by the Rev David Clarke
Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire founder of ‘Facebook’ and his wife Priscilla Chan, have announced that over the next 10 years they will be giving $3billion to medical research, in order to ‘cure, prevent or manage all diseases, in their children’s lifetime’. Whether that amount is sufficient to attain those honourable ends is debatable, but the intention is praiseworthy.
Zuckerberg’s budget is nothing compared to the budget of the Bill Gates Foundation , to which the technology entrepreneur is believed to have contributed £30 billion to enhance healthcare, reduce extreme poverty and extend educational opportunities.
These philanthropists may not have read the parable of Jesus about the rich man and Lazarus,(Luke 16; 19-31), but they certainly have acted in line with its message.
The parable is not primarily a guide to the afterworld; rather it is a message about humanity and compassion. It tells us that the place and time of opportunity to help the poor is now.
There are two characters involved. One is a rich man ‘baptised with luxury’, while the other is Lazarus, a beggar, lying at the rich man’s gate.
The beggar is tantalised by the sight of the guests at the banquet table throwing to the ground the bread on which they had wiped their hands; and he is tormented by the feral dogs who licked his sores(vs 21).
What an opportunity the rich man had to befriend this poor creature at his gate; but it was not taken, and soon it was too late! When in turn they both died, their situations are reversed, and the rich man pathetically pleads for relief, and asks that his brothers might be warned to escape such suffering.
The parable is a sad indictment of those who use their wealth selfishly. ‘Money ‘,someone said, ‘is like manure. In a big heap , it stinks. It is only useful when it is spread around’
The great John Wesley has a saying ‘Make all you can, and save all you can’. And he added, ‘Give all you can.’ What are we doing to help the Lazaruses of this world; the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the immigrant?