Luke 16:19-31 (CEV)
19 There was once a rich man who wore expensive clothes and every day ate the best food. 20 But a poor beggar named Lazarus was brought to the gate of the rich man’s house. 21 He was happy just to eat the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. His body was covered with sores, and dogs kept coming up to lick them. 22 The poor man died, and angels took him to the place of honor next to Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried. 23 He went to hell and was suffering terribly. When he looked up and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side, 24 he said to Abraham, “Have pity on me! Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water and touch my tongue. I’m suffering terribly in this fire.”
25 Abraham answered, “My friend, remember that while you lived, you had everything good, and Lazarus had everything bad. Now he is happy, and you are in pain. 26 And besides, there is a deep ditch between us, and no one from either side can cross over.”
27 But the rich man said, “Abraham, then please send Lazarus to my father’s home. 28 Let him warn my five brothers, so they won’t come to this horrible place.”
29 Abraham answered, “Your brothers can read what Moses and the prophets wrote. They should pay attention to that.”
30 Then the rich man said, “No, that’s not enough! If only someone from the dead would go to them, they would listen and turn to God.”
31 So Abraham said, “If they won’t pay attention to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even to someone who comes back from the dead.”
Last week, just as I sat down to puzzle over this study, a message popped up in our Vox Ladies’ group on Facebook. Someone had a friend – a single mom – who had just lost a battle with the landlord and tenant tribunal and was homeless and without any of her furniture or household items.
The call went out to the group, and as usual, I was thrilled with how quickly people jumped in and responded.
Then, when I went to the grocery store I had an older gentleman pull up beside me as I was loading the groceries in and offered to help me get my chair back into the car. I was so tired and still had a lot left to do and I was so grateful!
And I was so interested by this idea of people paying attention that I posted about it on Facebook – I asked people to tell me their best experience of having someone pay attention to them. And I got all sorts of awesome answers, like people bringing them meals when someone they’d been hurt or a loved one had died, or when they’d had a baby. People spending time listening to their hurts and their fears. People folding their laundry or doing their dishes because they came to visit and there was laundry on the couch and dishes in the sink. People having help while flying with little babies. People having friends show up and sit with them to wait before hard doctor’s appointments or scary procedures. People simply being present and going through the hard things alongside of them.
This is what paying attention looks like.
This is ‘seeing’ the other person – acknowledging that they are a person, regardless of whatever’s going on in their life right now – empathizing with the pain of loss and the brokenness of our system and choosing to step into that brokenness to fill it up and make it even a little bit more whole.
But this is not what is happening in the story Jesus is telling today.
In Jesus’ story, the rich man completely ignores the beggar at his doorstep. I can see him stepping over the sleeping man, muttering imprecations under his breath and maybe even landing a stout kick or two to the guy from time to time when he got too annoyed.
The rich man had every opportunity in the world to pay attention – in fact, I think he must have had to jump through some pretty significant mental hoops to miss what was going on in front of him.
And Jesus seems to think that this should be enough.
We don’t need to wait to be struck by lightning or have angels or dead people show up to tell us that we should care for one another.
We should just care for one another … because it’s the obvious, right, thing to do. Because we’re paying attention to them, and they’re right in front of us!
And from the sounds of it, lots of folks around here have been doing exactly that.Journal Questions:
- What does it look like to ‘pay attention’ to the people in your world?
- Which people are easy for you to ‘pay attention’ to?
- Which ones are harder?
- Which story of people ‘paying attention’ caught your attention this morning?
- Sometimes it can be hard to know whether the attention we’re paying is making a difference to those around us. And sometimes it’s hard to remember that others are paying attention to us. Take some time today to write down some people you are grateful to for paying attention to you. If you’re able, send them a quick note and thank them for the impact of their attention – it might just be the encouragement they need to get out there and pay attention again.