Concern for the Poor (Luke 6:17-26; 16:19-31)
The well-being of the rich is not Jesus’ only concern with regard to wealth. He also cares about the well-being of the poor. “Sell your possessions,” he says “and give alms [to the poor]. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys” (Luke 12:33). If the hoarding of wealth is harming the rich, how much more is it harming the poor?
God’s persistent concern for the poor and powerless is inherent in the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56) and the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:17-26), and indeed throughout Luke’s Gospel. But Jesus brings it to a point in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31). This rich man dresses in grand clothes and lives in luxury, while he does nothing to help relieve Lazarus, who is dying of hunger and disease. Lazarus dies, but so, of course, does the rich man, which reminds us that wealth has no great power after all. The angels carry Lazarus to heaven, apparently for no reason other than his poverty (Luke 16:22), unless perhaps for a love of God that was never displaced by wealth. The rich man goes to Hades (or “hell” as the NIV translates it), apparently for no reason other than his wealth (Luke 16:23), unless perhaps for a love of wealth that drove out any room for God or other people. The implication is strong that the rich man’s duty was to care for Lazarus’ needs when he was able (Luke 16:25). Perhaps by so doing, he could have found room again in himself for a right relationship with God and avoided his miserable end. Further, like many of the rich, he cared for his family, wanting to warn them of the judgment to come, but his care for God’s wider family as revealed in the law and prophets was sadly lacking, and not even one returning from the dead could remedy that.