Reading the Word
Luke 16:19–31 (ESV)
19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”
Understanding and Applying the Word
Often mistaken as a historical account, this parable is commonly referred to as The Rich Man and Lazarus. Jesus is still addressing the Pharisees who Luke calls “lovers of money.” Luke’s Gospel speaks a great deal about the proper place of money and possessions and warns about covetousness. Jesus calls us to use our wealth for the glory of God and to further the kingdom rather than hoarding it for our own selfish desires.
The parable describes a poor man named Lazarus and an unnamed rich man. Lazarus, who was also covered in sores, was a beggar who desired to eat some of the food that would fall from the rich man’s plate. When the two died, Lazarus is ushered to the side of Abraham with the people of God. The rich man, on the other hand, went to Hades and was in constant torment every day. This would have been quite shocking since wealth was seen as the blessing of God and poverty, God’s curse. Jesus’ hearers would have expected opposite fates for the rich man and Lazarus.
In Hades, the rich man called out for relief, but none was granted. Instead, he was told that he had enjoyed all of his good things in life. Rather than obey the Scriptures by loving others such as Lazarus and putting the things of God first, the rich man had lived selfishly with no regard for God or others. As a result, God’s judgment had fallen upon him and it was fixed.
Jesus spoke a great deal about our attitude towards wealth because our attitude towards money and possessions is a key indicator of our relationship with the Lord. When our relationship with the Lord is healthy, money is understood as a tool that is necessary for life in this world and as an opportunity for us to glorify God. We can use our wealth to further the kingdom of God in the world by helping the poor, giving to our church, or supporting missionaries on the field, etc. However, if we cling too tightly to our money and think of it only as our own, we reveal that we have an idol. All we have is the Lord’s and how we use it tells us a great deal about ourselves.
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