A woman says that she and her husband were snuggled together on the floor one chilly winter evening watching television. During a commercial break, she says he reached over and gave her foot a gentle squeeze.
“Mmmmm,” she said. “That’s so sweet.”
“Actually,” he admitted sheepishly, “I thought your foot was the remote.”1
We all like to be cared for. We love caring people. We appreciate when someone cares enough to respond to our need.
A pastor tells a story: “I stopped at the local library one day to pick up a book I wanted. Afterward, as I was driving out of the parking lot, a filthy, scraggly man in ragged clothes pushing a shopping cart filled with what looked to be nothing but junk shambled across the lot exit. As I waited for him to complete his passage, the front wheels of his cart caught on a crack in the pavement and tipped over. I heard some glass shatter as the contents spilled out. This mishap occurred right in the middle of the exit, so there was no way I could get out of the lot until the man picked up his stuff and moved on. But clearly, that wasn’t going to happen quickly because he seemed to be in a kind of daze and was moving as if he didn’t quite know what to do. So I sat there in my car, drumming my fingers impatiently on the steering wheel, getting more annoyed by the second.
“Just then, however, the young woman who was in a car behind me got out and walked past my car to where the man was. In sharp contrast to him, she was nicely dressed, well groomed and appeared to be in full command of her faculties. I wasn’t close enough to tell, but I was pretty certain she smelled a whole lot better than he did, too.
“As I watched, she bent down and began helping this poor man put his items back into his cart, and she continued until everything was loaded. She then helped him get his cart past the crack in the pavement, and he resumed his shuffle down the street.
“I have to tell you that never in my life have I felt more like the Levite and the priest who passed by on the other side while the Good Samaritan, in the form of this young woman, helped the downtrodden guy at the roadside. And here’s the irony: The book I had come to the library to get was one I wanted to consult for a sermon I was working on. But in that parking lot, I saw a much better sermon played out in front of me.”2
We don’t know if that young woman was a church person, a Christian or a Catholic. But we know she has a true caring heart. I am sure she would feel joy in her heart because she cares. She cares enough to take actions to help that poor man. The pastor, on the other hand, has felt remorse and ashamed because he was not care enough. He has to say, “I am sorry! He missed the opportunity to attend to the needs of that poor man.”
The parable of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus is a great lesson that Jesus wants us to learn. He wants us to learn to be caring people. Caring people have caring heart. They care enough in order to take actions to help people in need. A caring heart will help us to avoid damnation. The rich man is condemned neither because he is rich nor because he is bad, cruel, violent or evil. He is condemned because he is lack of love for the poor hungry man lying at the door of his house. He walks by Lazarus, the poor man, every day. He, however, does not show any sign that he cares. He just ignores this poor man, Lazarus. We can say that this rich man does not have a heart for the poor. He just doesn’t care about the poor man. He does not offer any assistance.
The main message for us is to be concerned about the hungry, the sick, the poor and to respond to their needs. Jesus is very clear about this in Matthew 25:31-46 as well. At the last judgment, he will judge us according our attitude toward the poor, the hungry, and the sick. He will remember the food we give to the hungry; the drink we give to the thirsty; the clothes we give to the naked; the help we give to the homeless; and the care we give to the sick etc.
The parable does not say what the poor man did in this life in order to be in heaven except that he was poor and received what was bad. He might accept his fate without complaints. But the parable is clear about the reason for the rich man to be suffering torment in flames. The rich man is in misery. He is suffering the fire of hell. Hell is a place for the loveless, careless, hard-hearted, and cruel people. In hell, he cries out for mercy, but it is too late for him. No repentance is possible after death.
Because of his unconcerned for the poor man, the rich man has established a chasm between him and Lazarus in this life. This chasm also follows him after he dies. He had not built a relationship with the poor man on earth; he also would not have any relationship with the poor man after death. There is a great chasm between them, and it is uncrossable. Lazarus cannot help him.
Interestingly, the rich man shows some sign of care now. He begs father Abraham, “Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.”
Abraham replies, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.”
“No, father Abraham” , says the rich man, “but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.”
Abraham firmly says, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”
Jesus has risen from the dead. His message has been proclaiming for the last 2000 years. Many people still do not listen. Hell is avoidable if we take Jesus’ words to heart. Hell is avoidable if we begin to build relationships with the poor and the needy people around us. Hell is avoidable if we care for the needy people around us. We can train ourselves to become caring people. When we care, we will see the need of others. The rich man does not see the need of the poor man because he does not care. We can train our eyes to see and recognize people who are in need. Once we see their needs, we also need to take actions to respond to their needs. We must care enough to act.
Some years ago in a small village in the Midwest, a little twelve-year old girl named Terri was babysitting her little brother. Terri walked outside to check the mail. As she turned back from the mailbox, she couldn't believe her eyes. The house was on fire. So very quickly the little house was enveloped in flames.
Terri ran as fast as she could into the flaming house only to find her baby brother trapped by a burning rafter which had fallen and pinned him to the floor. Hurriedly, Terri worked to free her brother. She had trouble getting him loose as the flames were dancing around their heads. Finally, she freed him. She picked him up and quickly took him outside and revived him just as the roof of the house caved in.
By this time, firemen were on the scene and the neighbors had gathered outside the smoldering remains of the house. The neighbors had been too frightened to go inside or to do anything to help, and they were tremendously impressed with the courage of the twelve-year old girl. They congratulated her for her heroic efforts and said, "Terri, you are so very brave. Weren't you scared? What were you thinking about when you ran into the burning house?" I love Terri's answer. She said, "I wasn't thinking about anything. I just heard my little brother crying."
Let me ask you something? How long has it been? How long has it been since you heard your brother or sister crying? How long has it been since you stopped and did something about it? 3