Leslie Weber, Chesapeake, VA

Warm-up Question

Do a mini money autobiography. Here are question suggestions:

  • What is the earliest experience with money that you remember?
  • As a child growing up, did you feel rich or poor? Why?
  • What has your attitude toward money changed as a teenager? How was this influenced by peers or siblings?
  • How were your attitudes and behaviors about money shaped by the adults in your life?
  • What is your happiest memory in connection with money?
  • What is your unhappiest memory in connection with money?

A complete list of questions can be found here: (https://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Personal_Money_Autobiography.pdf)

Too Much Forgiveness?

Since President Biden’s announcement about the new Student Loan Debt Forgiveness plan, there have been many news stories and articles about the various sides of the issue. An NPR article notes various reactions.  Some are excited; one person called the plan “literally life-changing.” Others wish it went further, pointing out that “PPP loans, plus interest, were forgiven without question or explanation. Millionaires and big corporations got yet another blank check.”  Some oppose the plan.

For this last group, the “concept of fairness” has been a common theme in their opposition to student debt forgiveness. Some who didn’t have to accrue debt or have already paid theirs off don’t find this fair. 

However, the article points out that many people might not realize how high tuition has gone up relative to the buying power of a dollar.  In addition, previously instituted loan forgiveness and repayment plans have not been working as they were intended.

There is also “the added layer” or race when it comes to student debt; the article offers a number of figures illustrating that Black students tend to owe significantly more than white students. Issues of “equity, predatory lending and education” are at work in the wider system and therefore need to be part of the conversation. So, although some are rejoicing, there is still more work to be done.  As some quoted in the article suggest, this might just be step one toward fixing the inequities in the US educational system.

Discussion Questions

  • How many of you are planning to go to college or technical training after high school? Do you know how you will pay for it?
  • What are your thoughts about the government forgiving debt (PPP loans, student loans, etc.)?
  • Have you experienced (first or second hand) inequities based on society economic status, race, or some other demographic?

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Amos 6:1a, 4-7

1 Timothy 6:6-19

Luke 16:19-31

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

Right before today’s assigned Gospel reading, Jesus clearly says “you cannot serve God and wealth” (Luke 16:13, NRSV).  And in the following verse, the Gospel of Luke tells us that the Pharisees, “who were lovers of money” were upset and “they ridiculed him” (Luke 16:14, NRSV).

And then in this morning’s pericope, Jesus offers this parable about a chasm—the chasm between the rich man and Lazarus. This is the chasm between those who have a hard time seeing past themselves and those who go unseen, the chasm between the lovers of money and those who lose their lives as a result.

Let’s be clear.  The rich man’s problem is not that he is rich, but that that he is so self-centered and worried about himself that he sees everything (including people) only in terms of how they can benefit him. During their lives, dogs had more compassion for Lazarus than did the rich man, The rich man must have seen him regularly at his gate; he knew Lazarus’ name. In death, the rich man sees Lazarus with Abraham and asks Abraham to send Lazarus to get him some water.  He knows Lazarus’ name, but doesn’t address him directly.  Lazarus is just a means to relief for the rich man.

When Abraham informs the rich man that the chasm he has created and maintained between himself and Lazarus is now fixed, the rich man momentarily moves away from worrying only about himself…but only enough to show concern for his five brothers. Still, the rich man maintains the chasm between himself and Lazarus.

The man’s money is not the problem.  The problem is his attitude about that money—the position, privilege, and prestige that comes with it. And you don’t even need to be rich in order to have the same affliction as the rich man. You can be poor and be just as focused on money and love it just as much.  You can be middle class and overlook people for the finer things in life.  And at the same time, you can be wealthy and not love that wealth to the point that you set a chasm between yourself and others.

How can we be lovers of God and God’s people more than lovers of money? That was the challenge in Jesus’s day, and it remains our challenge today. We do not have to answer these questions in a certain way in order to have Jesus cross the chasm and grant us eternal life.  But, as a response to the gift, God calls us to live in a way that reflects the eternal life we have been granted.  We try to make this life look as much like God’s kin-dom as possible…and that means bridging chasms wherever possible.

Followers of Christ work to bridge the chasm between rich and poor, black and white, college graduate and high school dropout. For that is the kin-dom of God—one family of God united in our diversity.  Let us listen to Moses, the prophets, and Jesus, refusing to let the wealth be how we measure our worth or the worth of others. Our worth comes from the fact that we are named and claimed beloved children of God.

Discussion Questions

  • What part of the story (word/phrase/image) jumped out to you as you listened?
  • How does the story of Lazarus make you feel? How does the story of the rich man make you feel?
  • Discuss verses 30 & 31? Are you convinced of God’s ways by God’s teachings through Moses and the prophets? Or does Jesus change anything?
  • Do you think that eternal life actually works like the parable suggests (if you had privilege in this life you are condemned to Hades and if you suffered in this life you will be comforted)?

Activity Suggestions

  • Play a board game (like Monopoly…if you have the time) for a while with each player’s goal being acquiring wealth. Then play it again with each player’s goal being caring for their neighbors. Discuss the experience.
  • Pack blessing bags with food and personal care items to distribute to people in need throughout your community. Or do another direct service project that makes sense for your context.
  • Take the SNAP Challenge. There are many resources online, but here is one: https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Services/Assistance/Pages/SNAP-Challenge.aspx. If you can go to a store to shop or just use a grocery store app/website to find prices in order to get a sense of what kind of meals a SNAP budget can support.

Closing Prayer

Chasm crossing God, thank you for all that you have given us, especially the gift of eternal abundant life. Help us to see all your beloved children as just that. Help us to better love you and enact that love amidst our neighbors. Amen.