While many reading this are probably familiar with Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus, found in Luke 16:14-31, allow me to summarize it for the purposes of this post:
Jesus says there were two men: a certain rich man, and a poor man named Lazarus. The rich man’s life was one of continual ease and enjoyment. Poor Lazarus’ life was the opposite – he frequently laid outside the rich man’s gate, covered in sores, which dogs would come and lick as he laid there helpless. Lazarus greatly desired to eat and receive satisfaction from even the crumbs that would fall from the rich man’s table, but he was never welcomed or given anything. In time, both of these men died. Poor Lazarus was taken to “Abraham’s bosom” and was comforted, while the rich man found himself in Hades, where he was tormented. The rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus cool his tongue with water, but Abraham says this cannot be done. He then asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his five brothers to warn them, but Abraham says they had Moses and the prophets to speak to and warn them, and if they wouldn’t listen to these, then they also wouldn’t listen even to someone who rose from the dead.
Several times, I’ve heard this parable used as a warning against the terrors of hell and as an illustration of the setup of hell. Usually, the idea presented is that torment in hell likely awaits those who ignore or oppress the poor. However, this parable isn’t about hell or giving money at all. Let me say again, THIS PARABLE IS NOT ABOUT HELL OR GREED AT ALL. It’s a –>parable;<– you have to see past the obvious, surface meaning (the natural interpretation) to see the deeper meaning (the spiritual). It’s mandatory to see that Jesus tells this parable in the context of the lengthy discussion he was having with the Pharisees about their hypocrisy and their illegitimate confidence before God in the law and the old-covenant prophets. It was this confidence in the righteousness of the law that Jesus was actually discussing, and this discussion actually begins in Luke chapter 14 or 15. If you read carefully, you’ll notice Jesus begins the parable by using the word “now,” meaning it is just a continuation of his current train of thought. That train of thought is clearly stated in the verses immediately leading to this parable, which are these:
(Luke 16:14-19 NAS77) “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things, and they were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God. “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since then the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail. “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery. Now there was a certain rich man…”
Believe it or not, the intent and meaning of the Lazarus and Rich Man parable is to illustrate the revolutionary division which Jesus instituted and proclaimed (remember his “winnowing fork” from my last post?) This division is between two ways of relating to God: the way of self-righteousness and confidence before God based on one’s observance of laws and regulations, and the way of total self-denial based on receiving the life of the spirit and pursuing the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. The former way is that of the religious. It appeals to the flesh and fosters pride, rigid tradition, and hypocrisy. The latter is the way of God’s sons, which appeals to the spirit and fosters humility, evolution, and freedom.
In my next post, to come soon, I’m going to look at specific details of Jesus’ statements both before and in this parable, which should shed more light on what he meant in the telling of this parable and how it still relates to us today. Maybe you can re-read it in a new light and see some things there that will help guide your walk with the Father. I hope you’ll check back in a few days. God bless you.