The Rich Man and Lazarus

Meister des Codex Aureus Epternacensis

Luke 16:19 – 31:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 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.’

“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. 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.’

“And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers–so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’

“But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’

“And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’

“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.'”

Treating Others Graciously

If we take nothing else from the parable, it should be this: we should always be kind and merciful to others, even if we get nothing in return. Luke 6:35 records Jesus telling us to love others even when they will not love us in return, to be merciful as our Father is merciful. James 2:1 – 5 calls us to avoid showing partiality for any reason. If we’re only gracious to people we already like, how does that set us apart from the world? It’s in being unexpectedly generous, kind, and loving that show we are of Christ.

It’s easy to find physical things that can divide us — race, social standing, appearance, and more. II Corinthians 5:16 tells us that we should no longer look at one another according to worldly divisions. We are a new creation. Harder to guard against, but still as important, is looking past spiritual deficiencies in the kindness we show each other.

Reaping Rewards

II Corinthians 5:6 – 10 reminds us that we will be judged for our deeds one day. This is exactly what happened with the rich man who refused any grace toward Lazarus. He looked out for himself and himself only. Galatians 6:7 – 8 tells us we will sow what we reap — the flesh to corruption and the spirit to eternal life. This challenges us to rearrange our priorities, looking further and higher than our immediate needs and surroundings.

Sometimes, our reward does not come in this life. Matthew 5:11 – 12 reminds us that God’s followers have been persecuted before, and they are always under threat of oppression and persecution. In these trials, Jesus tells us to rejoice and be glad, for God sees us and is preparing a home for us. In the end, how we use our time matters more than what we have. So let’s be less concerned with the distractions of this world, let’s stay focused on the next.

Life After This Life

Finally, in the parable, we see the rich man lift up his eyes in torment while he sees Abraham comforting Lazarus. Jesus and His apostles write that our souls will all have one of two resting places. One is in God’s presence, and the other is an eternity severed from God. The rich man ended up on the wrong side of the abyss between the two. Like Jesus described in Luke 13:24 – 25, he found himself outside the door and unable to get in. That’s why now is so important.

Even when the rich man pleads Abraham to send someone back from the dead, Abraham refuses. Once we cross death, there is no coming back to fix things. We have God’s word now. We have our time and opportunities now. We have all we need to seek after God and share Him with others now in this life. It’s not always going to be easy. It’s seldom going to bring rewards in this life, but God knows our hearts and our efforts in the face of worldly challenges. So the question is, who are you living as now — the rich man or Lazarus?

Lesson by Cole Huddlestun