Abraham 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: 31
Once there was a man who had everything money could buy: an opulent seaside mansion with an infinity pool, servants, a ten-car garage, helicopter, you name it.
Outside his gate sat a diseased and starving man named Lazarus. Whenever the rich man rolled out of his driveway, there was Lazarus begging for scraps from the rich man's garbage. Each day Lazarus received nothing but licks from the household dogs. Eventually, both men died. Lazarus went to heaven, and the rich man… well, let's just say he never has to worry about being too cold.
Now, before we smugly condemn "the rich," consider this: According to the World Bank, those who earn more than $10,000 a year are in the top 14% of the world's richest people. Those who earn $34,000 a year are in the top 1% globally. We are the rich man and there are millions of Lazaruses languishing at our gates. This story has a lot to say about economic injustice and the spiritually corrosive dangers of wealth and privilege …in addition to scaring the hell out of us.
From his place of post-mortem agony, the rich man in the story asks Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his brothers. Abraham replies "If your brothers do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone rises from the dead."
The mention of someone rising from the dead at the end of the story is not a throwaway line. The storyteller himself was a man of infinite wealth who became poor and was put to death for attending to the marginalized, proclaiming justice, and announcing God's mercy for all. He was raised from the dead and is still speaking today.
God, grant me the courage and joy of lowering my standard of living by at least 1% to lift someone else up.
Matt Laney is a United Church of Christ minister and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first book, The Spinner Prince, will be available in April, 2018.