I have a saying at my house (which I use mainly on myself!). It’s: “There is never an excuse for sin.” There are rationalizations, justifications, and explanations, but there is never an excuse (that excuses us) for sin.
The rich man (traditionally named “Dives,” which means “rich”) in Jesus’ parable from Luke 16:19-31 reminds us of 2 very common excuses, ones involving time and knowledge. Though the rich man doesn’t actually talk about time, the thrust of the parable is about our use of time. While we have time, we are to seek God and His kingdom. Every day the rich man saw Lazarus begging and in need, and every day he ignored that need, which was in reality God’s call on His life. Yesterday’s lesson reminded us that we are but stewards of all that God has given us, including the call to use our money for God’s purposes, including almsgiving. But the rich man ignored God’s call on his life day by day.
He may simply have been so hard-hearted and selfish that he never even considered giving Lazarus something. But he may well have considered Lazarus’ need, that is God’s call, and simply deferred it. “I’ll get around to that some other time. I can’t be bothered with that right now.”
In the end, of course, the rich man ran out of time, and there were no more chances to turn to God by serving Lazarus.
We, too, make time an excuse. “I’ll get around to that when I’m less busy.” “I know it’s important, but I just don’t feel like it right now. I just came home from work, I’ve got the evening planned. Yada yada yada.”
The second excuse, implied by the rich man’s request that Abraham send Lazarus to warn his brothers of what is to come, is the excuse of ignorance. “If only I’d known.” “If only you had sent someone to make it clear.” Abraham’s response is that the rich man’s brothers already have Moses and the prophets – and this is enough to teach them about God and His will. They are without excuse. In fact, even if one rose from the dead, that is, if there were a Resurrection, they would not believe because the problem is not one of the head (ignorance) but one of the heart or will (obedience).
Sometimes we secretly make the same excuse. “If only God made it 100% clear what He wants. If only He would reveal Himself so clearly to me that I had no choice but to wake up and take notice.”
The answer is that God has already told you all you need to know. Not many of us are really ignorant of what God wants, but we have become hard of hearing and weak in sight. We could have someone hold our hand and give us a personal Bible lesson for three hours every day, and that wouldn’t solve the problem. We already know what God is asking of us: the problem is we don’t want to do it.And for this willful refusal to do what we know God wants us to, there is no excuse.
Every night at bed time is a wake up call for me. Every night, when the kids are in bed and my work is done, and there is nothing left in the world but myself and the possibility of sleep, the small still voice of the Holy Spirit reminds me of the things that day that I’ve done that I shouldn’t have and the things I’ve left undone that I should have done.
I think we all have many such moments. In fact, I think they occur all throughout the day, only we can’t hear or see them because we have suppressed them for so long and they have shrunk to microscopic and microsonic magnitude.
Like the rich man God has told us all we need to know. More time will not solve the problem, and neither will more knowledge. What we need is to see Lazarus in our life, to hear what God has already told us He desires for us to do, and to go and feed Lazarus while there is still time.
The Lazarus in your life may or not be someone who is poor in material things. Giving alms is certainly a holy obligation. But the Lazarus in your life may be someone poor in spirit as well, and it might be someone very close to you that God is asking you to serve more faithfully in love. Whoever he or she is, there is a Lazarus right outside your door, calling to you with the voice of God, and saying: “Serve me now, for the time is short and God has given you all you need to know.”
Prayer: Father, forgive me for the times each day when I have ignored your voice and delayed my obedience. I ask for your grace to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and act in accordance with Your holy will as soon as I am reminded of that will. Especially, help me to see the Lazarus in my life that you want me to serve.
Points for Meditation:
- Who are the Lazaruses in my life God is asking me to minister to?
- In what today is God calling me to greater obedience?
- Have I been ignoring any of God’s reminders to me recently?
Resolution: I resolve to act, even in a small way, to minister to one Lazarus in my life today (or later this week if not possible today.)
Lazarus and Dives – U.S. Public Domain