Harvest...No-one f ~ ing cares

I know of a clergyman who once got into the pulpit to preach, and opened with the words,

“35,000 people will die of starvation today and no-one f ~ ing cares!” (swear word)

He used the ‘f’ word in God’s holy place and his congregation were appalled. Some walked out, never to return, and others made it their intention to deal with him after the service and make their complaints known.

They were incensed by that one word he’d used......... but had completely missed the point.... which the priest made later to them when they complained, which was:-

‘Which did you find more shocking -

one little swear word ?

or the fact that 35,000 people would die in one day?

While we, in the west, concern ourselves with fashionable diets, ‘anorexia, bulimia’ worries and gastric bands, 15 million children die every year because they are malnourished.

While the advertising industry spends millions each year thinking up nifty captions, persuading us to consume their special brands of fizzy pops and alcoholic drinks,

1.4 billion people do not have access to clean water?’

If the money spent by the world on arms were redirected, Third World poverty could be eliminated in one fell swoop.

Why is it that facts like this don’t really seem to shock us?

And why is it that our newspapers carry so little about the plight of the needy, and print vast columns about scandal, sleaze, deceit and lies?

Better out of sight, out of mind perhaps?

Why is it that we so often yearn for the quick win, the lottery jackpot, the game shows that will make us millionaires overnight?

Yet we do not yearn for justice and a fairer sharing of the world’s resources?

Why is the word ‘Reality’ used to describe television shows, which attract millions of followers like moths to a flame, but which are so manufactured, and so false?

Could you imagine a similar TV show following the misfortunes of one particular African family over a period of twelve weeks, cameras whirring 24/7, as the family struggle to find food and water, and try to cope as a mother dies of AIDS. Now that would be more like reality.

Why is it that the wealthy countries like ours don’t seem to care enough about the hardships faced by many thousands in the world who wake up each day to famine, disease, and homelessness, and yet we are so fascinated by the lives of the rich and famous, their clothes, their haunts, their habits and their homes?

We find such a home today in the gospel of Luke.

Like that well known T.V. connoisseur of grandiose homes, Lloyd Grossman, so too Luke takes us inside the home of a wealthy man to weigh up the tell tale signs and clues denoting which celebrity it is that lives there.

The camera crew approach the ornate outer gate of his marble mansion, but they first have to sweep to one side the refuse in the street, which happens to include a dying man, sprawled out there, destitute and abandoned.

They don’t interview him or photograph him.

He is not what their viewers want to see, but they chase away the scrawny dogs which are sniffing at him, and licking his wounds

And yet off they go! After all the cameramen have a job to do.

Inside they go to capture the splendour of the house, for this is what people really want to see.

The interior decor is superb, and each room furnished in the very best of taste.

As we enter the dining hall we see a truly magnificent feast set out; no evidence of any take-away foil dishes here.

Draped over a chair we see the rich man’s garments, first of all the purple, a colour associated with high rank and great wealth.... a sign of great importance.

Purple..... so very expensive and so difficult to produce.

(Did you know that an Austrian chemist in the early 1900’s demonstrated that it took some 12,000 murex shells from the ocean, to produce just one and a half grams of dye?The Roman writer Pliny tells us that many divers of the day would have sacrificed their own lives, offering their bodies as bait to sea monsters, in order to collect the shells... )

Slave labour for high fashion. Why be shocked, similar things still happen today?

And then there is the linen.. not ordinary home made linen, but fine linen, woven from the flax plant, not the rough material that the common people wear. No, this cloth required a high degree of skill.

From the time of Solomon there existed a guild of textile workers who made such a fabric at a very high cost. Designer labels no less.

We leave the dwelling of this rich man not knowing his name, but we are obviously very impressed with his very high standard of living.

But is God?

Verse 15, also in Chapter 16, tells us that what is prized and valued by humans is an abomination to God.

We need to re-examine our values in our world today!

The story goes on to tell us that both the rich man and Lazarus die and the tables are turned, for the poor man is taken into the bosom of Abraham himself.

The rich man goes to Hell and finds himself in torment; not because he is rich.............. but because of his neglect of his fellow man.

In his life he was extravagant and possessed great riches, but he used them for himself alone. His sense of values were all wrong.

He INDULGED himself when others were starving.

Lazarus was out of sight and out of mind to him! He failed to recognise his needs.

There are three options before us as Christians.

The first is to become poor, the second is to is to stay rich, and let’s face it compared with the standard of living in the Third world we are indeed rich.

The third option is to be far more generous, live more simply and be content with what we have.

Let us look at the first option....

to become poor...

Jesus was born in a stable, he had nowhere to lay his head when he started out on his three year missionary journey.He taught from a borrowed boat, rode on a borrowed donkey, spent his last night in a borrowed room and was buried in a borrowed tomb.

His poverty was beyond question, but he was provided for by others.

Does Jesus expect us to do the same, and become poor? Some still do today, and take up a vow of poverty.

The disciples gave up everything, the rich young ruler was challenged to do the same. The early church shared a common purse, and there were no needy people among them. But this giving was not compulsory or demanded of them.

Ananias and Sapphira were struck down, (read Acts ch 5), not for withholding their wealth but for lying to God and trying to deceive him. But not all gave up everything.

We read of Joseph of Arithmathea who was a rich man, and in a position to offer Jesus a tomb...... of Martha and Mary who gave shelter and food to Jesus......of Zaccheus a wealthy tax collector who paid back people he had cheated four times over and gave half his possessions to the poor. Presumably he kept the other half.

Jesus did not challenge us to become poor, but to renounce covetousness, greed, materialism and luxury, and to care SACRIFICIALLY for the poor.

The second option for us is to stay rich, which if we are not careful can lead to pride and arrogance. Wealth can make people feel superior, self-important and contemptuous of others. They can sound rude and off hand in their dealings with other people.

The rich can be tempted to boast of their homes, their cars, their possessions and their new gadgets.

It is easy for them to become snobs, to emphasize their social class and look down on others who don’t match up to them.

It is easy for the rich to get caught up in materialism, which is not merely possessing and acquiring material things , but it is an unhealthy obsession with them.

Just last week we were asked the question in one paper, as to whether these new shopping complexes, like the one opened recently in Manchester,(or was it Birmingham) were our new gods!

Trusting in wealth is not worthy of us as Christians, since our trust and our security ought to be in God. The wealthy so often forget their need of God. We must never forget the Giver of all the good gifts we receive.

The third option for us is to be generous and contented, and to live more simply.

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he reminds him and all Christians that ‘we brought nothing into this world and we will take nothing out. A sobering thought!

He also has advice for those who are rich in this world’s goods...... to be rich in good deeds, to be content with what they have, and not desire more and more.

He advocates and demonstrates a simple life style... with the poor not out of sight and out of mind,

but in our sights and in our minds.

There is a saying that we must live more simply so that the poor may simply live.

Which option will we go for?

What are our values today?

What do we prize most highly in life?