Summary: How our pride and arrogance keeps us from seeing that our calling in life is to love those around us and share the blessings that we have been given by God. "The Rich Man and Lazarus"
Placing the Story: condemnation of: wealth equals righteous and poverty equals sin.
As we look at this passage by itself it becomes very difficult to figure out what exactly Jesus is talking about. Is Jesus giving us a picture of Heaven and Hell? Is He warning us about being rich? Are we being called to be homeless in order to go to Heaven? As we look at the passage and what surrounds it in the scripture we begin to find that these things are only decoys to the real truth that is found in this often times disturbing parable.
If we look 4 verses before our passage begins we find the key to unlock this parable.
14”The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. 15 So he said to them.” Luke sets up this following speech in reference to the Pharisees and so we must look at this parable as being pointed to those who love money, and their attitudes.
In the time of Jesus the prevailing thought for the Jewish people was that if you were rich and had all sorts of material possession and wealth then you were indeed blessed by God, and you therefore must not have any sin in your life. They believed the opposite to be true as well. In other words if you were poor, starving and diseased then God must be punishing you because of your sin. What developed then was three classes of people, the very rich, the middle class, and the very poor. These became caste systems and the very rich believed that the very poor deserved to be where they were because they had obviously sinned against God. And so to help them would almost be seen as interfering with God’s judgment.
As we begin to look at this passage, I want you to notice the differences between the rich man and Lazarus, as well as their attitudes.
Retelling of the Story in modern language
This is a very graphic depiction of the man’s situation, but if we read a couple stories back we will find that Jesus had just told the story of the Prodigal Son, which had a young man sitting in pig filth and to a Jewish mind this story would have been much more appealing. But, here we have two men one who is very well off and who is clothed in royal clothing and who eats every day, the other is Lazarus (not the same one) and he sits at the rich man’s gate. Lazarus is starving and longs to eat the table scraps from the rich man’s house, unlike the rich man Lazarus is clothed in rags and sores. And, it would seem that the only ministry the man receives is when stray dogs come and lick his sores.
He has been tossed aside, and ignored by the rich man
Not surprisingly Lazarus dies, and without a funeral the angels carry him to be with Abraham. The rich man also dies most likely very unexpectedly, and is buried by those he loves most likely with a funeral with all the bells and whistles.
But here is where the parable takes a twist. Lazarus went to Heaven and the rich man went to Hell. It is from Hell that the rich man looks up and far away sees Lazarus beside Abraham. This is completely contrary to what the Jews would have believed was to happen.
24 He called out, ’Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’
Look at the rich man’s attitude, he is in torment and agony in the flames of Hell and when he calls out, he wants Lazarus to come and help him, but he doesn’t even address Lazarus even though he knows his name. The rich man is literally trying to pull rank on Lazarus, even in Hell he cannot see that Lazarus is a person and an equal. Even in Hell he wants Lazarus to serve him when he refused to serve Lazarus.
25 But Abraham said, ’Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.
This is not to say that people who are blessed here will go to Hell in the afterlife, it is the rich man’s sin that sent him there, in that while he enjoyed God’s blessings he did not share them with the needy man who literally sat at his front gate.
27 He said, ’Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house-- 28 for I have five brothers-- that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’