The Rich & The Poor 1 — Disparities & Discriminations
Updated: Jun 16
Chan Gin Kai
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.” (Luke 16:19-23)
Some believe this story to be a parable. Others think Jesus told a true account, since he never gave any names to the characters of his other parables. But everyone agrees that his message is as pertinent as it is poignant.
A Blindness To Disparities
The disparity couldn’t have been wider. A rich man who lived in luxury, and a beggar who lived in homeless poverty. One was covered in purple and fine linen, the other was covered with sores. One had excess food that fell from his table, the other longed for scraps.
Lazarus lived outside the gate of the rich man’s mansion. The rich man would have seen him each time he exited his house and each time he returned home. In fact, we read further down in the story that he knew Lazarus’ name too. He could see Lazarus, but he was blind to the disparity.
The rich-poor divide, gender inequalities, racism… We see them, but we don’t feel much. We read about them, but their plight is soon forgotten. We are oblivious to others because we are absorbed with ourselves.
3.1 million children die of hunger every year; that’s one child every 10 seconds. And that’s only one measure of income disparity in the world. 35% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime, that’s one-third of all women. And that’s only one measure of gender inequality too. Make an effort to do more research or simply look around us, and we will notice much more.
But then we give excuses. I’m too busy now. I’ll help others when I’m richer. Someone else is more equipped to make a difference. I don’t know where to start. I’ve dropped a few coins in a donation box. We know these excuses are laughable, but yet we give them. That’s because we hold on to anything that makes us feel better about ourselves.
It pains us to think about the disparities, and so we choose to avoid them. It takes effort to make a difference and so we decide to ignore them. The rich man wasn’t damned because he was rich. He was tormented because he didn’t care.
Are we blind to the disparities around us?
A Tendency To Discrimination
Anyone who reads only the first paragraph and compare the two men’s earthly positions would want to be in the shoes of the rich man. We admire and even envy his position. On the other hand, we react with revulsion when we read about the dogs’ licking of Lazarus’ sores.
But don’t we change our minds the moment we read the next paragraph? We frown upon the rich man, and feel a little fear. We’ll rather be like Lazarus instead. Or better still… can we be like the rich man on earth but Lazarus after death?
We’re all so smart, aren’t we? We know how to hope for the best of both worlds, and there’s actually nothing wrong with that. I do wish we will all be financially blessed and more importantly, spiritually saved too.
But the issue we need to address is our tendency to discrimination. We were so quick to admire the rich man and feel repelled by Lazarus. And we were just as quick in changing our minds to applaud Lazarus and condemn the rich man.
As we aspire for financial riches, we tend to admire the rich, and disdain the poor. As we value the importance of education, we tend to esteem the learned and look down on the unlettered. As we treasure godliness, we tend to respect the righteous and scorn the sinful.
Of course we’ll admire a mansion with a pool over a rat-infested hovel, but we should never treat the inhabitants of either with bias. Our admiration for an object should not overly elevate our regard for the ones who have it. Our dislike for a situation should not create a prejudice against the ones who live it.
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:1-4)
If we show favouritism to the rich, the educated, the beautiful or the powerful, how are we different from the world? If we neglect the needy or even deride the downtrodden, how can we regard ourselves as Christians?
So many of the ills in our world are caused by our blindness to disparities and our tendency to discrimination. Let’s open our eyes to see and open our hearts to love.
Read more about ‘The Rich & The Poor’:
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves actively in the Central Christian Church and describes himself as “just a sinner who wants to get right with God”.