The Story of Our Choices

By: Brian Carr

Every day we make hundreds of  choices.

We choose what toothpaste to use, what cereal to eat, who to smile at, what to say, how much work to get done, and what TV shows to watch.

We make choices constantly.

But how often do we consider God when making these choices?

The story of the rich man and Lazarus from Luke 16 is one of the more well-known stories in the Bible. It is taught and preached and discussed in numerous settings, and the focus always seems to be on how the rich man was rich and Lazarus was poor, and because of this, the rich man finds damnation and Lazarus finds salvation.

I would like to approach this story from a different angle.

Let me first start by sharing another story.

Once there was a pastor who had a very, very distinctive voice. If you heard his voice, you would instantly know it was him who was speaking.

This pastor was in a grocery store waiting in line to buy groceries. There appeared to be a problem with the couple in front of him while they were trying to pay. They did not have enough money to cover all of the groceries they were buying and they were desperately trying to decide which items to put back so that they could afford some of the groceries.

The pastor, noticing how hard this was for the couple, decided to step in. He told the couple not to turn around, but to simply take their groceries and he would pay for them. After the couple grabbed their bags, the pastor said to them “you are loved.”

It is in this story that we find meaning in the story of Lazarus and the rich man.

The story of Lazarus and the rich man is not only a story of wealth and poverty.

It is a story about choices.

The rich man made a choice in the same way that the pastor from my story made a choice.

And that’s why this story speaks to all of us, because every day we make choices.

And we either choose to be the rich man who ignores the problems in front of us and ignores those around us who need help OR we make choices like the pastor from the grocery store who opened his eyes and saw the problem that stood in front of him and acted upon it.

He did not simply walk by. He did not turn his head and close his eyes. He did not ignore what he saw, but he saw someone in need and he immediately helped them.

That’s what this story is about!

Choices.

And unfortunately we all fall short in our choices on a daily basis.

I believe that one of our roles as Christians is to bring heaven to this earth. Right here and right now.

And we do that through the choices that we make. I’ll be honest – I make choices that bring more hell than heaven to earth. We all do this. We are human. It is part of the human condition.

But the difference between the rich man and the pastor from our story is that the pastor decided that making the wrong choice wasn’t going to be good enough anymore. He started to make choices that brought heaven to earth.

Roughly five years after the pastor had purchased the groceries for the couple, he was guest preaching at a church and after he was done a couple came up to him and thanked him. They said “we remember your voice very clearly. You probably don’t remember us but about 5 years ago you offered to pay for our groceries when we didn’t have enough money. You literally saved our life that day. We were having a really rough time in our lives and we were buying the groceries for our children because we were planning on killing ourselves that day and we wanted to make sure our children had food before we left them. After you paid for our groceries and told us we were loved, we went back to the car and cried for hours. It was in that moment that we decided to keep living and fight for our lives and our children’s lives.”

That is why choices matter.

Even the smallest choices we make can have enormous impacts on the world around us.

Impactful choices are not always made on a grandiose scale. They are made in the everyday interactions with have with the people around us. Heaven and hell are brought to earth by every choice we make.

The rich man consciously made the decision to NOT bring heaven to earth for Lazarus. He choice to be a part of Lazarus’ hell.

So the problem is not that we make choices that sometimes ignore our call to make heaven a reality on earth. That is going to happen.

The problem is when we become content with those choices. When we decide that making the right choice is not worth the effort. When we decide that we would rather live in ignorance than in justice.

The problem is when we allow hell to exist on earth. The problem is when we choose to enforce or ignore racism and sexism. The problem is when we allow poverty to exist on such a massive scale. The problem is when our choices make someone feel as though they don’t have value. 

That is when we become the rich man. We become the rich man when we choose to walk past Lazarus. We become the rich man when we choose to do NOTHING.

We can’t help everyone in the world. Let’s at least admit that. We can’t make the perfect decision every time. That’s just too unrealistic.

But when we consciously choose to make the wrong decision, even though we KNOW what the right decision is and it is screaming in our face, that is when we become the rich man.

That is when we ignore heaven and allow hell to exist on this earth.

Every day we make hundreds of choices.

We choose who to smile at, who to ignore and who to talk to.

We choose who to walk by, who to gossip about, and who to respect.

But how often do we consider God when making these choices?