How rich are you? If you make over $44,500 a year in your household, by most global wealth calculations, you are part of the 1% most affluent in the world. ($35,000, you are among the richest 5%.) Add to that the value of our home(s), savings and state-provided benefits and it becomes apparent that by most standards we are rich. But do you feel rich? In human resources there is a concept called the “referent other”. How well you feel about your income depends on who you compare yourself to.
In our story the referent other for the nameless rich man was certainly not Lazarus. In fact, one wonders if he was even aware of Lazarus who lay suffering outside his gate. Gates, walls, fences serve their purpose but what truths do they shut out? What do they prevent us from seeing?
Beginning of the meeting
Read the reflection above. Quiet yourself. Become more aware of God’s presence. Open yourself to the Spirit’s prompting as you read or hear the following passage.
Luke 16:19-31 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Reflect on these questions for a few moments in silence and then turn to another person and discuss.
- Who is your “referent other”? Who, in this story, do you identify with? What feelings and concerns surface for you as you consider this?
- This week young people all over the world have been marching to awaken us to the climate crisis. How has our accumulation of wealth contributed to the extremely serious global situation we now find ourselves in?
Read question 3 but do not discuss at first. Instead sit quietly in prayer for at least 1 minute. Place yourself in the presence of God who calls you child.
- Climate change is a very complex, emotionally overwhelming and frightening problem. Where is your hope? What message of hope and action, if any, does God whisper in your heart? After the silence, go around the table and ask each person to offer their message of hope.
End of the meeting
Read the passage once again and ask how God’s Word has been known in your time together.