Oppression at Our Door

“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.”

Luke 16:19-21

We live in an evil age. These are times that resonate with the Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy: “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-4). In a prosperous and comfort-rich society, self-centeredness and living for pleasure has never been easier. It is hard to imagine the other side of this coin—that there are more people, more children, oppressed, abused and enslaved, than ever before in earth’s history. It is like Jesus’ story of the rich man living in luxury and the poor man Lazarus longing to eat the crumbs under his table all over again—the one desperate to stay alive, the other ignorant of the poor’s very existence.

We live in times where it’s very easy to be ignorant of the poor at our door, but if you look for him, you’ll find him. You’ll find him because the warp and woof of our society is held up by a system where oppression takes place at an astronomical level, in countless fields and factories around the world, covered up by those who are profiting from their oppression. The sad truth is that even those who live in ignorance of the system are profiting from that oppression. Our existence is not so different from that of a slave-owner; we receive the benefit of our fellow man’s labor with little of the cost. Because that slave lives far from us, hidden from our sight, we can deny that he exists. At it’s root, to be ignorant is simply to ignore. We can say “it’s not my problem” and remain comfortable. In a very real sense, ignorance is bliss.

God does not have the option of ignorance. You can bet God is paying attention. And He’s also watching to see what we will do. Consider Isaiah 59:15-16:

“The LORD looked and was displeased
   that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no one,
   he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm achieved salvation for him,
   and his own righteousness sustained him.

My hope is that this scripture passage will not apply to this generation. When God looks upon our society, may he find many who are doing what they can to intervene. I hope more and more people will glimpse God’s passionate concern for the oppressed in our midst and go against the status quo—people who may have been born in luxury, who may be surrounded by those living for pleasure and for themselves, but who refuse to ignore the poor man at their door.

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