There is a very old story told about a botanist who was studying the heather-bell found in the highlands of Scotland. While looking through his microscope at this beautiful flower, he was approached by a shepherd who asked what he was doing. Rather than trying to explain, the botanist invited the shepherd to peer through his microscope and observe for himself. When the shepherd saw the wonder of the flower he exclaimed, ‘my God, and I have been tramping on them all my life!’ sometime we fail to see the wood for the trees.

 When there are documentaries on commercial television about famine in the world, during the break for commercials there are often adverts for mobile phones, the latest car, designer jeans, hair colouring and no-win no-fee compensation. Then it is back to abandoned babies, starving faces and drought-ridden communities .

It’s almost as if we live in two worlds, we immunise ourselves to what’s going on around us and we cosset ourselves with a lifestyle that demands ever more novelty and style, while ignoring those around us who lack even the most basic resources.

This was the problem with the rich man, (known in Latin as Dives). You can’t help feeling sorry for Dives on one level. He was an extremely rich man and he had Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores, who lay on his doorstep and scavenged scraps of food from his bins. You can’t help feeling sorry for Dives because he never did Lazarus any harm. He just never did him any good. In fact he seems to have overlooked him completely even though he was on his doorstep. He never noticed.

 You might be tempted to say that if we don’t notice something then we can hardly be blamed for it. But could it be that Dives had got into the habit of living so much for himself, living the high life, that he became immune to the poverty and need that were around him? Could it be that our lifestyles can deflect us from reality?

Of course, we are all aware of world poverty and famine. But we see nothing incongruous in the advertising campaigns to get us to spend our money on luxuries. We have become impervious to the paradox, untouched by the irony of our two worlds.

But before we rush to think that his parable is just about world poverty, are we sure that there isn’t a Lazarus much closer to home whom we have overlooked? They may not be poor but they may still be needy. And they may be sitting on our own doorstep.


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