“WILL I GO TO HELL JUST BECAUSE?” (Lk 16:19-31): 21 February 2008 (Thursday)

“WILL I GO TO HELL JUST BECAUSE?” (Lk 16:19-31):  21 February 2008 (Thursday)

Today’s Readings

The recently reunited three-piece rock band, The Police, had an unforgettably haunting song called “Wrapped Around Your Finger” with an even more haunting music video .  The painstakingly shot video featured its lead vocalist Sting performing the song amidst a thousand lighted candles.

The song tells the story of a sorcerer’s apprentice, and it uses the ring as a metaphor to express how the apprentice is initially “wrapped around [the sorcerer’s] finger.”  In the end, however, he ends up controlling his master, so that it is now his master who is wrapped around his finger.

The song has also, of course, been interpreted as a love song: about a lover who experiences a similar ironic reversal–from being under the control of the beloved to being in control of the beloved.  Given today’s readings, I wonder if we could also apply the song to riches because very often we start out by possessing our riches, but don’t we often end up being possessed by them?

That seems to be one of the messages in the disconcerting story that Jesus tells us today.  It is about a rich man and the poor man Lazarus and what happens to each of them after they die.  The rich man suffers the torment of hell, while Lazarus enjoys the comfort of heaven with Abraham. When the rich man asks for help, Abraham tells him:  “Remember that you were well off in your lifetime, while Lazarus was in misery.  Now he has found consolation here, but you have found torment.”

It almost sounds as if one will go to hell just because one has a comfortable life here.  So the question I ask today is:  “Will I go to hell just because?”  Does this mean that we will suffer the same fate as the rich man in the next life just because we have been blessed with good fortune in this life?  It doesn’t help that in yet another occasion, our Lord tells his disciples that it would be easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the gates of heaven!

If we read the story carefully, however, we realize that its point is not so much that it’s wrong to be rich.  The problem with the rich man is not that he was rich, but that he did not lift a finger to help Lazarus—-especially when it takes so little to help him. He could have, at the very least, given the poor man the crumbs and scraps that fell from his table.  The problem was that he didn’t.

The gap between him and the poor was quite wide:  While the poor man Lazarus begged at his gate, he dressed in purple and linen and, worse, he “feasted splendidly” every day!  It is actually ironic that the rich man could have closed the gap between him and the poor man in this life but did not, only for him to find an even wider gap between them in the next life–a gap that he–or anyone else, for that mattter–could no longer close.

The rich man’s sin is called a sin of omission.  When we omit doing something to help others when we should, that is just as grave as the sins we commit that hurt others or ourselves.

Having said all that, we should also remind ourselves that being rich in itself may not so much be wrong or evil as it is dangerous.  If we don’t watch out, wealth has a way of wrapping us around its finger.  And the worst part is, as people sometimes discover too late, it also has claws.

(image:  Sting in “Wrapped Around Your Finger”)

Here’s a Quick Question for you:  “How do I feel about my riches and possessions?  How free from them or attached to them am I?”  Think about it, and share a thought, a feeling, or a question.

Note: I’ve uploaded the original video of “Wrapped Around Your Finger.”  And here are the lyrics to the song.

WRAPPED AROUND YOUR FINGER
(Sting)

You consider me the young apprentice
Caught between the Scylla and Charybdis
Hypnotized by you if I should linger
Staring at the ring around your finger
I have only come here seeking knowledge
Things they would not teach me of in college
I can see the destiny you sold
Turned into a shining band of gold

I’ll be wrapped around your finger
I’ll be wrapped around your finger

Mephistopheles is not your name
But I know what you’re up to just the same
I will listen hard to your tuition
And you will see it come to it’s fruition

I’ll be wrapped around your finger
I’ll be wrapped around your finger

Devil and the deep blue sea behind me
Vanish in the air, you’ll never find me
I will turn your face to alabaster
Then you’ll find your servant is your master

You’ll be wrapped around my finger
You’ll be wrapped around my finger
You’ll be wrapped around my finger

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