Luke 16: You Remembered My Name!

“You remembered my name!” 

One of the small touches that makes Ted Lasso so special is the way lines of dialogue get repurposed throughout the show. The creators of the series do this with bit players, too – a seemingly inconsequential character appears for a moment, recedes completely, and then nine or ten episodes later pops up again in an entirely unexpected scene. The writers do the same thing with lines of dialogue, and it’s a nice touch.

In the pilot episode, we meet a character so convinced in his invisibility that, when asked his name, he says “Oh, nobody asks me my name.” There’s a comically awkward beat before he realizes that, regardless of the fact that nobody else asks him his name, the person who just did still wants to hear it. And the following day, when that person calls him by name, Nate half-whispers in amazement, “You remembered my name!”

In the second season, about 13 episodes later, a different character, also convinced in her invisibility toward another character, says the same line, with the same emotion. Again, it’s a small touch, but it’s beautiful to see those points connected. And if you have ever felt invisible, you know the emotion behind the line.

There’s a bigger theme in Luke 16, but the small detail that is easy to miss is that at the end of the chapter, Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, and as best as I can tell, this is the only time Jesus gives a character in one of his parables a name. (Confusing things, Lazarus is also the name of the person Jesus raises from the dead in the Gospel of John. The two Lazaruses (Lazari?) are not connected.) This Lazarus is the most outcast, marginalized, powerless, rejected character in any parable Jesus tells; that Jesus gives him a name even as he describes the indignity of his life says something powerful about who God cares about.

The absurdity of Christianity includes the idea that the God who creates and sustains all things cares so deeply and personally about every distinct element of the creation that God knows our names. But the fact that it’s only Lazarus that Jesus gives a name to in his storytelling makes a powerful point of its own.

The (nameless) rich man’s lack of concern for the poor Lazarus dropped at his door brings condemnation on the rich man and his family. Take this parable with the one before it, about the dishonest manager, and the one before that, the prodigal son, and you get a strong theme that Jesus’ morality centers deeply around how we use our possessions. In fact, throughout the Gospels, Jesus’s moral lessons return again and again to the point that we are to use our stuff to help those who need it – the vulnerable and powerless – rather than waste it selfishly on frivolous things for ourselves.

This isn’t just a Jesus thing, of course. Both the Torah and the prophets of the Old Testament underscore the same point: we belong to each other, and we need to use what we have for the benefit of others. This is a clear and consistent point of emphasis throughout Scriptures.

I sat on this observation for a few days, but it’s important. For whatever reason, Christian morality has been primarily connected to having good manners, avoiding bad language, and treating sex chastely. (All things Ted Lasso’s characters do not do.) But the more time I spend reading the gospels, the clearer it is that Jesus talked very little about those things, and in fact spent his time with sinners and prostitutes, had disciples who flaunted good manners, and almost certainly heard a lot of Aramaic cussing. He focused on loving the unlovable and challenged those with power to use it for the benefit of the outcast.

I remain a fan of kindness that shows up in manners, decorum, and chastity, don’t get me wrong. But I also realize that if Christians want to live up to the lessons of Scripture, we need to be a little less focused on those things and a lot more on pushing ourselves to use what we have to help those whose names only God bothers to remember.

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