Weekly Bible Reflection
Luke: Signs of the Kingdom
Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
Text: Luke 16.19-end: "Walled-in"
Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Sometime before beginning this Bible Study, it is suggested that the members of the group might take a circular walk around the local neighbourhood of about 10-15 minutes. Walk alone and in silence, observing the local scene. Ideally, each take a different route or make the circuit in opposite directions.
When you meet together, sit in silence for about 5 minutes and reflect on what you have seen. Then share what you have noticed, particularly anything that surprised you or that you haven’t noticed before.
A Window on the Text
The rich man is likely to have lived in a house surrounded by a wall, in an elite area. His extended family would live within the same perimeter. The reference to purple robes (v19) implies very great wealth. The beggar lay outside his gate (v20) during the daytime. With other beggars, he would have been put outside the city wall at dusk before the gates were locked for the night.
Although his life was separated by wealth and walls, Lazarus was known to the rich man by name (v24). No doubt his condition was also known, but accepted as ‘the way things are’ because, even from Hell, the rich man thinks he can call on Abraham (v24) as ‘father’ to send Lazarus as a ‘servant’ with water, just as he would have called a slave while still alive.
Abraham tells him this is impossible because of an impassibly deep abyss separating heaven and hell (v26). The rich man’s response reveals that he has learned nothing from his punishment; the welfare of his family within the home compound continues to be his priority and he shows no sign of remorse for his treatment of Lazarus. It is as if the rich man does not even see ‘the poor’, so walled-in is his life by wealth and lifestyle.
Responding as a community
- Where did you see the walls, real or imaginary, within your community as you walked around it? Who is inside, and who is outside?
- How do you feel about this? Has your perspective been changed?
- What might you do in response to the changed view?
- Ideally, have a street map of the locality available for this worship and place it in the centre of the group, with a red felt pen and some tea lights available.
- Sit in silence for a few moments and reflect on your walk and the discussion.
- Then take the pen and mark the map to show the ‘walls’ which you have discerned that separate rich from poor. Place candles on the map to represent the poor and pray for your attitudes to them. Do the same for the wealthy areas.
- Note where you live, and which community you belong to. Pray for your own response.
- End by saying the Lord’s Prayer and the Grace.
- Ann Morisy, in her book Beyond the Good Samaritan, and in lectures, refers to the attitudes of the rich man as “the Arrogance of Affluence”:
‘Affluence, even modest affluence, can have a very subtle effect on our communities. It can make us less inclined to be part of a community, simply because we can rely on buying our way out of trouble rather than having to contribute to the subtle pattern of obligation which is essential to community life.’ (P18)
- A recent book, Affluenza, by journalist Oliver James highlights an epidemic throughout the English-speaking world today of what he calls the ‘Affluenza Virus’–
‘the placing of a high value on money, possessions, appearances (physical and social) and fame … people who hold such values are at a greater risk of being emotionally distressed – depressed, anxious, substance-abusing and personality disordered.’
The author concludes that the world needs to recreate societies based on what he calls Unselfish Capitalism: ‘Meet your needs, not your wants; Be, don’t Have; cooperate as well as compete’. Hardly original, we would think, but he sold a lot of copies of his book! One wonders if he has ever heard of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or books like John V Taylor’s Enough is Enough, published in 1975.