Summary: Jesus told the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus to show that being rich should not be equated with being righteous. The rich man had everything he wanted. But he didn’t have what would get him to heaven.
LUKE 16: 19-31 [PARABLES IN LUKE]
THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS
[John 11:45-53; 12:10-11]
After challenging the pharisees and scribes Jesus told the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus to show that being rich should not be equated with being righteous. The rich man had everything he wanted. But he didn’t have what would get him to heaven. [This parable further illustrates the point made in the previous about the money manager about preparing for the future here and now.]
The parable is about two contrasting individuals. One material possession and the other served God in this life (16:13). It depicts the permanent reality of the hereafter in contrast to the temporary present.
The details in the story are colorful and the contrast is sharp. For the rich man earthly life is a daily feast. For the poor man, clothed in running sores, who lies among the dogs, life is torturous. Both die but only the rich man is buried. In eternity their roles reverse and the outcome is unalterable.
[The second parable raises the question of stewardship versus entitlement. We are in a time in America where we all think we are entitled. Charles W. Bray III as Deputy Director of the U.S. Internal Communication Agency, wrote something perceptive about entitlement in Quote magazine (Jan. 15, 1981). “We have come to a time where we say, ‘You deserve a break today.’ Too many of us believe that. If we’re poor, we deserve welfare; if we’re rich, we deserve a tax break; if we are workers, we deserve better fringe benefits; if we own Chrysler or GM, we deserve a bail-out; if we are a special interest, we deserve a special hearing.”
The Pharisees thought they were entitled. They had the strange idea that money was deserved. Money was a sign that they were blessed by God, and poverty was the result of God’s curse. Jesus repudiates that whole idea. [Larson, Bruce, The Preacher's Commentary Series, Vol. 26: Luke. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1983, S. 244.] All of us are stewards of what we have, and we are to use it to bless, to bring life, to bring health, to bring hope and to bring salvation to others (CIT).
Let’s use the following outline to help us work our way through Jesus’ story.
I. A SUMMATION OF TWO LIVES, 19-21.
II. A TRANSITION TO THE NEXT LIFE, 22-23.
III. TWO DESTINATIONS IN DEATH, 24-26.
IV. A PLEA FOR GREATER PERSUASION, 27-31.
The parable begins in verse 19 by contrasting two lives. “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day.
Both the clothing, made of purple cloth, and the fine linen, worn for underclothes, were expensive. Both are indicative of opulence in antiquity. For the rich man, dressed in robes of royalty and fine Egyptian undergarments, life is a daily feast and party. He is a picture of a rich, indulgent, care-free lifestyle.
In verse 20 a poor man was daily laid just outside the rich man’s gate. “And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores,
Just outside the gate of the rich man was laid a sick, hungry, neglected beggar. [Perhaps Jesus picked the name Lazarus because it is the Greek form of the Hebrew name which means “the one whom God helps.”] His sickness had robbed him of the strength to move himself. The family carried and laid the sick beggar at the rich man’s gate probably because he had the resources to do more than just give him a little food to sustain his life which was all the community could do.
The rich man could have been on the cover of People magazine. Lazarus? No one would have even known his name. But God records Lazarus name while the rich man remains nameless. [Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003, S. 382.] Note that Lazarus is counted as righteous not because he was poor but because he depended on God. Yet his poverty and inability to help himself gave him the opportunity to become great in faith which Jesus’ brother taught us in James 2:5. [Also see Jas 1:9.]
The poor man’s longing is recorded in verse 21. and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; but the dogs were coming and licking his sores.
The poor was longing for the crumbs which were falling off the rich man’s table. [The same longing is said of the lost son in 15:16.] Regrettable, the wealthy man had no concept of stewardship and thought only about his comfort or he would have done something at least to help the suffering beggar Lazarus. Obviously he didn’t recall such Scriptures as Proverbs 14:21; 19:17: 21:13; or 28:27. The one who enjoyed feasts and parties had no concern for the one who was suffering at his door step.