free ride, it's about helping those who are able bodied to get a hand up instead of a hand out which can help them to again be self-sufficient. It does, however, also favor the provision by those who are blessed to help those who have no means of support, such as a crippled man or an older widow and again, he's talking about voluntary giving for the cause. Even in such cases, if their plight improves they are themselves expected to do what they can on their own when and if they are able. In the old days here in America, charity was provided by the church and other voluntary organizations with a charitable purpose, not so much the government and it was a basic expectation of Christians and Jews alike. With the transition of so much today to government, many churches have seen great reductions in such programs as parishioners see the function as now being one of government. It was never intended to be that way and we Christians were expected to do what our heart told us to do on our own initiative, not due to coercion by force of law. That's why taxes are so high and never show a let up only an increase. And, at the same time, the problems seem to grow instead of ever being solved.
Let me give a good example of what it means to exemplify our faith in works with no coercion, just a desire to live faith with an action component. A doctor and his wife back in my hometown, quite well off and expecting nothing in return, both devoted many hours to helping those in desperate need. In addition to tithing well over the Lord's request, the good doctor also spent extensive time yearly with Operation Hope, providing quality medical care to people around the world who never dreamed they could receive such help. His wife was very active in helping young women who were in desperate shape. Many had run away from home and were living on the streets and it was common for her to be seen going to lunch with a friend, finding a downtrodden young woman she knew needed help and taking her to lunch with them, feeding her and praying with her and then seeing to it she was put in touch with an organization that could help. She was very outspoken in her work and both husband and wife stayed with their programs actively as long as they were physically able. They were dear friends of my mother and they certainly inspired me, seeing what they did and hearing about it and they never wanted credit or accolades. They just wanted to quietly do the Lord's work and help people. They lived well, but they used a lot of their money for those in need, unlike the rich man with poor Lazarus who thought nothing of his plight.
Jesus said it is much more difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than a poor man. Why? Because the rich man has the money to spend on so many earthly treasures while the poor man can't even think about such things. When we have money, it is easy to see ourselves unbridled and able to do anything we want. We can easily think of ourselves as capable of anything without needing God if we aren't careful. For the poor man, God offers their only hope and that's what Jesus meant. But, at the same time, that shows how wonderful my mother's friends were for what they did for good with so much of their money. They had it, yet they realized from where it came and acted accordingly and I know that those good people are seated at the table with Jesus right now as this is being written.
Think about all of these things, for if we are truly of the faith, doesn't it seem logical that if we accept Jesus we are expected to live as He taught and as our Father desired, in His image. But with so much of society today choosing to substitute things such as power, money and other earthly desires and wants for God, the usurpation of voluntary functions by government edict makes it even easier for many of us, Christians and non-Christian alike, to use it as an excuse for the lack of charity in our daily living. Maybe we as a society need to put the responsibility back where it belongs as an individual responsibility for living as God wants us to, making our own decisions and being willing to enjoy or suffer the consequences for the choices we made when life is done. Government shouldn't be the one to make determinations regarding Christian charity. Only the heart of the individual man or woman can do what needs to be done. That takes out all politics and replaces it with the true Spirit working within us while also not allowing someone else to make the decisions for us. Perhaps the government can play a supporting role, but it should never be the principal one. Unless the Spirit comes from within us, it is not what was intended by God when He created us in His image. Just call me a wishful dreamer who seeks salvation the only way it works, from within ourselves.