Opening Our Eyes to Human Suffering

This aspect of Jesus’s ministry is illustrated in a story of a rich man in 12:16 ‐ 21. On the surface, he has a successful harvest and does the prudent thing and builds a larger barn to hold all he has harvested. But his thinking revealed a serious flaw. He looked at his material possessions as the key to happiness and defining aspect of his identity. God’s response is insightful. “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (v. 20). Why does God call this man a fool? The answer is partly in understanding the word demanded or required. The implication is that these “things” have this man’s soul (think of concept of losing your soul 9:25). Luke is clear that there is a deeper problem. This man believes he has a lot of things, but the truth is, these things have him. I say this because Luke would suggest that if your security is what you hold to and is foundational to your identity, then you are in bondage. That’s the terrifying reality for wealthy and privileged persons. The searching question of Luke’s gospel is “what has you or what are you in bondage to?” On another level, Luke uses this story and other stories about wealthy and privileged persons to show why the poor suffer. They suffer because the rich hoard resources, structure society to guard their resources, and fail to show compassion to those in need. Rich persons do these things and the suffering it causes is an important feature of Luke’s gospel. This aspect of his thought has been ignored when scholars talk about the focus on social outcasts. Luke’s message to American Christianity is that God loves and cares for the poor . Much of American Christianity’s blindness and callous disregard to the plight of the poor is not a reflection of the heart of God but rather a revelation of how bankrupt our churches, leaders, and institutions have become. We are blind and in bondage to things. I am writing with a broken heart about the kind of nation we have become and the widespread poverty we have unleashed on people created in God’s image. God wants us to open our eyes and hearts to the suffering of others. Take time to grapple with the meaning in biblical texts mentioned. Sit with the images of human suffering and the data on wealth and poverty. I pray that this small resource will be a tool God can use to open eyes and hearts. Sisters and brothers, we can build a better world than this.

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