We often hear people say that they will get to heaven because they haven’t committed any really, really heinous crimes.
“I’m a good guy,” they say, “I haven’t murdered anyone or sold weapons to terrorists.” This attitude is not a Christian attitude.
As Jesus teaches us in this story of Lazarus and the rich man, salvation and eternal life are not just about avoiding so-called “big” sins. That’s a negative, passive approach to life.
Christ is not passive. Christ is active. He came to earth to save us. He took the initiative. He came to seek out the lost sheep. He came to light the fire of faith in a dark world.
Being a Christian means following in those footsteps. It means much more than simply avoiding gruesome crimes. Being a Christian means living like Christ, living for his Kingdom, living for others.
Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus was asked which were the most important commandments, he didn’t choose the negative ones, the “thou shalt not” ones. Instead he listed two active, positive, creative commandments: love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.
The rich man in today’s parable was not an axe-murderer, mafia boss, or the head of a human trafficking ring. He had no particularly damaging “sins of commission” on his résumé. He was probably a very likable guy, “a nice guy.” And yet, sadly, he failed to enter into eternal life.
Because of his “sins of omission”. Day after day, he closed his heart to a neighbor who was in dire need of help. Since the law of heaven is self-giving, not self-serving or self-interest, he found that he was simply unfit to spend eternity there.
In the 1993 Award winning movie ,Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, we have another example of a rich man who’s heart was awakened to this reality
The movie depicts a true story of a rather mediocre Catholic businessman, Oskar Schindler, who lived in Poland during World War II. When the war started, he saw it as an opportunity to make more money. He made friends with some of the German officials and worked out a deal with them to use Jewish prisoners as free labor for his munitions factory. Since he didn’t have to pay his workers, he was able to rake in a handsome profit.
But little by little his eyes opened to the horrors of the Nazi regime. His heart changed, and he started using his factories and his connections with German officers to save his Jewish workers from the Holocaust. He used the money he had made during the early part of the war to “buy” more and more Jewish workers, just so he could save their lives. By the end of the war he was as broke as he had been at the beginning, but he had managed to save hundreds of Jews from being massacred. In the last scene of the movie, the Germans are fleeing as allied troops approach the town where the factory is located. We see Schindler surrounded by the workers whom he had saved, and they are thanking him.
But then Schindler starts to cry.
He looks around at the faces of the people he saved, and he tells them, “I could have done so much more.”
He holds up his gold watch, and he says, “This could have bought someone’s freedom.”
He cries out that if he had started sooner he could have saved twice as many.
Every face he sees makes him think of another face that he could have saved if he had been less self-centered. He is completely distraught.
Schindler had experienced firsthand the destructive power of the sin of omission.