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Lazarus is Lying at Our Gate: Our Public Calling to See Him

The following post, written by The Rev. Robert A. Franek, is a part of Politicus Policy Discussion, in which writers draw connections between real lives and public policy.

Today many Christians from several denominations across the country and around the world give attention to Luke 16.19-31. It is the appointed reading for this Sunday in the the Revised Common Lectionary, a three-year cycle of appointed readings for Sundays and festival days. In this passage we hear a story told by Jesus about a rich man, who dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted sumptuously every day, while a poor man named Lazarus lay at his gate hungry for the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table while dogs came by and licked his sores.

Is this the original trickle down economic lie? Lazarus didn’t even get the scraps from this rich man’s table. Nothing ever trickles down. The wealthy’s cup only gets bigger so nothing ever runs over. From this story of Lazarus to the past thirty-six years of economic policy we can see this to be true.

Lazarus is lying at our gate today.

Lazarus is lying at our gate in the hungry looking for food, in the ones wondering where their next meal will come from, in the child who best meal is school lunch, in the elderly who go hungry to afford their medicine. It is heartbreakingly deplorable that in a nation of such wealth so many are hungry.

Lazarus is lying at our gate in persons experiencing homelessness across the country and throughout the world. And it’s not just men. It’s families, children, who have no address to learn. Consider also the policies that prevent many from securing adequate housing or the predatory lending practices of banks that took advantage of many. More, many in Syria have been forced from their homes and now live in tent cities and look for welcome in countries throughout Europe and North America.

Lazarus is lying at our gate in all the suffering ones overlooked, passed by, oppressed, and marginalized by the power structures of society and the turning away of our own eyes, even as scraps fall from all our abundant tables.

Lazarus is lying at our gate. It is why our politics and our votes matter so much. In less than 50 days we will decide who will govern our land for the next two, four, and six years. Lazarus is lying at our gate. Will our votes take him into consideration?

Does a tax cut that will benefit us who are well off mean increased hunger for our brother Lazarus lying at our gate? How does who we elect affect not only our own welfare, but the well-being of Lazarus lying at our gate hungry and bruised?

Lazarus is lying at our gate. It is the reason I have grown to care so deeply about our public policy and who we elect to office. Who will look out for the well-being and welfare of Lazarus? This question receives far too little attention in our media and political discourse. It is up to people who care about the morality of our public policy and the common good of all people to demand that issues facing the most vulnerable of our world are given more focused attention by campaigns for every office and reported honestly by the media.

This is our calling as a people. We are called to see Lazarus lying at our own gate, at the threshold of the public and private world. Here is the meeting place of our personal care and social protection.

Lazarus is lying at our gate. Will we see him or continue to be blind to his hunger and wounds? Will the people and policies we support work for structural and systemic change to care for all these vulnerable ones, even as we find ways to tend to their immediate needs? Will we see the humanity in our suffering neighbor and offer empathy and compassion, justice and mercy? These are the moral questions of our day.

And if we are to have a chance at peace in our world and in our hearts and minds, we must share the abundance of our riches with Lazarus who is lying at our gate. In this sharing it is we who will be blessed even more as we discover how much Lazarus has to offer us and this world.

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