Gospel: Luke 16:19-31
Thursday, 2nd Week of Lent
A UC-Berkley psychology professor sets two people down for an experiment: the pair will play a game of Monopoly with modified rules. One player will get the Rolls Royce while the other will be the old shoe. The player with the car will start with $2,000 and play by standard Monopoly rules, while the old shoe’s player gets $1,000, rolls just one die (making doubles impossible,) and collects only $100 for passing “Go.” Who gets which is decided by a fateful coin-flip. At the end of the game, the professor asks the winner (invariably the Rolls Royce player) whether they feel like they deserved to win the game. And the winner always says ‘yes.’
I can understand the winner’s perspective. At the beginning of the game both players had a fair chance of winning (for either could have ended up with the car,) but the winner won that coin flip, played by the rules, and did what was necessary to arrive at victory. If the winner had cheated the loser, stealing cash or refusing rents, then that victory would feel undeserved.
The Rich Man who showed no concern for poor Lazarus may have felt like one of those Rolls Royce players. He “dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day,” but nothing in the text indicates that he had defrauded or exploited anyone to obtain his wealth. Maybe he looked at poor people like Lazarus and shrugged, “Some receive what is good in their lifetimes while others receive what is bad,” words that Father Abraham would throw back in his face. Perhaps the Rich Man had not so much perpetrated evils, but rather (ignoring the Scriptures) felt no responsibility to help the less fortunate outside his door.
May the one who reads this—a winner in the coin-toss of life—not be condemned for failing to give alms.