In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16.19-31) the un-named rich man was in the torment of Hell because he refused to serve the sick and poor man named Lazarus. Many times we think that it is the poor that benefit from our charity, but according to the Gospel, this is not the case. When we feed the hungry, their stomach might be filled, but it is our soul that fills with the love of God and enjoys unity with Him. As an alternative, when we refuse to help the poor, while their stomach might remain empty, their soul is filled with the comfort and love of God. It is our soul that remains empty of God’s compassion.
When we serve others, we are expressing our love for God and our soul is rewarded with comfort and welcomed by God. If that is the case, we could also say that serving the poor is actually ministering to OUR soul and is therefore “just as” if not more important than every other parish ministry. Each ministry our Church offers, from HOPE/JOY/GOYA to Sunday School & Greek School; from Parish Council & Philoptochos to Church dinners at which WE eat & serving the poor at which the POOR eat; each of these ministries has the same effect. Our soul grows closer to Jesus Christ, our Lord God and Savior.
The next time you are presented with the opportunity to serve the poor, remember you are preparing your future. Will you serve the poor and experience the comfort and welcome of God, or will you serve yourself and experience torment and loneliness in Heaven? Just don’t forget this one urgent point....the “great chasm” that rests between comfort and torment is created by the choices you make today.
In our modern society, many poor are served through government agencies. This was not the same in the ancient times. It was the Church, in many ways thanks to St Basil the Great, that served the poor. We seem to have forgotten this part of our history. We have allowed the government to care for the poor, much like the Rich Man in today’s Gospel let someone else take care of Lazarus. That didn’t end well for the Rich Man.
St John Chrysostom said, “The rich exist for the sake of the poor. The poor exist for the salvation of the rich.” If the current financial crisis proves anything, it proves that focusing on wealth brings increased anxiety. It is only when we focus on serving others, that our soul is at peace.