Latest Issue

CHILD OF AFRICA


What 400 Years Has Done to Our Faith

FEATURES

11 Managing Your Debt
by Ruthven Phillip /
Part four in our series of six to stabilize shaky finances.

12 Exchanging The Truth For A Lie In These Perilous Times
by Ifeoma Kwesi /
Will Womanism and ancestral rites restore the visibility and power of black women?

14 Getting to Know The Hebrew Israelites
by Keith A. Burton /
How the “problem of the color line” spawned today’s black nationalist religious practices.

18 What Good Is A White Privilege Conference?
by Gary Collins /
The truth discovered may surprise you.

20 Round Trip: Going Back to Find Your Destiny
by Anthonye Perkins /
This coming of age program seeks to reconnect urban youth with their destiny.

22 Your Personal PR Toolkit
by Douglas Morgan /
What to do when there’s mud on your name. Prepare for your comeback.

28 The Gold Standard
by Donald L. McPhaull /
Inconsistent application of the law of love finds no place in scripture.

FAVORITES

4 ELEVATION
by Phillip McGuire Wesley /
Media That Takes You Higher

5 EDITORIAL
by Carmela Monk Crawford /
legacy, privilege and the wealth gap

6 EYE ON THE TIMES
by Jackson Doggette /
Politics of Prayer • Reparations; • Religious Bias

8 OPTIMAL HEALTH
by Donna Green Goodman /
But, I’m Allergic!

10 RELATIONSHIP Rx
by Willie and Elaine Oliver /
Keeping up with them

24 FUTURECAST
by Carlton P. Byrd /
Carrying someone else’s curseion

26 THE EXPERIENCE
by Ellen G. White /
Jesus Respected and Responded to People Not in His “Circle”

27 THE EXPERIENCE BIBLE STUDY
by Rashad Burden /
Wrong Place. Wrong Time. Wrong People.

30 POWER PLAY
by Danielle Barnard /
Hagar: The Woman Who “named” God




Wrong Place. Wrong Time. Wrong People.


When I read the gospels, I see Jesus doing the opposite of what the religious of the day thought He should. Join us as we watch Jesus move in the “wrong” place and time, for the “wrong” people.

1) Read Matthew 15:1-2, Matthew 21-22

We see Jesus in two interesting predicaments. In one He’s challenged about what His disciples are doing, and in the other He’s confronted by a woman in whose company He probably should not have been seen. This is Jesus we’re talking about! Why has He allowed himself to be in a place of the appearance of evil? Is it all a misunderstanding? Have your intentions ever been misjudged? Have things ever looked different from how they really were? Tell us about it using #MessageMag

2) Read Matthew 15:23

The disciples and Jesus were Jewish. It was a cultural and traditional taboo for Jews to be seen interacting with women from Syro-Phonecia. On top of her being someone they didn’t want to be seen with, she was loud and belligerent in trying to get Jesus’ attention. The disciples had a traditional response. Jesus was going to use this situation to teach them how nontraditional faith is. Is your faith nontraditional? Tell us how it is, or is not, on social media using #MessageMag

3) Read Matthew 15:16-20

Jesus has offended the Pharisees. He did so by pointing out the vanity in their rules. The fact that they focused more on protocol than people was a gross representation of God. They cared more about whether you washed your hands, than if you took care of your parents. It seems as if the traditions of the day had drained the church people of what it means to be loving. Have you ever encountered a tradition that didn’t seem to help in loving people? Tell us about it using #MessageMag on social media.

4) Matthew 15:16-20, Ephesian 5:1-5

We see that the writers of the Bible took some time to write out some lists. Look at these lists, and notice how all of the acts that children of God are to stay away from are ones that harm other people. Is it possible that traditions go too far when they disregard the people that are to be God’s children? Take some time to evaluate the traditions to which you adhere. Do you know the difference between the Biblical directives and traditions? Pray about it. Study and ask the Spirit for guidance.

5) Read Matthew 15:24-27

Jesus says He “was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” implying He was sent for people just like this woman. He’s in a place He shouldn’t be, and with a person to whom He should not be talking. It is no coincidence that immediately after it’s recorded that Jesus has a dispute about tradition, He does something untraditional. Take some time to meditate on the actions of Jesus.

6) Read Matthew 15:28

Jesus had this woman teach the disciples what faith looks like. He also stepped out of the traditional way of doing things for the sake of a daughter of God. Traditions in and of themselves are not bad, by any means. But the moment the tradition gets in the way of loving someone, that’s when you must evaluate the root of the tradition. Have you ever been inspired to step out of the normal and do something extraordinary for God? Was it uncomfortable? Was it rewarding? Tell us your testimony. #MessageMag

7) Read Romans 8:35-39

Love is what puts tradition in check. God’s love for us made sure that nothing separated us from Him. We should make sure that nothing separates us from sharing God’s love with others. That means that we will find ourselves in non-traditional places, with a non-traditional crowd, doing non-traditional things. It is then that you will find out that some of the things you weren’t “supposed” to do, are exactly what needed to be done for the Kingdom of Heaven.

…......……………………………………………………………….

Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Mount Olive and Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Churches in Southern Alabama.


This article is part of our 2019 July / August
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Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.” But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!” Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”

“Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.”

And her daughter was instantly healed”

(Matthew 15:21-28, NLT)

How Jesus Respected and Responded to People Who Were Not in His Circle

From Ellen G. White’s The Desire of Ages, the chapter entitled “Barriers Broken Down.”*

“Jesus longed to unfold the deep mysteries of the truth which had been hid for ages, that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs with the Jews, and “partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel” Ephesians 3:6. This truth the disciples were slow to learn, and the divine Teacher gave them lesson upon lesson. In rewarding the faith of the centurion at Capernaum, and preaching the gospel to the inhabitants of Sychar, He had already given evidence that He did not share the intolerance of the Jews. But the Samaritans had some knowledge of God; and the centurion had shown kindness to Israel. Now Jesus brought the disciples in contact with a heathen, whom they regarded as having no reason above any of her people, to expect favor from Him. He would give an example of how such a one should be treated. The disciples had thought that He dispensed too freely the gifts of His grace. He would show that His love was not to be circumscribed to race or nation.

When He said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” He stated the truth, and in His work for the Canaanite woman He was fulfilling His commission. This woman was one of the lost sheep that Israel should have rescued. It was their appointed work, the work which they had neglected, that Christ was doing.

This act opened the minds of the disciples more fully to the labor that lay before them among the Gentiles. They saw a wide field of usefulness outside of Judea. They saw souls bearing sorrows unknown to those more highly favored. Among those whom they had been taught to despise were souls longing for help from the mighty Healer, hungering for the light of truth, which had been so abundantly given to the Jews.…

The spirit which built up the partition wall between Jew and Gentile is still active. Pride and prejudice have built strong walls of separation between different classes of men. Christ and His mission have been misrepresented, and multitudes feel that they are virtually shut away from the ministry of the gospel. But let them not feel that they are shut away from Christ. There are no barriers which man or Satan can erect but that faith can penetrate.”

…......……………………………………………………………………………….


This article is part of our 2019 July / August
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…......…………………………………………..

ELLEN G. WHITE (1827-1915), one of the most published authors in the world, named one of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time” by the Smithsonian Institution in 2014, was a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

_________________

*You can read The Desire of Ages in its entirety online at www.whiteestate.org/onlinebooks.





Get Out of Your Circle of Friends


“Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.” But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!” Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”

“Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.”

And her daughter was instantly healed”

(Matthew 15:21-28, NLT).

How Jesus Respected and Responded to People Who Were Not in His Circle

From Ellen G. White’s The Desire of Ages, the chapter entitled “Barriers Broken Down.”*

“Jesus longed to unfold the deep mysteries of the truth which had been hid for ages, that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs with the Jews, and “partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel” Ephesians 3:6. This truth the disciples were slow to learn, and the divine Teacher gave them lesson upon lesson. In rewarding the faith of the centurion at Capernaum, and preaching the gospel to the inhabitants of Sychar, He had already given evidence that He did not share the intolerance of the Jews. But the Samaritans had some knowledge of God; and the centurion had shown kindness to Israel. Now Jesus brought the disciples in contact with a heathen, whom they regarded as having no reason above any of her people, to expect favor from Him. He would give an example of how such a one should be treated. The disciples had thought that He dispensed too freely the gifts of His grace. He would show that His love was not to be circumscribed to race or nation.

When He said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” He stated the truth, and in His work for the Canaanite woman He was fulfilling His commission. This woman was one of the lost sheep that Israel should have rescued. It was their appointed work, the work which they had neglected, that Christ was doing.

This act opened the minds of the disciples more fully to the labor that lay before them among the Gentiles. They saw a wide field of usefulness outside of Judea. They saw souls bearing sorrows unknown to those more highly favored. Among those whom they had been taught to despise were souls longing for help from the mighty Healer, hungering for the light of truth, which had been so abundantly given to the Jews.…

The spirit which built up the partition wall between Jew and Gentile is still active. Pride and prejudice have built strong walls of separation between different classes of men. Christ and His mission have been misrepresented, and multitudes feel that they are virtually shut away from the ministry of the gospel. But let them not feel that they are shut away from Christ. There are no barriers which man or Satan can erect but that faith can penetrate.”

…......…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

ELLEN G. WHITE (1827-1915), one of the most published authors in the world, named one of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time” by the Smithsonian Institution in 2014, was a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

*You can read The Desire of Ages in its entirety online at www.whiteestate.org/onlinebooks.


This article is part of our 2019 July / August Issue
Subscribe –>

 

 

 

 

 

 

…......…………………………………………..


When I read the gospels, I see Jesus doing the opposite of what the religious of the day thought He should. Join us as we watch Jesus move in the “wrong” place and time, for the “wrong” people.

1) Read Matthew 15:1-2, 21-22

We see Jesus in two interesting predicaments. In one He’s challenged about what His disciples are doing, and in the other He’s confronted by a woman in whose company He probably should not have been seen. This is Jesus we’re talking about! Why has He allowed himself to be in a place of the appearance of evil? Is it all a misunderstanding? Have your intentions ever been misjudged? Have things ever looked different from how they really were? Tell us about it using #MessageMag

2) Read Matthew 15:23

The disciples and Jesus were Jewish. It was a cultural and traditional taboo for Jews to be seen interacting with women from Syro-Phonecia. On top of her being someone they didn’t want to be seen with, she was loud and belligerent in trying to get Jesus’ attention. The disciples had a traditional response. Jesus was going to use this situation to teach them how nontraditional faith is. Is your faith nontraditional? Tell us how it is, or is not, on social media using #MessageMag

3) Read Matthew 15:16-20

Jesus has offended the Pharisees. He did so by pointing out the vanity in their rules. The fact that they focused more on protocol than people was a gross representation of God. They cared more about whether you washed your hands, than if you took care of your parents. It seems as if the traditions of the day had drained the church people of what it means to be loving. Have you ever encountered a tradition that didn’t seem to help in loving people? Tell us about it using #MessageMag on social media.

4) Matthew 15:16-20; Ephesian 5:1-5

We see that the writers of the Bible took some time to write out some lists. Look at these lists, and notice how all of the acts that children of God are to stay away from are ones that harm other people. Is it possible that traditions go too far when they disregard the people that are to be God’s children? Take some time to evaluate the traditions to which you adhere. Do you know the difference between the Biblical directives and traditions? Pray about it. Study and ask the Spirit for guidance.

5) Read Matthew 15:24-27

Jesus says He “was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” implying He was sent for people just like this woman. He’s in a place He shouldn’t be, and with a person to whom He should not be talking. It is no coincidence that immediately after it’s recorded that Jesus has a dispute about tradition, He does something untraditional. Take some time to meditate on the actions of Jesus.

6) Read Matthew 15:28

Jesus had this woman teach the disciples what faith looks like. He also stepped out of the traditional way of doing things for the sake of a daughter of God. Traditions in and of themselves are not bad, by any means. But the moment the tradition gets in the way of loving someone, that’s when you must evaluate the root of the tradition. Have you ever been inspired to step out of the normal and do something extraordinary for God? Was it uncomfortable? Was it rewarding? Tell us your testimony. #MessageMag

7) Read Romans 8:35-39

Love is what puts tradition in check. God’s love for us made sure that nothing separated us from Him. We should make sure that nothing separates us from sharing God’s love with others. That means that we will find ourselves in non-traditional places, with a non-traditional crowd, doing non-traditional things. It is then that you will find out that some of the things you weren’t “supposed” to do, are exactly what needed to be done for the Kingdom of Heaven.

…......……………………………………………………………….

Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Mount Olive and Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Churches in Southern Alabama.


This article is part of our 2019 July / August Issue
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Carrying Someone Else’s Curse?

Exploring the Hebrew Israelite Interpretation of Deuteronomy 28

If you live in a major city such as New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, then you’ve likely brushed shoulders with a member of any number of Hebrew Israelite groups. In recent years, this religious group has demonstrated tremendous and rapid growth. In one sense, this is positive evidence of the religious freedom that we enjoy in the United States.

Today, the Hebrew Israelites are as diverse in practice and beliefs as any Christian denomination. The spectrum begins with the more mainstream, established, Church of God and Saints of Christ, to the more informal and counter-cultural group, the House of Israel.

Although there appears to be little doctrinal orthodoxy between the various groups, there are a few tenets that are consistent among all of them. Some of these distinct teachings are as follows:

  • Certain African descendants in America represent the lost tribe of Israel, God’s chosen people.
  • Caucasians are descendants of Esau and the Edomites.
  • Caucasians will be enslaved as a just reward for colonization and enslavement of black people on the day of judgment.

Blessings and Curses

One of the most significant beliefs of the Hebrew Israelites relates specifically to the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy functions as a sort of last will and testament to the children of Israel from Moses. They’re like his parting words before he dies, and the transfer of power is passed from him to Joshua. One of the key themes in the book of Deuteronomy is that of blessings and curses. This theme is manifested in several ways throughout the book (see Deuteronomy 11:26, 27:11-26, 30:1). These blessings and curses are representative of the covenant relationship that God was establishing with His chosen people.

Hebrew Israelites consider the blessings and curses (particularly the ones in chapter 28) to be directed toward them. Possessing strong references to slavery, many within the Hebrew Israelite community believe such scriptures are a prophetic foretelling of American chattel slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.

There’s Nothing New under the Sun

While the references to slavery in Deuteronomy 28 should not be taken as a direct reference to chattel slavery in the Americas, there is a deep message that we can gather from the allusion. Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Hence, it’s possible that the old adage, “history repeats itself,” stems (at least in part) from this text, which is one reason why when we read Deuteronomy 28, we see significance and meaning for our time.

Additionally, the text speaks about a kind of suffering that members of the African diaspora (especially those in America) can certainly sympathize with. The text describes a kind of disenfranchisement that almost perfectly describes the African American experience.

“You shall beget sons and daughters, but they shall not be yours; for they shall go into captivity…The alien who is among you shall rise higher and higher above you, and you shall come down lower and lower” (Deuteronomy 28:41-43 selected).

These verses are just a snapshot of the issues and concepts mentioned in the text that are especially relevant to the black experience. Yet, there are several considerations that should prompt us to look closer for the contextual meaning of the text.

Prophecy and Fulfilment

Hebrew Israelites assert that Deuteronomy 28 applies directly to certain groups of African-descended people. The challenge is, if we accept this assertion, we would be setting aside a historical record that is universally accepted as a direct application and fulfilment to the prophecy.

Especially significant to the Hebrew Israelite perspective of this chapter is the interpretation of the very last verse in the chapter:

“The Lord will send you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again. There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you” (Deuteronomy 28:68 NIV).

The intimation that the Israelites would be returned to slavery on ships is one part of this that is identified as significant and characteristic of the African American experience. Nevertheless, a few elements in this verse should cause us to question such an interpretation.

First, the reference to Egypt is significant. This would suggest that black people will ultimately be enslaved by black people. Are we to surmise that Egyptians here represent Caucasians rather than Edomites as has been previously asserted? Moreover, the closing phrase, “but no one will buy you” suggests a level of depravity and degradation worse than the initial slave experience. Hebrew Israelites, however, generally believe that vindication of black people comes at the judgment. If this is the case, what ways could a second slave experience be manifested, and when or why, given the expected vindication?

Bible scholars generally agree that this second slave experience, wherein Israelites were transported on ships, is believed to have been fulfilled during several sieges of Jerusalem by emperors like Vespasian, Titus, and Hadrian. According to John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, “this prophecy was literally and exactly fulfilled, and one which is owned by the Jews themselves” in the devastation and ultimate total humiliation of the Jews during this period.1

Real Solace in Suffering

Given the reality that the black experience in America is fraught with hardship, struggle, oppression, and degradation, the parallels of struggle between African Americans and Jews are striking. Nevertheless, this aforementioned realization also makes us aware of the pain of all people. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” Martin Luther King, Jr. famously stated. For this reason, we embrace God’s invitation that all people be welcomed into the diverse, multiracial and multiethnic family of God. And we celebrate that powerful pronouncement that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, NIV).

Humanity all over the Earth is joined with Christ in His suffering. Whether in the chattel slavery of the American South or the Jewish Holocaust of Europe, humanity can take solace in the fact that its suffering is known and felt by God. Our greatest hope is that our God in whose suffering we are joined, who experienced torture at the hands of institutions, will come again and we who were joined with Him in suffering will be joined with Him in the glory of Heaven.

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CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.

_________________

1 John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, 1746 – 1763.


This article is part of our 2019 July / August Issue
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The Gold Standard of Judgment

They may well be termed the gold standard for interpersonal relationships. A heaven-sent standard introduced by Jesus in Matthew chapter seven. “Judge not, that you be not judged” (vs 1). And, “…whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (vs. 12) (NKJV). Not surprisingly, both passages are usually embraced wholeheartedly by believers, for themselves, even as they sparingly apply either verse for the benefit of others.

Oh, but we will judge. And, we will heap mistreatment upon others once their sins become known to, or suspected by, us. Nowhere in daily living does this reality display itself quite so prominently than when believers voice rejection and condemnation of the LGBTQ community’s residents and supporters.

Double Standard

What is curious, though, is how tolerant we can be of the sinful practices of those we know and love. For example, suspected robbers and thieves in our midst don’t bother us. You know, those whose financial support of the church’s mission through tithes and offerings, we suspect, is either sparse or nonexistent. Then, we tend to accept those known to take the Lord’s name in vain. Still, more curious, is how comfortable we can be indulging bearers of false witness, dis-respecters of fathers and mother, engagers in idolatry (putting relationships, cars, money, and all the rest ahead of God). Curious, too, how cozy we can be with those who kill the faith of others through gossip and innuendo. And, interestingly, coveters, adulterers and fornicators, are often met with the silence of the lambs. Each of the aforementioned acts are counted as sin by God. Yet, when family or friends, are reported to have engaged in such conduct, our silence becomes a “get out of jail, free” card.

Of Eve and Steve

True, often we don’t have all the facts; but, even when suspicions arise, rarely do we feel the need to investigate. Except, it seems, when there is suspected LGBTQ involvement. Then, suspicion is sufficient for taking action against those we’ve determined to be involved in “the number one sin before God”: same sex relationships.

Meanwhile, supporters of gay rights maintain that God does not view same gender relationships as sinful. In his book, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, Matthew Vines offers what he deems to be a valid response to what Christians used to quip: “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”

Using Genesis 2:18, Vines admits that “in the beginning…” God created a woman for Adam. However, he says notice that when God said, “it is not good for man to be alone,” God gave Adam a suitable helpmate. Accordingly, Vines suggests, the key to understanding God’s gift to Adam is the word, “suitable.” His theory is that because Adam was a heterosexual man, the only suitable helpmate for him was a woman. The gift of a male helpmate would have been a deviation from the Divine plan to provide “suitable” helpmates. So, adds Vines, “if Adam had been a gay man, a suitable gift would have been a gay helpmate.

Sadly, there is no Biblical support for this teaching.

Two points on that thinking: 1). Human intimacy occurring outside of the sanctity of marriage is unlawful. Furthermore, at the time of the creation, there was no sin on the earth. Thus, there would have been no gay or lesbian candidates for the choosing of a helpmate. 2). Genesis chapter two is an expansion of chapter one. Therefore, it is clear that God’s admonition to Adam and Eve as found in Genesis 1:28, to be, “fruitful and multiply” would have been an impossibility, if He had placed two men or two women in the Garden.

Bible Standard

There is no ambiguity in the Bible concerning the sinfulness of same gender relationships. Genesis 19:5 reminds us that the men of Sodom sealed their own doom with the words, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.”

Attempts to reduce the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah to inhospitality or injustice is wishful thinking, not “thus says the Lord.” Leviticus 18:22 is very explicit: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” Leviticus 20:13 concurs: “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.”

God’s view of same gender relationships is consistent in the Old Testament and the New Testament. See: Romans 1:26-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Jude 6. Nonetheless, a professed Christian does not have license from heaven to mistreat or abuse anyone. All are to be loved according to God’s will.

As Christians, our obligation is to demonstrate God’s agape love to every believer, and non-believer, with whom we interact. We’ve not been called to heap condemnation on sinners. 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us of love’s patient and kind qualities. Jesus Himself gave clear instructions throughout the Bible. In Matthew 22:39, His disciples are called to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Heaven’s call for a loving spirit is so comprehensive that in Matthew 5:44 believers are admonished to “love your enemies.” If we are to love our enemies, surely, He expects us to love adherents to the LGBTQ way of life, who are not our enemies.

We are to love and be kind to everyone we meet. Each is a potential citizen of the Kingdom of Glory. Our role is to love as Jesus loves. Undeservedly. Unreservedly. For every child of the King, that’s the gold standard.

 


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Legacy, Privilege, and the Wealth Gap

Jesus told a story of a rich man who wore beautiful clothes, one who lived and ate well (Luke 16:19-31). We have no insight as to the character of this man, not until he dies and ends up in hell! (Not a doctrinal statement, but a story mechanism Jesus is using to make a point.) We find clues regarding the rich man’s character as it is in relationship to the poor man, the beggar Lazarus.

“Poor man” in the original language was an onomatopoeia—that of a spitting sound—and a clever device Jesus used to highlight how marginalized and scorned of society this man truly was. But, in this story of the great reversal of fortune, when the poor man died, he found himself in paradise. When the rich man died, however, he went straight to his torment.

An interesting feature in this story, is that while in hell, the rich man could see Lazarus enjoying himself with Abraham. And, the rich man could see and communicate with Abraham.* When he gets his chance, the rich man asks a question across the dimensions of life and death, heaven and earth and hell. Surely, this moment reveals transformative introspection, right?

“Father Abraham,” the rich man said, “have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame,” (verse 24). But, gentle great-grandad Abraham simply told him, “Oh, son, when you were alive, you had good things. Lazarus had evil, so now he gets good things. Besides, not possible. Do you see this great gulf fixed between us?”

With this story, Jesus sticks a pin right in the sensitive spot of human want and desire. This is a story about meaning and legacy: whether what you did in your lifetime mattered, or whether you will one day wake up to find out your choices, your priorities, your beliefs and practices were all wrong. It would be too late to find that you were tied to the good things of this world, the things that satisfied in the here and now (1 John 2:16); that your biggest concern was how you could create more wealth, more security, more happiness for yourself (Luke 12:20); that you couldn’t see your way past the pressing details of life to capture that which is truly meaningful; that, as you played your role, you played the script, the one written for you by people, not by God (Luke 10:40-42).

They believed their claim to Father Abraham made them the chosen ones.

Then, this is a story about distance. Now is a good time to look into that chasm between these two characters, the “great gulf fixed.” The rich man created that black hole through his benign and daily neglect of the man lying at his gate. That man, his needs, and his helplessness might as well have been lightyears away because the few feet to get to him were just too far. The demand on his time and the social capital lost in bridging this gap was too much. Now, the gap between where he was and where he wanted proved insurmountable. Talk about a wealth gap.

Finally, this story is about privilege. We see the rich man appealing to his privileged lineage—Father Abraham, not Father God. Jesus threw that into the story because to His Jewish hearers, privilege came through Abraham. They believed their claim to Father Abraham made them the chosen ones.

“Send Lazarus who was made to be used, appropriated and controlled by me. Send him from his place in paradise, to me, so he can serve me.” Privilege sure does die hard, does it not?

“The sin of Dives [what tradition has named the rich man] was that he felt that the gulf which existed between him and Lazarus was a proper condition of life,” Martin Luther King, Jr. posited during a 1955 sermon in Montgomery. “Dives felt that this was the way things were to be. He took the “isness” of circumstantial accidents and transformed them into the “oughtness” of a universal structure. He adjusted himself to the patent inequalities of circumstance.”

King’s exposition applied the rich man’s dilemma to the segregationists, the capitalists, and the classists of his time. But, does it stretch the parabolic purpose for us to question the priorities of the religious and privileged today? Who set our priorities for care and concern, international policy, and justice? Through what—or whose—lens do we define these “hills to die on?” How can we claim the need for prayer in schools for children, all while withholding soap and toothpaste from children detained on our borders? How will decades of strategizing to protect the unborn factor on the balance sheet against the lives lost to police shootings, or drive bys, or wrongful convictions and incarcerations? Will we really garner the favor of God by seeking to support one prophetic pro-Israel interpretation, while neglecting the obvious humanitarian needs of, say, Rohingya Muslims in forced migration?

Can we question our priorities now? Can we check our practices now? I just don’t want to wake up wrong.

*(Again, an artistic device Jesus used to make His point. Compare: Ecclesiastes 9:5; Psalms 6:5; 88:10; 115;17 and 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17.)


This article is part of our 2019 July / August Issue
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