Do some people deserve to be homeless? And do some people deserve to live in nice homes? While we’re at it, do the people in nice homes deserve to have the homeless people kept away from them?
For sure, there’s a lot of NIMBY. Not In My Back Yard. But sometimes it’s just amazing how far people go with it. And how open they are about it. They’re honest. But are they right? And what are the implications for them in the long run? The truly long run, that is.
Where can homeless people live?
A Los Angeles area TV station did a story asking, Were homeless people told to move to the Beverly Hills area? Just in case you’re not familiar with Beverly Hills, it’s a place for the rich and famous – and the rich and wanna be famous. Emphasis on rich.
The story began:
Residents of a homeless encampment that is exploding in size along the Los Angeles city limit with Beverly Hills claim they were urged to move there by law enforcement.
The encampment has sprouted up in recent days along San Vicente Boulevard near the upscale Beverly Center shopping mall to the outrage of residents and business owners in this affluent area.
“They’re fighting at all hours of the day. They’re doing drugs. They’re selling drugs. It’s out of control,” one Beverly Grove resident told us. “We pay so much in property tax and so much in income tax, it is not fair for us to live like this.”
So the questions arise from that last statement.
What happens when rich people have homeless people near them?
Do some people deserve to be homeless?
And do some people deserve to live in nice homes?
Do the people in nice homes deserve to have the homeless people kept away from them?
Notice the comment. Rich people don’t deserve to have to put up with homeless people near them. After all, they pay lots of taxes.
Apparently that means homeless people have to live somewhere else. So, someone must deserve to have homeless people living on the streets around them. Who is that? Who deserves it? Someone must, in the eyes of that rich person.
Finally, the missing piece – nothing was said about the plight of the homeless people. No statement that no one deserves to be in a position where they have to live like that. Apparently they do, in the eyes of that person. And obviously, someone else needs to pay for whatever they do get, wherever they end up, because the rich people already pay enough taxes.
Maybe the homeless person could get a minimum wage job slaving away for the rich people who don’t want to pay them enough to enable them to live near Beverly Hills? Let them move to the poorest parts of the city, where they deserve to be?
Oh yeah – what about contributing something to help? What about a whole list of other things?
But my focus today is on that attitude of – I’m rich, I don’t deserve to even see homeless people.
Further, it’s especially for the rich people who go to church and think they’re great Christians.
What did Jesus say about this scenario?
Oops. Some of you just got turned off. You know where this is going. Hopefully, not too many closed the page.
On the brighter side, if you wonder about people similar to the one in Beverly Hills, who claims to be a Christian, and yet speaks and acts like that, you’ll find out why the good news of the gospel was good news to the poor and downtrodden in Jesus’ time. And you’ll see what Jesus said to the rich about their attitude towards the poor and their way of life.
Lk 16:19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
It’s a scenario that exists all over this country. Except maybe the places where they put poor homeless people in jail or lock them away in cruel mental institutions. Out of sight, out of mind. But not out of God’s sight or His mind.
Lk 16:22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.
Everyone does die. Even the ultra-rich.
23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
The tables are turned. The last is first. And the first is now last. Or, maybe you prefer, the least is great and the greatest is least.
Either way, it’s now the rich man who’s poor and homeless in Hell. And the beggar who’s got a home with an inheritance that’s a share of all God’s riches in Heaven.
24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
Obviously, the rich man learned nothing. He’s in Hell, Lazarus is in Heaven, and he still thinks Lazarus should serve him. And he still calls Abraham father.
For Christians, we also know those who claim to be Christian but never followed Jesus will also call out to Him on judgment day. We’ll get into that in a moment.
Lk 16:25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.
Evidence of the reversal.
Do you remember what Jesus said about someone who received their reward in full? There’s one occasion that’s all too relevant to the situation of the rich and the homeless.
Mt 6:1 “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
Mt 6:2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Jesus’ words were to people who did give to the needy, but did it to be noticed and get credit for it. Jesus said about them, “I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full”.
But in the case of today’s rich people, just like Dicken’s Scrooge, they don’t want to give to the poor because they pay taxes. However, even the ultra-rich who set up foundations and get lots of glory for the “fine” work they do, since they did it to get that reward in this life, they’ll also be told that they have received their reward in full.
26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
This is an interesting verse. There’s nothing else like this in the Bible that says we can see from Hell into Heaven. If anything, it’s impossible to imagine being able to see from the lake of fire into Heaven. Or the other way around. Or that conversation is possible between the two.
So, here’s a thought as to what this is about.
Ver. 26.—And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Although the whole thought which runs through this parable is new, and peculiar to Christ, yet the colouring of the picture is nearly all borrowed from the great rabbinic schools; one of the few exceptions to this rule being this chasm or gulf which separates the two regions of Hades. The rabbis represented the division as consisting only of a wall. “What is the distance between Paradise and Gehenna? According to R. Johanan, a wall; according to other teachers, a palmbreadth, or only a finger-breadth” (‘Midrash on Koheleth’).
What, asks the awestruck reader, is this dreadful chasm? why is it impassable? will it be for ever there? will no ages of sorrow, no tears, no bitter heart felt repentance succeed in throwing a bridge across it? Many have written here, and kindly souls have tried to answer the stern question with the gentle, loving reply which their souls so longed to hear. What is impossible to the limitless love of God? Nothing, wistfully says the heart. But, when interrogated closely, the parable and, indeed, all the Master’s teaching on this point preserves a silence complete, impenetrable. 1Spence-Jones, H. D. M., ed. (1909). St Luke (Vol. 2, p. 68). Funk & Wagnalls Company.
Lk 16:27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
Apparently, even though the rich man still calls Abraham father, he’s realized that he messed up. Jesus’ is talking about Old Testament times, when the people were under The Law. So, it seems this man didn’t follow The Law. But then, no one could. Sacrifices needed to be made for sinning. Obviously, he didn’t do that either.
Under the New Covenant, we don’t do sacrifices. Jesus is the once for all sacrifice for our sins. But we still need to be aware of that. We need to commit to following Jesus.
Going all the way back to the original church, the process by which this message is told through the generations is The Great Commission.
Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
In Old Testament times, each family was responsible for passing down the knowledge, going all the way back to their “father” Abraham, from each generation to the next.
But now, for Christians, we’re supposed to do something similar via the Great Commission. To the extent that we don’t, or that the people we tell don’t believe, the message still applies to us.
Lk 16:29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
The version of this message from Abraham is similar. It’s too late for us to do anything.
Lk 16:30 “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
The rich man still isn’t willing to accept the new reality that he has no power. No authority. No anything.
Lk 16:31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”
Let’s take a deeper look into this final reply.
Vers. 30, 31.—And he said Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him. If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
The Master not only wished to drive home this momentous truth to the hearts of the group of varied ranks and orders listening to him then; his words were for a far larger auditory, so he prolongs the dialogue between Dives and Abraham. “If Lazarus from the dead would only go to them.” pleaded the lost soul.
“Even if I send,” replied Abraham, “and Lazarus goes, they will not be persuaded.” They would see him, listen to him, perhaps, and then, when the first feelings of amazement and fear were dying away, would find some plausible reasons for disregarding the messenger and his message.
Criticism would discuss the appearance; it would be disposed of by attributing it to an hallucination, or others would suggest that the visitant from the other world had never been really dead, and these pleas would be readily taken up by others who cared not to examine the question for themselves, and so life, careless, selfish, thoughtless, would go on as it had done aforetime.
A striking example of what the Lord asserted through the medium of the shade of Abraham took place within a few days from that time. Another Lazarus did come back again from the dead into the midst of that great company of friends and mourners and jealous watchers of Jesus gathered round the sepulchral cave of Bethany, and though some true, faithful hearts welcomed the mighty sign with awful joy, still it served not to touch the cold and calculating spirit of Pharisee, scribe, and Sadducee, thirsting for the blood of the Master, whom they feared and hated, and whose word had summoned back the dead into their midst.
The mighty wonder wrought no change there. One went unto them from the dead, and yet their hard hearts only took counsel together how they might put Lazarus again to death. 2Spence-Jones, H. D. M., ed. (1909). St Luke (Vol. 2, pp. 68–69). Funk & Wagnalls Company.
All of those comments are well and true.
But there’s one more instance of someone rising from the dead. Jesus Himself. And yet, how many people don’t believe Him either?
Everything said in the comments above, and more, has also been said about Jesus.
Do some people deserve to be homeless?
So, do some people deserve to be homeless?
There’s really nothing we’ve read in the Bible yet to indicate that anyone deserves to be homeless.
Jesus didn’t have a home during His three year ministry.
8:19-22 pp — Lk 9:57-60
Mt 8:18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
Mt 8:20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Mt 8:21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Mt 8:22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
And apparently the same was true for those who followed Him. And is still true for some today. However, it’s more a statement of the world we live in that they have no home, not that they deserve to have no home
The same is true for the poor people in the world. It’s the lack of caring, or worse, that causes so much homelessness and hunger.
There are some who say it’s inevitable. That God says it will happen, using the following passage.
Mt 26:6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
Mt 26:8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
Mt 26:10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Yes, Jesus did say, “The poor you will always have with you”, but that hardly means it’s God’s desire to always have poor people. It also doesn’t mean God’s desire for us to ignore the poor people either!
26:10–11. Jesus’ reply probably contains an allusion to Deuteronomy 15:11, which urges generosity to the poor, who will always be in the land. He does not play down giving to the poor but plays up what follows: devotion to Jesus himself must precede and inform all other important and godly agendas. 3Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Mt 26:10–11). InterVarsity Press.
Here’s the entire passage that contains the above referenced verse in Deuteronomy.
15:1-11 Ref—Lev 25:8-38
Dt 15:1 At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. 2 This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel the loan he has made to his fellow Israelite. He shall not require payment from his fellow Israelite or brother, because the LORD’S time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. 3 You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your brother owes you. 4 However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, 5 if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. 6 For the LORD your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you.
Dt 15:7 If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. 8 Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
That’s a lot of stuff about caring for the poor.
For Christians, it should also bring to mind at least one of Jesus’ parables about poor people and debt.
Sadly, it’s more likely to get the same response in Christians today that it got from God’s chosen people ever since the time when the Law was given to them. The year for canceling debts was also referred to as The Year of Jubilee, which is what it’s called in Leviticus. There’s no record in historical documents that The Year of Jubilee was ever actually carried out.
It’s a combination of the greed of some and the lack of caring that led to and continues to lead to all the poor people. It’s most certainly not that God wants it to be this way,
And as we see from The Rich Man and Lazarus, we haven’t really learned. We count on the government to do the work. And preferably in someplace other than where we live, and with someone else’s money.
Conclusion – Do some people deserve to be homeless?
One more time – Do some people deserve to be homeless?
Absolutely not. We’ve read plenty to know that’s not true.
We also know, if we paid attention to what Jesus taught, that although He came to save everyone, it’s the “sick” that will be saved. Translation – in terms of the haves and the have-nots – it’s the have-nots that are most likely to respond to Jesus’ message It’s the haves who will most likely reject it.
And then we end up with the scenario of Lazarus and the Rich Man.
Finally, while everything we looked at above was about money, I believe it’s more than “just” money. We have an incredible tendency to miss the point of the passage below. It’s misquoted so often.
1Ti 6:3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
1Ti 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Yes, it’s about money. Primarily. But notice that last verse. The one we quote incorrectly so often.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil
There are five words in there that we tend to leave out. “The love of” has three of them. The other two are “kinds of”. And there’s one we change – from “a” to “the”.
We make it: For
the love of money is a [the] root of all kinds of evil
Let’s make it easier to read: For money is the root of all evil/.
Clearly, when we pay attention, these two are different.
First of all, it’s the love of money, not money itself. It’s possible, although not easy, to have money but not have that money drive our lives. That’s the love of money part.
Secondly, it does not say that money is the root of all evil, but that it’s the root of all kinds of evil. That means there are other things that also cause evil. Money have have the greatest draw on us. But it’s not the only thing.
So, when we read the Bible, and see money referenced, we must also remember that it’s not necessarily money. It’s whatever the thing is that prevents us from truly following Jesus.
So, in the case of our question – Do some people deserve to be homeless? – there are various things that can prevent us from helping the homeless.
- Money is certaintly right up there.
- NIMBY – not wanting homeless people near us. This can be true for anyone who has a home, regardless of how much money they have. Or don’t have.
- Fear – there can be legitimate fears for safety due to drugs, alcohol, mental health issues, etc. There can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to solving the problem.
- Greed and corruption – sometimes the people given responsibility by the government to assist with the problem are corrupt, and the money doesn’t go where it’s supposed to go.
- Sometimes, homeless people are enabled to continue with their state of homelessness. This one surprised me. But I learned a lot about this from someone who used to be homeless.
- and so on …
The bottom line though, is this God does not desire that there be homeless people among us. As Christians, we are told to care about the poor, the widows, the children, and others.
We cannot boil the ocean and save everyone. But then, we shouldn’t pretend the ocean doesn’t exist, and do nothing for anyone about anything.
It’s not easy. It’s very hard. But if we pray to God, listen to His Holy Spirit, we can and will come to realize which parts of this vast ocean of problems in our world are part of His plan for our lives.
Image by Rusty Gouveia from Pixabay
- 1Spence-Jones, H. D. M., ed. (1909). St Luke (Vol. 2, p. 68). Funk & Wagnalls Company.
- 2Spence-Jones, H. D. M., ed. (1909). St Luke (Vol. 2, pp. 68–69). Funk & Wagnalls Company.
- 3Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Mt 26:10–11). InterVarsity Press.