22. "The Rich Man and Lazarus"

Luke 16:19–31

Jesus has been teaching about materialism and money. His audience includes his disciples (16:1) as well as "Pharisees who loved money" and ridiculed his stand on money (16:14). Jesus affirms the validity of the Law, rightly interpreted (16:16–18), which is important to the Pharisees. This final parable condemns the Pharisees for their love of money and neglect of showing compassion for the poor (16:19–31).

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Luke 16:19–31 [Click to open, then close, this and all other links.]
"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
25"But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'
27"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, 28for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
29"Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'
30"'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
31"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"

The Rich Man's Profile (vv. 19–20)

Jesus paints a quick portrait of the rich man; a very, very rich man. Purple dye was extremely expensive; a purple wool mantle was costly; a finely-woven linen tunic was considered the height of luxury. (Be sure to watch the 4-minute video, below, that highlights his richness.)

The Poor Man's Profile (vv. 20–21)

Jesus contrasts the rich man with a beggar, the poorest of the poor. The beggar's name is Lazarus, the only character in any of Jesus' parables who is given a name. Lazarus is short for Eleazar, which means "He (whom) God helps." Lying at a suitable place for begging, next to the rich man's gate, probably placed there by friends, Lazarus is sick, as evidenced by his numerous ulcerated sores. And he's hungry, longing to eat the scraps from the rich man's table, usually reserved for the dogs. The dogs that lick his sores are not pets. (Got the picture?)

Enter Abraham (v. 22)

Jesus pictures angels carrying Lazarus to Abraham. This puts Lazarus in the place of honor at the right hand of Abraham at the banquet in the next world. The poor man's values are miraculously reversed.

The Tormented Rich Man (vv. 23–24)

The rich man, too, experiences a reversal. He's in "hell." This torment in Greek is basanos, "severe pain occasioned by punitive torture." Parched with thirst, his tongue is hot and dry and he's suffering. The Greek verb used here is odunao, "to undergo physical torment, 'suffer pain.'" The source of the suffering is fire.

A Great Chasm (vv. 25-26)

Abraham explains the situation and describes a great, impassable chasm (Greek chasma) that prevents anyone from passing from either side to the other. In other words, there's no hope of moving from torment to the blessings of Abraham's bosom — or of Lazarus helping the rich man. The die has been cast; the outcome is irreversible.

God's Word — Sufficient Warning (vv. 27-31)

Jesus concludes the parable in a curious way. The rich man wants Lazarus to warn his five brothers of the dangers of hell. But Abraham tells the rich man that if his brothers won't heed the truth that they already have — from Moses and the Prophets (i.e., the Old Testament revelation) — they certainly wouldn't consider believing something coming from someone who would rise from the dead. Here, the rich man proposes that Lazarus rises from the dead to warn the rich man's brothers. But Luke's readers will immediately think of Jesus, and how even his unmistakable resurrection wasn't enough to sway the Pharisees from their hardened opposition to the truth that was clearly before them.

I think that these are Jesus' two main points in The Rich Man and Lazarus parable.
1.  Wealth without active mercy for the poor is great wickedness.
2.  If we close our eyes to the truth that we're given, we're doomed.

Jesus is condemning the Pharisees for their love of money along with their lack of mercy for the poor. It's ironic that the Pharisees who prided themselves on being such Bible scholars largely missed the spirit of the Old Testament — mercy and justice.

A Hearty Application

As hearty disciples, we must ask:
Q.  What should we learn from this parable? Jesus, what are you saying to us today?
A.  In a sense, the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus teaches a lesson similar to that of The Shrewd Man of the World (16:1–9). We can use our money in a way that secures for us "secure eternal damnation" or in a way that secures us "friends in heaven who will welcome us." The choice is ours. Last meeting, Garrett showed how Matthew's parable of The Sheep and the Goats teaches a similar lesson.

Wealth is not bad! After all, Abraham was wealthy. But wealth brings with it certain responsibilities, namely stewardship. We'll eventually give an accounting of how we handled the wealth God has given us. Fortunately, we still have time to improve our account with God. When will we start?

We Bible-toting, Christian Hearty Boys have the benefit of the Old Testament and the New. If we don't notice and minister to the poor, as we did this week when we collected more than $200 for a woman in need, what excuse will we have at judgment time? In the final analysis, a rich man's punishment is not for owning riches. It's for neglecting the Scriptures and what they teach.

To watch this 4-minute video, click its Start arrow.

Lazarus and the Rich Man

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