Knee Jerk Devotional: November 16, 2020

Luke 16:19-31


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

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

How do you define a meaningful life?

Have you ever thought about it? I mean intentionally, seriously, really thought about it?

I sat in on a webinar with Donald Miller last week and one of the things he talked about doing was writing your own obituary. He said that it needs to be grandiose, embarrassingly so. The point of doing so was to define a meaningful life. What is your grand ambition? What is the story that you want told at your death?

What a question.

How do you define a meaningful life?

Today is the beginning of another round of difficult shut downs in the state of Michigan. It is another reminder that there are many people who contracting COVID-19 and are becoming very sick and dying. For the next few weeks, life is going to feel even more odd than it has for the last eight months. Many of us are going to experience anxiety, frustration, and sadness.

For me, part of the emotions that I feel are due to the fact that my identity is closely wrapped up in my calling as a pastor. I love being “Pastor Dan.” There is great joy for me in knowing that I’m helping people navigate life. A significant part of that is through helping people connect with one another and God each week. We won’t be meeting in person for the time being and it feels like a hole has opened in my soul.

That’s the thing though, a meaningful life, is not defined by our jobs. The reality of what makes my life meaningful hasn’t changed. I still am able to do the thing that I believe I am called to do. It simply looks different.

As we gathered last night, there were smiles and laughter. There were stories told. There were thoughtful glances and there were communal “aha” moments. It was all beautiful.

How do you define a meaningful life?

The rich man in this story apparently defined it by material success and wealth. The description of him for the first century person would have been an image of opulence beyond compare. Eugene Peterson in The Message put it this way, “There once was a rich man, expensively dressed in the latest fashions, wasting his days in conspicuous consumption.” The way we spend our days is one way to define a meaningful life.

After he dies, the rich man comes to the realization that there was more to life than the material wealth and success that he had focused on. He begs for his five living brothers to hear the truth from Lazarus. The response, “If they won’t listen to the Moses and the Prophets (the Old Testament), they’re not going to be convinced by someone who rises from the dead.”

In other words, you have this life to get it sorted out.

So the question remains…

How do you define a meaningful life?


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