Being panhandled and Lazarus

the Gospel according to Luke

being panhandledI read about fillyjonk being panhandled INSIDE of her local Walmart, and it reminded me of something.

My wife and I had to take a fairly large piece of art to be reframed. It was raining, so I had two large plastic bags over it, which was awkward. This guy comes up and asks for a dollar.

To tell the truth, I tend to be a reasonably easy touch for people who need money. But I had both hands full, and my wife was holding an umbrella, trying to keep me and the art dry. So I said, “Sorry.” And I was. But, dude, don’t you recognize situational panhandling? People with full hands are not likely to stop, especially in the rain.

But on the way back to the car, with my hands empty, I actually looked for the guy to give him some money. I didn’t see him.

That week’s sermon was about Jesus’ parable about Lazarus and the rich man from Luke 16: 19-31. It is the scripture that inspired the theological leanings of Albert Schweitzer. You try to help the poor.

The kicker

Oh, the piece of art being reframed was the picture of Jesus that our daughter created. About a month earlier, it was at the church, being moved so that it would not be damaged either by the film crew making The Gilded Age or by the folks running the August election primary.

Almost as soon as it was carried onto the small stage, everyone heard a loud CRASH. I knew instantly that it had been the glass protecting the piece. Also, the frame got bent. The guy who dropped it felt absolutely terrible, as he told my wife and me several times. Stuff happens, even to representations of the Lord.

I found it amusingly ironic that I couldn’t help the poor because I was carrying an image of Jesus.

Oh, and to those of you who might suggest that I shouldn’t give money because I should refer them to the appropriate social service entity, two things. 1) I do give to such entities, but 2) saying to someone to go somewhere else, if it’s a small ask, just doesn’t feel right.

Tittynope, or ort, and poor Lazarus

The story is not describing the rich man in hell and damnation, but like the leadership of the synagogue in Jesus’ time, “Stiff-necked” people separated from God. Lazarus represents the world open to hearing the Word.

tittymouse As is my wont, I checked out the Grandiloquent Word of the Day, which, for a day in late February, was tittynope. The term was SO peculiar that I had to check it in another source. And sure enough – “Tittynope: (noun) a small quantity of anything left over, whether a few beans on a dinner plate or the dregs at the bottom of a cup.”

My old friend Hadiya – she’s not that old, but… – asked if it was related to the word ort. I’d say, definitionally, yes.

Usually, orts. a scrap or morsel of food left at a meal. Origin: 1400–50; late Middle English; cognate with Low German ort, early Dutch oorete; compare Old English or- out-, ǣt food (see eat).

The girl in the Grandiloquent pic looks satisfied, but that’s not the image the word generated for me. Rather, it was perhaps a Dickensian beggar; nope, no food for you. Or even more so, that story of poor Lazarus in Luke 16:

19 There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table.

OK, it’s less the story I read, but rather the narrative I’ve heard (my church youth group, twice), and participated in (1976), from Godspell. Here’s a random clip that I found on YouTube, and another clip.

And in looking for these videos, I came across this 30-minute description of how the story of the rich man and Lazarus has long been misinterpreted. Basically, the presenter, Jason Lucas, indicates that the imagery in the parables is speaking to the Pharisees (the “righteous” Jewish leadership) and the Gentiles (the “heathen” sinners) to suggest that God’s word is now open to all, not just the historically chosen people, spoken in code as so not to alert the Romans, who just want to maintain the peace, but is clearly understood by the Pharisees.

Before addressing that story, Lucas described a previous parable, the “Prodigal Son”, and noted that the older brother in the story is Israel, the long-chosen people, and the younger brother, who literally ate with the pigs, is the rest of the world, whose covenant with the father (Father) is even more exciting because it is new.

The Lazarus story, the video suggests, is not describing the rich man in hell and damnation, but like the leadership of the synagogue in Jesus’ time, “stiff-necked” people separated from God. Lazarus represents the world open to hearing the Word. Lucas’ point here echoes Simon Perry, who:

has argued that the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) refers to Eliezer of Damascus. In [Genesis] 15:4, God says to Abraham, “this man will not be your heir.” By locating Lazarus (an abbreviated transcript of Eleazar) outside the gates of Abraham’s perceived descendant, but then having him in Abraham’s bosom, Jesus is portrayed as radically redefining the covenant.

This take on the story makes a LOT more sense to me than the traditional interpretation.

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