Priorities and Privilege
Nearly every day, construction workers around the country gather in parking lots looking for work.
Once a week, at a few of these lots in Kener, LA, Pastor Rachel visits to bring prayers, and encouragement, and cold water.
Early September, I got to visit and speak with some of the day laborers with Pastor Rachel. We talked about God’s blessings, and their families, and a new English class at Rachel’s church. He also gave me an impromptu Spanish lesson (turns out, I’ve been pronouncing my “r”s wrong for years!)
One of the men, Carlos, was willing to talk with me a little bit about Politics. We happened to visit the same week that a particular US presidential candidate had visited Mexico – and had somehow managed to insult people on both sides of the border.
I falsely assumed that Carlos would want to talk about how that candidate’s opinions and actions were incorrect. But he didn’t want to waste time with that. My new friend from Honduras wanted to pray for that braggadocios US presidential candidate.
He has so much money he can get anything he wants –
But he doesn’t have anything he really needs.
Carlos went on to tell me that he doesn’t want to be rich. He enjoys the time he can spend at home, surrounded by his family, enjoying each other’s company. After surviving a very violent country, and a difficult journey here, and spending months or years unsure of his future, Carlos has figured out that anything you can buy can also be taken away from you. Carlos knows that love and respect cannot be bought. He feels sorry that this multi-billionaire has such trouble making friends, and such trouble staying married.
Rich Man and Lazarus
This month, many churches heard the story in Luke 16 about the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man treats people so poorly that he is suffering in the afterlife. But, even that suffering doesn’t change his attitudes – rather than repent, he’s bargaining with God and still hoping a servant will attend to him and ease his suffering.
I couldn’t help think of the rich man and Carlos.
This week, we found out that the rich presidential candidate (for whom Carlos was praying) has avoided paying nearly $900 million dollars in taxes over the past twenty years. Based on the current US budget for refugee resettlement ($9,00 per person) – that individual’s taxes could have funded 100,000 refugees.
In other words, this one rich man’s taxes could have resettled an additional 5,000 refugees every year for the past 20 years.
But when confronted with the facts of the situation, the rich man is begging for mercy, and still arguing – even with God – about the role of the servants, rather than admit he made a mistake.
He’s still considering people only for their productivity.
I see the face of Carlos in the Luke 16 story. While he is not sick or begging, like Lazarus, he is the named person in the story, while the rich man is not. God sees us for who we are, not for what we purchase. Those of us who are able to live God’s good news are those who are able to prioritize people over profits.