How often do we use the word “if”? Many times we think we have things figured out, but when something goes wrong, or it doesn’t turn out like we had hoped, we then say, “Well if this hadn’t happened” or “If he or she would have done this,” however… that is not reality. We can wonder all we want about the “if’s” that may have changed things, but we are allowing precious time to slip away that could be used for real change!
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus tells about the rich man and the beggar that laid at his gate. When the beggar died, the angels carried him away to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, but he was in hell and lifted his eyes to see the former beggar, named Lazarus, at Abraham’s side. He asked for pity and that Lazarus would give him a drop of water to cool his tongue, but was informed that they could not cross over between these places. The rich man then begs that Lazarus would go to his father’s house and warn his brothers so they would not end up in this place of torment. Abraham responds by telling him that, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”
Now, this is where the big “if” comes into play. The rich man believes that “if” the circumstances are different, or the messenger changes, his brothers will be able to accept what he did not. In Luke 16:30 the rich man replies, “Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.” How can he be so sure? Does he believe that he would have lived differently if a messenger from the dead would have spoke to him? It is a sad excuse that only a dead man could have persuaded him to have mercy on the poor living soul that was seen every day suffering at his gate!
Many of us are the same way. We do not want to accept responsibility for our actions or beliefs. We believe our faith could be stronger, our giving could be greater, and our love could be better — if things were different. But is that really true? The very next verse tells us “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” (Luke 16:31).
It is interesting to note that as Jesus is telling this, he is on his way to Jerusalem where he will be crucified, buried, and raised from the dead, yet most of the religious leaders would still not accept him. They were set in their ways, and neither Scripture nor God’s son himself would open their eyes to see differently.
So, where do you stand today? Do you live, give, and love like the Word of God says? Or, do you allow daily inconveniences to let you think differently? How would you answer someone today if they asked you what you truly believed? Would your actions support your words? And finally, would you change your belief if…?
Rev. Cathleen N. Cathcart is pastor of New Life Worship Center in Spartanburg.