Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Rich, The Poor, and a Chasm

Years ago when I was in the Army, I was stationed in El Paso, Texas. El Paso is a border town; it and Juarez, Mexico are more or less one contiguous urban area, for quite a distance along both sides of the Rio Grande river.

One Saturday morning, I got up early and hiked from Fort Bliss all the way down to the border. Standing on the American side, I looked through someone's side yard, over their swimming pool, and on the opposite slope, from the Rio Grand all the way to the top, there was arrayed heartbreaking poverty: kids running around without shoes, shacks made of cinder block and tar paper, sewage running in open culverts.

All this within clear sight of the back windows of the opulence of American suburbia.

"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell,[a] where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'

"But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'

"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'

"Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'

" 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'

"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "

Luke 16:19-31

What I saw that day has shaped the way I view the world ever since. It made me question why peoples’ lives could be so different, based on the fact that there’s a notional thing, really just an idea, called a "border" that separates poverty from opulence.

I wonder if the rich man in the parable didn’t make the "chasm" himself – the one separating him from Lazarus.

No comments:

Post a Comment