Luke 16:19-31, LB
19 “There was a certain rich man,” Jesus said, “who was splendidly clothed and lived each day in mirth and luxury. 20 One day Lazarus, a diseased beggar, was laid at his door. 21 As he lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores. 22 Finally the beggar died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham in the place of the righteous dead.[a] The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and his soul went into hell.[b] There, in torment, he saw Lazarus in the far distance with Abraham.
24 “‘Father Abraham,’ he shouted, ‘have some pity! Send Lazarus over here if only to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in these flames.’
25 “But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted and you are in anguish. 26 And besides, there is a great chasm separating us, and anyone wanting to come to you from here is stopped at its edge; and no one over there can cross to us.’
27 “Then the rich man said, ‘O Father Abraham, then please send him to my father’s home— 28 for I have five brothers—to warn them about this place of torment lest they come here when they die.’
29 “But Abraham said, ‘The Scriptures have warned them again and again. Your brothers can read them any time they want to.’
30 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham, they won’t bother to read them. But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will turn from their sins.’
31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even though someone rises from the dead.’”[c]
Luke 16 is the “Fort Knox” of the Bible. The entire chapter deals with money, and golly, I could use more of that. The chapter deals with the disciple and his wallet, and how it relates to God’s kingdom. The passage that we read is a parable (a story) that seems long, but when Jesus shared it the listeners must’ve been alerted that what wealth a person had was a real issue.
Verse 19 is the crux of the story, ““who was splendidly clothed and lived each day in mirth and luxury.” Although the average Jewish person might be able to pull this off 2-3 times a year (during feast days). This particular man lived this way, every single day. He ate very well, and his clothing was very nice. The rich man was the cream of the crop, the upper 1% of society.
I can see him throwing bones over his shoulder!
Laying just outside his gate was a “diseased beggar” whose dream in life was just to grab one of two of those bones for his dinner. To push Jesus’ story even further, we see the dogs (apparently hungry too) coming to lick the sores of the beggar’s body. The whole scene, the stark contrast between opulence and poverty made a very definite impact. I can just imagine that Jesus’ listeners grasped this terrible scene quite easily.
Quite suddenly both died. The afterlife separated them both, and those explosive words “a place of the righteous dead” and “hell.”
Jesus used them, and it makes me uncomfortable. We see the rich man trying to negotiate the situation. From the text we find a deep chasm separating these two men. We discover in the passage a real existence of an afterlife. This is not an easy truth to accept, and I wish it was otherwise. The text uses the word “flames,” and it appears that these are real.
I believe with all my heart in God’s love for us. Perhaps it’s our own sin that separates us from eternal life.
The rich man, whose eternal destiny has been fixed, desperately wants his family to see the truth. Hell is real. He wants them to understand this before it’s too late. It’s Farther Abraham who replies (and he pays an integral part here.) Reaching thw rich man’s family is not possible, even someone resurrected from the dead wouldn’t matter.
- It’s obvious that consciousness exists beyond the grave.
- The way that a person lives his life has eternal consequences.
- Wealth has an accountability to it.
- God’s word is the standerd by how a person is judged–for good or bad.
The parable, if interpreted literally, must be a factor in the way we live. We’re aware of the danger that wealth matters. The idea of repentance, “they will turn from their sins” is critical. So what do we do with all of this?
“The rich man wasn’t lost because he was rich. He was lost because he did not listen to the law and the prophets. Many will also be lost for the same reason.”
Sobering, isn’t it?
Art by Eugène Burnan