March 23, 2010 in Featured
By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“Remember, my son, that in your lifetime you were given all the good things, while Lazarus got all the bad things. But now he is enjoying himself here, while you are in pain.” — Luke 16:25
Hunger and Poverty
Citing a National Statistical Coordinating Board data, Albay Governor Joey Salceda said in an interview, “My biggest frustration as a presidential adviser is that 34 quarters of uninterrupted expansion in the past nine years did little to reduce poverty and the number of poor people.” He said further that the number of poor Filipinos – five- member families living on a little more that P1, 200 a month – rose to 27.60 million in 2006 from 25.47 million in 2001. Incidence of hunger nearly doubled from 11.4 percent in 2000 to 20.3 percent in 2009, he also added.
We need not be an economic analyst or expert to understand why this was so. Poverty and hunger in our country are obviously connected to corruption and injustice. Our nation’s resources are unevenly distributed. Public funds from people’s taxes that are supposed to be redistributed through government services rather find their way to pockets of people in the bureaucracy. This is shown by numerous scandalous scams committed by people in government within the period cited.
But I think the deeper reason why there is so much hunger and poverty in our land despite glowing government economic statistics is the general indifference of people towards poverty and hunger. People are no longer disturbed by the statistics of hunger and poverty. Politicians usually make use of hunger and poverty as issues in their electoral campaigns. But many times it simply ends up as mere rhetoric.
Rich Man and Lazarus
There is an old, beautiful rabbinic parable recorded in the Gospel According to Luke that illustrates to us people’s indifference to hunger and poverty. It is about the story of a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31). The Parable says: There was once a rich man who dressed in most expensive clothes and lived in great luxury everyday. There was also a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who used to be brought to the rich man’s door, hoping to eat the bits of food that fell from the rich man’s table.
The dogs noticed the poor man and would come to lick his sores, but the rich man never noticed the poor man in front of his house. Perhaps, the rich man simply regarded Lazarus not as a human being but as part of the natural landscape.
The poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the feast in heaven. The rich man died and was buried, and in Hades, where he was in great pain, he looked up and saw Abraham, far away, with Lazarus at his side. So he called out, “Father Abraham! Take pity on me, and send Lazarus to dip his finger in some water and cool off my tongue, because I am in great pain in this fire!”
But Abraham said, “Remember, my son, that in your lifetime you were given all the good things, while Lazarus got all the bad things. But now he is enjoying himself here, while you are in pain. Besides all that, there is a deep pit lying between us, so that those who want to cross over from here to you cannot do so, nor can anyone cross over to us from where you are.”
The rich man said, “Then, I beg you, father Abraham, send Lazarus to my father’s house, where I have five brothers. Let him go and warn them so that they, at least, will not come to this place of pain.” Abraham said, “Your brothers have Moses and the prophets to warn them; your brothers should listen to what they say.” The rich man answered, “That is not enough, father Abraham! But if someone were to rise from death and go to them, then they would turn from their sins.” But Abraham said, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone were to rise from death.”
Sin of Indifference
The point of the parable is not about the temperature of heaven and hell, but rather about the sin of indifference. The sin of the rich man is the sin of indifference. Not that it is wrong to be rich, but it is wrong to be rich to the point that we become indiferrent to the poverty and hunger of other people.
The point of the parable is the fact that we are the five brothers of the rich man that he was referring to. We need to be warned before it’s too late about the terrible consequences of being indifferent to the problem of hunger and poverty in this world. To end people’s hunger and poverty should not only be a campaign slogan of politicians; it must be a concrete and sustained program of government, and a genuine concern of the whole citizenry, including the church. # nordis.net