Luke 16:19-31 English Standard Version
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.[a] 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.’”
Imagine the scene that this parable depicts.
First of all, we have only two characters. The unnamed wealthy man and the poor man named Lazarus.
We see opposite extremes as to this world’s material blessings.
The wealthy man obviously enjoyed all the luxuries of life, but in particular the blessing of plenty to eat, as it says he “feasted sumptuously every day.”
The poor man Lazarus had been laid at the rich man’s gate and was sick, being covered with sores. Furthermore, he was without food and desired to be fed with the crumbs from the rich man’s table.
A very common scene depicting those who have wealth or great wealth and those who have nothing. Not even the necessities of life.
Jesus then moves on to the ending of both men’s lives. The poor man and the rich man both died.
Once again, we see opposite extremes when it comes to the spiritual blessings of God and eternal life.
The poor Lazarus died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s (God symbolically) side.
The rich man died and in Hades, being in torment, lifted up his eyes and could see God and Lazarus at His side.
As we ponder the first part of this parable, we realize that Lazarus was a child of God and the rich man was not.
Lazarus had nothing in the way of material goods. No land. No herd of animals. No servants. Not even food to eat.
However, Lazarus was reconciled with God and was rich spiritually.
The rich man had much in the way of material goods, but was not reconciled with God and was poor spiritually.
The rich man likely thought that he “had everything” and was on top of the world. He likely had servants and was regarded as a powerful man by those around him.
We do not know all of his faults and sins, but we do know that he evidently had no compassion on the poor, hungry Lazarus.
He had the means, but was unwilling to help his fellow man in his distress.
He was obviously only concerned about himself. Self-centered and likely self-righteous.
He likely passed by poor Lazarus daily, ignoring him and his needs.
The sick and starving Lazarus on the other hand, though he was poor and owned nothing, was a child of God with his eternity being secure.
After both of their deaths, we continue to see the opposite extremes.
The rich man, seeing Lazarus in the bosom of God, cries out to God for mercy and relief.
He asks God to send Lazarus to touch his tongue with water because he is in anguish from the flames.
However, it is too late.
God gives all of humankind the chance to be reconciled with Him. Some accept Jesus as Savior as a teen, some in middle age and yes, even some on their deathbed.
Remember the thief on the cross? As he was about to die, he was saved and Christ told him that they would be together “this day in paradise.”
Everyone has a chance. Until it becomes too late.
Each of us must make the most important decision of our life. Do we accept Christ as Lord and live according to His teachings or do we ignore and reject Christ?
This rich man was not reconciled with God. He had not made the right decision and now he realizes it when it is too late.
God tells the rich man that in his earthly life, he had received the good things of life and Lazarus on the other hand had received the bad things.
Furthermore, God tells the rich man that between where he is and where Lazarus is, there has been placed a great gulf or chasm, so that one could not go from one place to the other.
Again, it is now too late. The die of eternity has been cast.
Realizing his unchangeable fate, the rich man does something that is surprising to me.
He turns “evangelistic”, showing mercy and compassion for his five brothers.
He literally begs God to send Lazarus to his father’s house to warn the five brothers so they will not make the same mistake and come to this horrible place of torment.
In other words, the rich man wants Lazarus to warn his brothers not to be like he was, to live differently and to reconcile their lives with God.
God said, “but they have Moses and the prophets”, telling them that they should know the commandments and how to live a righteous life.
The rich man argues further saying if they are warned by someone who is raised from the dead, they will surely repent.
God once again says no. He tells the rich man that if his brothers will not believe Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.
Jesus does not fill in all the blanks in this parable.
All we know about the sins of the rich man is this one thing. He had no compassion or mercy for the poor man laying outside of his gate. A man who was starving and sick.
Even though the rich man had much more than he needed, he was not willing to feed the poor man and help restore him to health. He was self-centered, self-satisfied and void of love and compassion for his fellow man.
All that Lazarus wanted was the crumbs that fell from his table. However, it is apparent that he didn’t even get these.
The dogs who licked Lazarus’ sores had more compassion for him than the rich man did.
Upon the death of both, they received their just reward.
Lazarus was comforted and with God in his heavenly home.
The rich man was tormented and in anguish in hell; his eternal home.
In this parable, Jesus makes clear what the consequences of rejecting Him will be.
At the end of the parable, Jesus refers to His upcoming death and resurrection and makes a statement of prophecy, saying that many of the Jewish people will not be convinced of the warning, even if one should rise from the dead.
The wonderful and comforting lesson from this parable is that if you are a child of God, at death your soul shall be carried by the angels to be with God.
The warning is that if you are not a child of God at death, your eternity will be torment and anguish.
Jesus wanted those hearing the parable then and those reading the parable today to consider their salvation and the condition of their heart.
First of all, are we saved and ready to meet God?
Secondly, when we have the opportunity, are we showing to others the love, mercy and grace He showed us?
Jesus also wants us to know that as Christians, even if we are destitute in this life, we are richer than the richest among us. The pains of this life will be nothing compared to the riches received in glory.
What a wonderful, yet simple parable about salvation, obedience and eternal destinations. Also, the consequences of not accepting Jesus as Savior and loving our neighbor as ourselves.