Sunday, July 31, 2011

What Do You See?

Brian Cavanaugh told the story of a wise old archer that was training two young warriors. Across the meadow was a small target hanging from a tree. The first warrior took an arrow from his quiver, readied it in his bow, and took aim. The teacher asked him to describe everything he saw. He answered, “I see the sky. I see the clouds. I see the trees with their leaves and branches. And I see the target.” “Put your bow down,” said the teacher. “You are not ready yet.”

The second warrior stepped up and readied his bow with an arrow. The teacher told him to describe everything he saw. “I only see the target,” was his reply. “Then shoot,” said the teacher. The arrow flew straight and hit the target. “Very good,” said the teacher. “When you only see the target, your aim will be true, and your arrow will fly according to your wish.”

When you are traveling through the streets of your city or community, what do you see? Do you see alcoholics? Do you see drug addicts? Do you see prostitutes or gang members? Do you see beggars or undesirables? If that is what you see, you are not ready for the work that Jesus commissioned us to do. You will know when you are ready, because when you look around, all you will see are souls.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Rich Man And Lazarus

In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus told the story of two men. One of them is a rich man, usually called Dives, which is Latin, for rich. The other man is a beggar named Lazarus.

There are different views on the historicity and origin of the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Most theologians believe that this is not a parable that Jesus is telling, but it is a historical account. Supporters of this view point to the amount of detail that is in the story. For example, in no other parable does Jesus use a character’s name, but refers to them as, “a certain man”, “a sower”, etc.

Let us compare the lifestyles of these two individuals. First of all, the Bible says that Dives dressed in purple and fine linen. Wearing purple was associated with kingship. He lived in luxury, enjoying himself by eating sumptuously, meaning he dined on exotic and costly dishes everyday. In most Bible stories, when they mention a gate, they are usually talking about the gate to a city. But Dives was rich enough to have a gate to his house.

This brings us to the second character in the story, Lazarus, because that was where he was laid each day, at the rich man’s gate. The Bible says that Lazarus was happy, just to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table, literary meaning, what he threw away. In Biblical days, there were no napkins or paper towels. Therefore, the rich would use pieces of bread to wipe their hands and fingers, and toss them out of windows along with bones and scraps of food for the dogs. When the parable speaks of dogs, we should not imagine well-groomed, affectionate pedigree dogs. These were semi-wild dogs that roamed the villages and towns eating rubbish and fending for themselves.

Before the age of the welfare state, the diseased and disabled of society were considered to be a burden on others. They were often left sitting or lying at the roadside and in public places asking for charity from passers-by. The description of the dogs licking Lazarus’ sores suggests that he may have been severely disabled, therefore, was unable to protect himself.

Now the story takes a dramatic turn. The Bible says that Lazarus died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died but “in hell he lifted up his eyes”(v23a). I used to wonder why Dives went to hell. Just what had he done that was so terrible? After all, he had not ordered Lazarus to be removed from his gate. He made no objections to his receiving the bread that was flung from his table. And he was never deliberately cruel to Lazarus. So why did Dives go to hell?

The sin of Dives was he accepted him as part of the landscape and thought it was perfectly natural and inevitable that Lazarus should lie in pain and hunger while he wallowed in luxury. So it was not what Dives did that landed him in hell, but what he did not do. The sin of Dives was that he could look on the world’s suffering and need, and feel no grief or pity in his heart. He looked at a fellow human being, hungry and in pain, and did nothing about it. His was the punishment of the man who did nothing.

This parable illustrates a theme that is common to several of Jesus’ parables. The treatment of the least of society is the true measure of piety. We cannot be indifferent to the needs of the poor. External virtue and legal satisfaction cannot compensate for this neglect. Jesus taught repeatedly that the Kingdom of God is within the soul, not in the law.
The parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus makes an important point. It is a warning to the rich and the rest of society about the danger of neglecting the poor.

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Stay In Your Lane

I love watching judge shows on television. Some of my favorites are: Judge Mathis, Judge Judy and Judge Alex. But the show that I like the best is Judge Karen. One of her most popular sayings is, “Stay in your lane.” Sometimes, one of the litigants will get overzealous while presenting his or her case and try to do the judge’s job. When that happens, Judge Karen says, “Stay in your lane. I know what I’m doing.” Judge Karen has a book with the same title, “Stay in your lane.”

Many of us have been guilty of trying to do someone else’s job. It not only happens in the secular world, it happens in many of our churches as well. We try to tell the pastor how to lead his flock. We want to tell the deacons how to minister to the congregation. We attempt to tell the minister of music which songs the choir should sing. We even have the audacity to try to tell God how to get us out of the mess that we have gotten ourselves into.

Our problem is, we want to be in charge of everything. We think we have all of the answers. We don’t want to relinquish control of our lives to anyone. Not even to God. When things don’t go the way we would like, we want to question God. I have seen people blame God for everything from the loss of a loved one, to the loss of a job.

God loves us and He knows what is best for us. We all go through difficult situations sometimes. But we cannot blame God every time things don’t go our way. I must admit, there were times when I was guilty of doing this.

The next time you want to tell God how to do His job, I suggest you read what God said in Job 38:4. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” In other words, “Stay in your lane.”

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