We see men and women standing by the roadside, on exit ramps and at the entrances of shopping centers in our cities and towns holding up signs asking for money. I am sure you have had an internal debate with yourself if it is wise to give money to those who are holding up those signs. Does giving money truly help them improve their lives or is there a better way to help?

Many times, those who are asking for the money may use it to support an addiction. Are we enabling them in their addiction? What is most needed is our willingness to volunteer and help in a more meaningful way. By simply opening the car window and handing over the money and driving away, we have no further responsibility. We did our good deed. That is taking the easy way out. Or can we give of our time and invest ourselves in their recoveries in which they become self-sufficient. Which is the greater act of charity? 

In many ways, we can be like the rich man in Sunday’s Gospel from Luke 16:19-31, who walks by the poor man Lazarus at his doorstep and does not help him. The rich man was indifferent to the needs of the poor man Lazarus and did not even notice him. The rich man was trapped by his wealth; it made him blind to the needs of others. It was not the wealth that was the cause of his indifference and complacency. It was his heart, or the lack of a heart, to be compassionate to the needs of others. To simply condemn the rich because they are wealthy misses the point, because we can be poor or moderate in our lifestyles and still be indifferent to the needs of others. 

Amos condemns luxurious living in the First Reading, “Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts: Woe to the complacent in Zion! Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, they eat lambs taken from the flock and calves from the stall!” The indifference is that whatever our situation in life, we only care about ourselves. It is easy to reduce this and other passages from Luke down to simple economics, but to do so would miss the point of the readings. There are many things we are all indifferent about and they aren’t issues concerning money.

Do you want to know what they are? Take a look at the Second Reading from the First Letter of St. Paul to Timothy, Chapter 6:11-16, “But you man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness.” How many of us truly pursue righteousness? Oh, we say we are concerned about the lives of others, and we share those concerns by talking about others under the precept that we are sharing our concern. But all we are doing is gossiping. Now is that a righteous pursuit? We say we are devoted to God and family but our devotion to both seems to have limits. 

When it comes to our devotion to God, are there times it is inconvenient to be devoted? Such as when my child has a game on Sunday morning and the game comes first and God second. Or how about as a family, are we willing to help when someone in the family needs a few bucks or are we like the rich man and pretend not to notice the difficulties of others. How patient are we? Did we cut someone off on our way to work or Mass? Did we get aggravated because there is too much noise in the church before Mass and we can’t pray? Or are we making too much noise and are indifferent to the fact that it is disruptive to others who are trying to pray? And when you did say something about the noise, how gentle were you? When something was said, how gentle was your response?

We can be indifferent and complacent about many things. We can’t just reduce that down to a rich vs. poor struggle, to do so would cause us to pursue self-righteousness and not the holy righteousness St. Paul encourages Timothy to pursue. My indifference, complacency, inaction or incorrect action about the men and women on the side of the road is not about the money, it is about how it would inconvenience us to stop and offer help. We are called to secure justice for all God’s people, including the poor of this world. Psalm 146:7, 8-9, 9-10 tells us that we are blessed if we provide for those who are in need, “Blessed is he who keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets captives free.”