The Rich Man and Lazarus
by Carrie Lucas
Jesus’ preceding words to the Pharisees form the context for this story. The Pharisees were lovers of money and they mocked Jesus’ warning that they could not serve God and wealth. He said “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 to God (Luke 16:15).”
In response to their mocking, Jesus tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man’s prestigious status and luxurious lifestyle would have been highly admired by the Pharisees. Yet Jesus is not impressed. He leaves this man unnamed, saying that he died and was buried in the ground, ultimately ending up in the agony and torment of hell.
Contrast that with Lazarus - homeless, starving, destitute and dirty. Not the type of person whom the Pharisees would have honored. Though ignored and abandoned by man, in death Lazarus is incredibly honored by God. He is carried away to heaven by angels, where Abraham is personally assigned to comfort him. Jesus is using the extreme contrast of these men’s earthly status and wealth to critique the Pharisees who highly esteemed the status of a person while ignoring the heart.
A further look shows that Jesus is portraying how the destiny of a man is not in regards to his personal resources, but to the state of his heart. The rich man’s heart was hard. He, like the Pharisees, possessed and had access to the Scripture. However, he did not listen to the Scripture and was not persuaded by the Scripture to repent. The rich man’s hardened indifference to the poor starving man lying at his gate was one of the manifestations of his lack of repentance and obedience to the Scripture overall.
Abraham’s remarks to the rich man drive this point home. He says that if people have the Scripture and still are not convicted to repent, a miraculous sign won’t do them any good. This is foreshadowing the Pharisees who, though having the Law and the Prophets, would not believe Jesus was the Messiah, even after He rose from the dead. While they justify themselves in their knowledge of Scripture, Jesus is challenging them because they did not believe Scripture. Because of this, they missed the path to repentance and the wonder of the resurrection.
The applicable principle for us is found in Abraham’s last words to the rich man. He says that if a person knows the Scripture, but fails to fully believe it in their heart, then no amount of miraculous display of power will change them. If we, like the Pharisees, read the word of God, but have hard hearts that do not heed it, we will not believe and experience the wonders of God. Trusting in who God says He is in Scripture is often a prerequisite to seeing God do the things that He says He wants to do on the earth.
Lord, as we read Scripture, give us soft hearts that believe every aspect of Your truth. Help us to recognize the areas in which we need to repent, so that we can see and experience the fullness of Your power on earth.
Carrie Lucas loves to read, study, and teach the Word of God. She has been part of The Falls Church Anglican family since 2014.