God has a heart of generosity. He provides for each one of us daily, devoting His love, attention and care to us twenty-four hours each day.
As Moses prepared the people to enter the new land, he emphasized the need for believers to express that same heart of generosity to those around them with need:
7 “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs…10 You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. Deuteronomy 15:7-8, 10 NKJV
The heart of God does not change. He gives rain to water crops for both the evil and the good. The book of James tells us that all good gifts come from the Father above, with no shadow or variation for those who receive them. The God of the Old and the New Testaments has a heart for the poor, and He asks those who have been given more to cheerfully share loving assistance with those who have a need. In return, God promises to bless those who give with a generous heart.
In Luke 16, Jesus tells a parable about a rich man and an extremely poor man named Lazarus. The parable is unusual in that Jesus gives us the name of the poor man. (This is a different Lazarus than the brother of Mary and Martha, whom Jesus raised from the dead.) The fact that Jesus gives us a name leads some to the speculate that this parable may be more than a teaching illustration. It may also be an historical account.
In the parable, the rich man had it made. Fines clothes, sumptuous meals every day, and presumably all the luxuries of a prosperous life. He also was focused only upon himself, for each day he passed by the poor man Lazarus who lay at his gate, hoping only for crumbs from the rich man’s table, but the rich man shared nothing with him.
Jesus went on to say that both men died. In Lazarus’s neglected condition, this was probably to be expected, but the rich man’s death may have been a shock and a surprise to his five living brothers, who apparently shared a similar lifestyle and attitude.
In death, the tables were turned. We hear about Hades, with two sections separated by a deep, insurmountable chasm. Lazarus was comforted by Abraham, of all people, and waiting for the heavenly release that would come after Christ’s death and resurrection. This is one interpretation of the verses given in Ephesians 4.
8 Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” 9 (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) Ephesians 4:8-9 NKJV
On the other side of the great gulf, but within shouting distance across the canyon, lay the rich man. Instead of a soft, comfortable life, he was in great discomfort, even anguish, with a parched mouth from hot flames. The very picture of hell. He pleaded with Abraham to send Lazarus over with even just a small “scrap” of water to cool his burning tongue.
When Abraham explained the impossibility of this, the rich man then pleaded to send someone back from the dead to warn his five brothers, living in ignorance of the coming consequences of their hard-heartedness. Surely they would change their ways if they were given this message.
31 But he (Abraham) said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ Luke 16:31 NKJV
This sobering parable tells us that there are serious consequences of living a life without caring for those who are in need around us. When we turn to Christ, He not only brings us complete salvation, but He also gives us the Holy Spirit in our heart. His Spirit works within us to turn our own hearts away from the selfish and self-centered focus that many of us had before we encountered the heart-melting love of God through Jesus Christ. Instead, our eyes are opened to see the growing kingdom of God and to begin to live by the principles of that kingdom, including a spirit of generosity to the poor.
Who is the Lazarus I encounter in my life today? God, open my eyes to help me see the ones You want me to help today. Show me what to do.