Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

Actually, Jesus Told a Story About a Rich Man Who Had Himself a Nice Big Wall

We live in a time when our neighbors are in a crisis of poverty and violence– a crisis that is beyond what most Americans could ever imagine experiencing.

The American Evangelical Pope, Donald J. Trump, continues to argue that the solution is to build a nice big wall to keep our poor neighbors from wandering into our neighborhood. Until then, he’s altering the laws to make it more and more impossible for those fleeing persecution to seek safety here in our country. For those who arrive here and ask for help despite the barriers, the ever infallible Evangelical Pope has ensured the hospitality and compassion they are met with includes stealing their children and placing them all in concentration camps.

So, what would Jesus have to say about all this?

Well, funny thing: Jesus actually told his followers a story about a rich man who had a nice big wall to keep the beggars out– it’s commonly known as the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

Found in Luke 16, the story Jesus told goes something like this (BLC paraphrase version):

“There once was a rich man who lived in absolute luxury every day of his life. He had nice clothes, loved him some good food, and he lived in a home with a big ass wall around it.

Just outside that wall was a poor man named Lazarus. He spent his days sitting outside the rich man’s gate, and was so sick and hungry that he would fantasize about being able to eat whatever scraps of food the rich man would throw away– all the while dogs would come along and lick his sores. The rich man didn’t give two shits about Lazarus.

But plot twist! One day both the rich man and Lazarus die, and boy oh boy, do the tables turn…

The rich man finds himself tormented in the flames of Hades, and can see Lazarus in a wonderful paradise off in the distance just chilling out with Abraham and some others. He yells over to them, “Yo– can you guys please send Lazarus over to give me a drop of water? Cause this place totally sucketh beyond all that hath ever sucked before.”

Abraham answers him back and says, “Well, in life you had good things, and now you’re being tormented, while Lazarus got jack squat and is now being comforted. Besides, I’d really love to help you out bro, but as irony would have it, there’s a big ass barrier between us, I guess similar to that nice big wall you had around your house…” (Lk 16:19-31)

Ahh, interesting how the stories told by Jesus can be so timeless, no?

What I find particularly powerful about this story is that Jesus doesn’t try to spiritualize it the way some Christians do. Growing up I was always taught that the rich man didn’t believe in God and wasn’t saved, but the poor beggar did believe in God and therefore was “saved.” The only relevancy of the rich vs poor distinction was explained as being a lesson on how being rich can’t buy you a ticket to heaven. 

But that’s not the story Jesus tells. This isn’t a story about “who asked Jesus into their heart” and who didn’t. 

There’s no footnote or metaphor going on here that would allow one to ignore the central premise of the entire story– consequences await for those who ignore or mistreat the poor and needy on the other side of that wall.

So, what would Jesus say if he were here today and were to speak out on building giant border walls and shutting out the poor and needy who, like Lazarus, would probably water at the mouth at just the thought of eating the scraps of food we toss in the garbage?

Well, if my conservative brothers and sisters are right when they say that “God’s word never changes” and that he is “the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” I’d point them to a story Jesus told…

One that begins with, “There once was a rich man who had a nice big wall around his house. Outside of it there was a poor man who was hungry and who hoped to receive mercy from the rich man behind the wall…” and that concludes with Jesus basically saying, “And watch me one-up Alanis Morissette with this irony: When the rich man died he was sent to be tortured in the flames of hell, where he had to stare at a big ass wall that was keeping him out of paradise.”

Because those who support and enable Trump with his walls and concentration camps are going to get *real* familiar with that story when judgement comes.

Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

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  • I appreciated this blog. My view is that conservative evangelical churches are too “introspective”. In the Good Samaritan story, Jesus said the main commandment is to love God with your whole heart (Part A), etc, and love your neighbor as yourself (Part B). But he explained your neighbor is not your neighbor. Its someone poor or needy that’s not like you. IMO, the evangelical churches score very well on Part A, but very poorly on Part B. You can tell this at any local home study by the prayer requests. For more on this perspective, see http://www.IanDexterPalmer.com

      • Come on Bob, exactly what of the Decalogue do those pesky, empathetic, tolerant, forgiving, sharing liberals do that does not keep the sum of ALL the law and the prophets: do to all others of mankind first as you would have all others of mankind do to you?

          • Your perspective is tainted by carnal church fill the pews mentality:

            “Matthew 10:28
            Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

            You would sacrifice the right of a known quantity woman to choose what is right for her body founded on a fantasied empathy for an unknown fetus. You choose to propagate our carnal species in complete disregard for the another’s right to choose life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for a mother’s soul.

            My Father in heaven and my brother Jesus Christ never declared abortion or homosexuality as in not keeping within the spirit of the Decalogue as written by the hand of God.

            All the law and prophets, according to he with all authority in heaven and on earth for the last two millennium is summed up, “do to others (all others of mankind) as you would have others do to you”.

            If it is your will to live eternally then do this:
            Love the Lord your God with all your heart of spirit, with all your soul of spirit, with all your strength of spirit, with all your mind of spirit (all that is you in the image of spirit God, not in the image of carnal Man) and love your merciful carnal neighbor of mankind as yourself (regardless of nationality, gender, race, Creed or religion).

            If you wish to go by Bible as the inerrant word of God, without the Holy Spirit living with and in you as your only teacher, then you will err on the side of Caiaphas’ orthodox carnal church, which was no closer to the Spirit of God than is the orthodox “Christian” churches today. How many times was God touted as responsible for “killing” in your Bible of choice, canonized by Man, not God. Caiaphas killed the Son of Man/Son of God founded on the authority of his Bible.

            “Mark 4:10-12
            When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. [11] He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables [12] so that, “ ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’ ””

            “Luke 8:9-10
            His disciples asked him what this parable meant. [10] He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “ ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.'”

            Do you remain subject to parables, “ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding”? Do you still subject yourself to the authority of books, apostles, Cardinals, Popes, Bishops, Priests, carnal churches, and carnal family over he given all authority in heaven and on earth?

            “Matthew 23:1-12
            Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: [2] “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. [3] So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. [4] They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. [5] “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; [6] they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; [7] they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. [8] “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. [9] And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. [10] Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. [11] The greatest among you will be your servant. [12] For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

            Can’t you see that all “Christian” corporate churches have patterned themselves after the church structure of Caiaphas? Can’t you understand that only Christ Jesus is the high priest necessary to coordinate his church?

            No where does Jesus ask us to legislate civil law, only to abide according to our Father’s will. Our perfect Father’s will is not conservative but is truly liberal in his grace shared with all. Our heavenly Father’s will is not to go back to a fictitious time when any of mankind was great, but all who are sincerely seeking to progress to become children of God.

            No Bob, you have no right to confuse the biblical sixth commandment with a mother’s right to choose, no matter what your carnal church doctrine might insist. Just because carnal Man is dependent for it’s survival on sexual propagation does not justify treating women like herd cows.

            Oh, but your church doesn’t agree, right? Well your church is not God. It is church agendas, such as your church, that made a deal with the Devil to civilly enforce their interpretation of God’s law. The power of our nation now does not do to merciful neighbors as it would have them do to it.

      • Sorry Bob – even if the Decalogue was actually something more than man writing 10 rules their imaginary deity finds important – no one ‘keeps’ the commandments. In fact – it is impossible to perfectly adhere to some of those rules.

        • How about thou shalt not kill. How hard is it to understand that one? Who among your ilk does not believe in that commandment?

    • I think the Bible states you do NOT love God if you do not love your neighbor. Because those who are born of God love. Drawing “close” to God with your mouth is not loving God. Just as re-directing your zeal towards creating one’s ideal of God’s kingdom on earth was never God’s plan. Today’s Evangelical church misses the mark on representing the Gospel.

      • The bible says many things. It says we are to live according to every word from the mouth of God. That means we must take all scripture into account and not cherry pick correct? Even so, no Christian church today, even Evangelical, obeys that scripture.

        • Bob, “the Bible”, particularly the New Testament, is “cherry pick”ed from many written testimonies of mankind’s relationship with God. It is mankind who chooses what is orthodox according to their tribal traditions of birth, not God’s in the Spirit of truth. From the mouth of Christ is a sword that divides familial, tribal and religious traditions of mankind. God, as an eternal family, has no “mouth”. All of God has each a spirit heart, soul, strength and mind bound as one by love, living eternally with and in the Spirit of truth.

          • Why can’t you admit that killing is a universally understood and accepted proscription?
            Even abprtionists understand this. That is why they deny that babies in the womb are children: so they can kill them and pretend they are not.

            • Is war universally understood as forbidden? Do you consider it a constitutional right for all to bear arms, including 223 assault rifles?

  • It’s always a toss-up for me to determine whether Trump’s behavior, or that of his loyal Christian followers, is more abhorrent. I am usually more offended by the fact that the snake-oil salesmen and charlatans have hi-jacked Jesus than I am the gullible, illiterate folks who follow them, but after watching the last Trump rally in NC, I don’t know. The wilful ignorance it takes to CONTINUE to follow this man and his handlers is just beyond the pale. Thank you for being – literally – a voice in the wilderness. Those of us in the Christian left need you to maintain our sanity as we work to turn the titanic back around in 2020. God bless.

    • In the last election 60 million people voted for president Trump. Many voted because the other candidate was abhorrent. In the next election it will be 70 million.
      Please tell us why the Democrat candidates who all support in infanticide are not worse than president Trump. Where is the equivalency.

      • Bob, the spirit of espousing support for a president of my nation who shows no love for citizens, or others of this world, by demanding they must love his or her policies first is abhorrent to me. It is not possible for anyone to serve my Father’s and Donald Trump’s will, also. There are no walls of patriotic familial, national and/or religious tribalism under the authority of Jesus the Christ in heaven and on earth. My Father is perfect in His inclusive love of all others including merciful neighbors and narcissistic enemies. The only gate to enter as an immigrant from mankind to become a naturalized child of God is summed up in Matthew 7:12 and Luke 14:25-27.

  • I agree with the majority of what you’re saying, but bub, if you’re going to quote the Word of God-do it correctly. NO WHERE in the Bible does it say, “Big A## wall”. Keep up the good work of proving the gospel, but don’t make Jesus look like He talked like that….

    • Jesus didn’t talk exactly like that because he didn’t speak English so couldn’t use US slang. He did however in his recorded speech use a lot of insults, rhetoric and loaded language, calling people “dogs” and “vipers” and “children of Satan”. He came from a hick town in a rural backwater notorious at the time for its sloppy speech (one of Jesus’s recorded Aramaic phrases ” Talitha kum” “get up little girl” is actually bad grammar, as in addressing someone female the correct form is apparently “talitha kumi”).
      There’s no reason to suppose Jesus didn’t talk in exactly the same way as his fellow rural Galileans, in which case Ben’s rendition probably gives a better flavour of how Jesus actually talked than any decorous Bible translation.

      • Probably doesn’t cut it where the bible is involved.
        One reader wrote, ” I am ethiopian and speak amharic. In amharic tal itha cumi means: “my sister arise.” That is itha or ihte “my sister” and cumi means “arise or stand up.” So Jesus said, “My sister, arise” or “my sister, stand up.”
        Your suggestion that Jesus spoke in slang needs more support.

        • The problem is that Jesus in addressing a girl sloppily uses the masculine form “kum” instead of the feminine “kumi”. I have no idea about Amharic, but in Aramaic, the language Jesus is actually speaking, “talitha” means “little goat”: Jesus is literally saying “Get up kid!”

    • I love it when people get more bent out of shape over bad language than kids in cages and the walls that deny them justice. Maybe it’s time to re-imagine Jesus’ righteous anger and the language he would have used.

      • Really? Come on now! I’m not ok with the border crisis-so please, don’t assume that I am, nor that I’m uneducated. Or, that I don’t see pictures of kids on the floor, or 13-year-old immigrants hanging themselves. So please, don’t be hateful and just assume that I don’t know anything nor that I support it. I didn’t vote for Trump the first time, and am sure as well not voting for him the second time. I’m not a Trump supporter! But I am a Jesus supporter! I take it offensively that Christians defend Trump with all this garbage that he pushes, but I also take it offensive when people make Jesus look like a punk.

  • Matthew 5:43-48
    “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ [44] But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [45] that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. [46] If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? [47] And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? [48] Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

    Genesis 1:26-31
    Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” [27] So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. [28] God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. ” [29] Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. [30] And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food. ” And it was so. [31] God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

    My Father is perfect in His love for all mankind (the carbon based animal species made in the spirit image of all God), no matter evil, good, unrighteous, righteous, enemy or neighbor. My Father has provided a path for all children of Man to become children of God. All immigrants, who choose to do to all others first (following the example of His Son of spirit born carnal Son of Man) as they would have all others do to them, are welcome to share eternity as children of God.

    This earth, that mankind is presently restricted to, is in a rapid state of climate change. The state of Syria is one of the first of our world Nations to suffer a climate effect that destabilized a once culturally and religiously tolerant community of mankind into radical tribalism throughout. Central America, Africa, and Asia are all showing climate change that is limiting sustenance to more and more populations. Mankind, as one body, has been given the privilege to be stewards of this earth. If an influential cell of any one body cannot empathize in humility with all “others” of that body, that cell’s narcissistic influence is a destructive cancer. Self centered narcissism has no ability to do to all others first as it would have all others do to it. Narcissists all build walls to keep out those who do not immediately serve them.

    Seven deadly sins of narcissism
    Psychiatrists Hotchkiss and James F. Masterson identified what they called the seven deadly sins of narcissism:[7]

    Shamelessness: Narcissists are often proudly and openly shameless; they are not bound emotionally by the needs and wishes of others. Narcissists hate shame[clarification needed], and consider it “toxic”[citation needed], as shame implies they are not perfect and need to change. Narcissists prefer guilt over shame, as guilt allows them to dissociate their actions from themselves – it’s only their actions that are wrong, while their intention is good.
    Magical thinking: Narcissists see themselves as perfect, using distortion and illusion known as magical thinking. They also use projection to “dump” shame onto others.
    Arrogance: A narcissist who is feeling deflated may “reinflate” their sense of self-importance by diminishing, debasing, or degrading somebody else.
    Envy: A narcissist may secure a sense of superiority in the face of another person’s ability by using contempt to minimize the other person or their achievements.
    Entitlement: Narcissists hold unreasonable expectations of particularly favorable treatment and automatic compliance because they consider themselves special. Failure to comply is considered an attack on their superiority, and the perpetrator is considered an “awkward” or “difficult” person. Defiance of their will is a narcissistic injury that can trigger narcissistic rage.
    Exploitation: Can take many forms but always involves the exploitation of others without regard for their feelings or interests. Often the other person is in a subservient position where resistance would be difficult or even impossible. Sometimes the subservience is not so much real as assumed. This exploitation may result in many brief, short-lived relationships.
    Bad boundaries: Narcissists do not recognize that they have boundaries and that others are separate and are not extensions of themselves. Others either exist to meet their needs or may as well not exist at all. Those who provide narcissistic supply to the narcissist are treated as if they are part of the narcissist and are expected to live up to those expectations. In the mind of a narcissist, there is no boundary between self and other.

    Religious tribalism is narcissistic.

  • Very good. It’s a shame the parable needs to reinterpreted as it has been twisted out of all recognition. Thanks Ben.

  • I try not to hate and let resentment take over. It’s a challenge to be a person of faith. I turn my life and will over every day to God and let’s see what happens!!

  • Interesting read. Remembering what trump said in interview about being christian. Something like … I’ve just got to get elected so I can do great things and get in Heaven.
    That’s why I don’t listen to him.
    BTW, I wonder what Billy Graham thinks of what his son says these days in justifying trump? Makes me cry.

    • Donald Trump called on evangelical pastors to help him win the presidency this November, which he said is “maybe the only way I’m going to get to heaven.”

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