Just as attentiveness requires effort, energy and investment, so does indifference to the plight of the poor. The rich man in Luke 16 built a wall around his compound and secured it with an entrance gate. Perhaps he hired security to make sure that Lazarus remained at a healthy distance from the gate or even was restricted to begging at the back door of the big house.
It takes time and money to have sufficient distractions if one is to maintain indifference. The rich man was too busy to be bothered by the suffering just outside his door. He had parties to give and to attend. He was involved in important matters in the community. He was likely a booster of the local economy and a respected member of the social establishment. Who knows, he may have been a benefactor for any number of local charities.
Where we focus is what we see. That is not merely a moral description. It is a psychological reality. Remember the "invisible gorilla" experiment celebrated in the warrens of cognitive psychology. If not, watch the original little video at http://www.theinvisiblegorilla.com/videos.html. Who pays the price for my intentional indifference?
I am not a widely traveled person. But I have been enough places here and abroad to know that poverty is not an invisible reality. In every city on the planet, it is easy enough to come face to face with those who are hungry, homeless and hopeless. It takes effort, intention, and money to live and work in areas where the impoverished are not permitted. In most parts of the world it still takes a wall, a gate and armed guards to manage a safe and serene compound in a sea of human misery.
The rich man would have had little trouble becoming aware of the want around him. That is even more the case for us. We are inundated with information about the impoverished in our midst and on the other side of the planet. We may even plead "compassion fatigue" as a reason that we don't respond out of our wealth. I hear this routinely. "I get ten requests a day for financial assistance," people may say. "How in the world can I decide what to do? Most of the time I simply choose to do nothing."
I won't launch into the parable of the starfish here. But it is true that each one can serve at least one other. That is a wonderful start.
We have the resources to spend time with those less well off than we are. It is one thing to give money, and that is so very important. It is another thing to develop relationships and, dare I say, friendships across the boundaries of economic class. That is where the rich man failed so completely. He paid to have himself set apart in splendid isolation in this life. And that was the destiny he purchased for eternity.
Of course, I preach first of all to myself. How much shall I do to serve the impoverished? How much shall I do to identify my own spiritual poverty and to stand with those who have so little for their bodies? How much shall I give?
As always, Jesus' standard is so simple. Do it until it starts to feel good.