"Do a little bit of good wherever you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." ~ Archbishop Desmond TutuI love that quote because it reminds me that we all have apart to play. We each have a little bit of good to do in this world and together those little bits add up to help change the world. But we live in a society that struggles with our individuality and the common good. We have a hard time seeing the need next door, in the next city or around the world, even as we are more and more connected in this media driven age.
Yesterday, we had a world awareness dinner with our youth group and the youth were divided into the first world, the second world and the third world. You can just imagine the meal. The first world sat at a nice table with candles and tablecloth, nice cutlery and good china and a comfortable chair. The Second World had its own table – no candlesticks or tablecloth, plastic cutlery and paper plates and cups. They had some food but not everything of the first world. The Third World has its own table. It is practically bare. There is only one plate but each person has a small cup and plastic fork. There are no chairs. They had rice and water.
The one who lived in the first world was invited to eat as much as they wanted, others were not given any more food. As one youth said afterwards, it reminded them to be thankful for what they had and not take it for granted. With statistics like these…
1 in 6 people in this world do not have enough food live a healthy lifeIt reminds us, just as our youth learned yesterday, that if we look around at this world, we are all in fact rich. To see what this means on a global scale, you can go to http://www.globalrichlist.com/ and plug in your income and see where it falls on a global scale. How rich are you the site asks?
1 in 8 do not have access to clean water
I did just that, and I’m in the top 1.72% richest people in the world! The site goes on to say that we all have a choice to make with our money… $8 could buy you 15 organic apples OR 25 fruit trees for farmers in Honduras to grow and sell fruit at their local market. $30 could buy the last season of ER on a DVD Boxset OR a First Aid kit for a village in Haiti. It would seem we all have choices in how we use our riches, even if we don’t feel particularly rich.
But if we look, we will see someone sitting by our gates, waiting for our compassion, our love, our hope. In the parable, the rich man ignores Lazarus who is at his gate, and only after their fortunes are reversed at their deaths, does the rich man see Lazarus. But he wants Lazarus to serve him some water and later to seek out his brothers. He still does not see him as anything more than a servant…
But it is Abraham, the patriarch of the faith that says to him that his brothers should listen to Moses and the prophets, for if they won’t listen to them, they will never listen to someone risen from the dead. Which reminds us that whether we are the rich man or his brothers and sisters, we have Moses & the prophets and Jesus who was raised from the dead, reminding us of our calling to care for one another. The rich man was blinded because of all his wealth, he did not or would not see the poor man Lazarus who was at his gate. St. Paul warns us about such riches in our lives.
"We brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains."Can we be content with what we have? Can we share with others? The pursuit of wealth and riches can lead us to wander away from the truth. And “the truth of this parable” as a fellow Episcopal priest put it,
“is that the rich man needs Lazarus as much as Lazarus needs the rich man. The independence that riches seem to bring is only an illusion. The rich man thinks he can afford not to see Lazarus lying outside his gate. The rich man lives under the illusion that we are islands, contrary to John Donne’s wisdom, entire of ourselves. The rich man lives with the illusion that we are intrinsically separate beings, our own possessions, and that to be responsible only for ourselves is enough.” (the Rev. Dr. Amy Richter)But we know that our lives and dependent upon one another and on God. As St. Paul says,
“As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”Life is lived with our hope set on our God who has so richly loved us. Things will happen in our lives, and the riches we have one day, may be gone the next, but God will not be gone the next and our eyes need to be open to seeing our God at work in the world about us, & at work in our own lives, to use what we have for the sake of the world. We must not be blinded by our own stuff, too worried about what we might lose, for it is then we will sacrifice others, God, even ourselves before we lose those things in our lives.
As Jesus said, "you cannot serve God and wealth;" and the life of the rich man is the perfect example to us. We are blessed in so many ways, but our truest blessings are from our interactions with one another. We must look and see the Lazarus at our gate, for by doing the little bit of good to them, we can change our lives and our world. For as St. Paul puts it,
“We are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for ourselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that we may take hold of the life that really is life.”Amen.