The wealthy man passed the beggar every day, but he never felt sufficient compassion to share.
In the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Jesus provided a name for the beggar but not for the wealthy man, indicating where His sympathies lay. The rich man lived comfortably, even extravagantly. He “was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day.” But Lazarus sat at the rich man’s gate every day, “full of sores,” and hoping for some crumbs from the rich man’s table, which were never provided.
When they both died, they found their roles reversed: Lazarus sat comfortably with the angels in “Abraham’s bosom,” while the rich man, “in hell…lift up his eyes, being in torments.” Abraham pointed out the appropriateness of this outcome, saying to the rich man:
Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.Luke 16:25
Possessions and opportunities are unevenly distributed in this life. God set it up that way on purpose, not because some people deserve more than others, but because He wants us to learn to create equity amongst ourselves. Listen to the following admonitions from Book of Mormon prophets:
- King Benjamin: “I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants” (Mosiah 4:26).
- “Alma commanded that the people of the church should impart of their substance, every one according to that which he had; if he have more abundantly he should impart more abundantly; and of him that had but little, but little should be required; and to him that had not should be given” (Mosiah 18:27).
- “King Limhi commanded that every man should impart to the support of the widows and their children, that they might not perish with hunger” (Mosiah 21:17).
- Amulek: “If ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need…your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing” (Alma 34:28).
In 1834, the Lord concisely laid out His strategy for caring for the poor and the needy:
It is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.
But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.
For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.
Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment.Doctrine and Covenants 104:15-18
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf recently pointed out that this process of voluntary sharing of resources helps us all to progress spiritually:
The process of caring for others allows both rich and poor a way toward refining their characters and leads them both toward exaltation.“God Among Us,” General Conference, April 2021
Today, I will strive to see the people around me more clearly and to share with others the things that they need. I will remember that the ultimate purpose of this life is not the acquisition of wealth but the attainment of a heavenly character.
What are the correct ways to impart? We don not want to enable poor behavior.
It’s hard to know, isn’t it? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Each circumstance is unique, and what is beneficial to one person may be harmful for someone else.
One thing is certain, though: We must not withhold needed assistance just because we think the recipient doesn’t deserve it. King Benjamin was clear on that point (Mosiah 4:16-26). We may need to be thoughtful about what kind of assistance to provide (food vs. money, opportunities to work vs. a handout) but simply ignoring a person in need when we have the ability to provide assistance is not consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I hope that’s helpful.