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.