Luke 16:19-31: The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus
We are living in the imaginary world of John Lennon, ‘Imagine there’s no heaven; it’s easy if you try; No hell below us; above us only sky.’ Unfortunately imagination and fantasy are not reality, and so we are walking around deluding ourselves about the facts. There is a heaven, there is a hell, we have a soul, there is an afterlife and we will face God on judgement day. We live in a dream land where we deny reality, we deny the things that define us, we deny the destiny that inevitably lies before us. We pretend morality is not universal but personal; that biological sex does not define gender but that it is a fluid state of mind that can be guided by choice; that God can be wiped out; that conscience is a relic of a former level of evolution that can be ignored; that souls are the ignorant invention of prescientific people, and on and on we could go. But there are facts we can never escape, we must all die, and we must face the consequences of what we have done in this life. One theologian described death this way, ‘death is the most democratic institution on earth… It allows no discrimination, tolerates no exceptions. The mortality rate of mankind is the same the world over: one death per person.’ Benjamin Franklin said that the two things in life that are certain are death and taxes. That is not technically true, people can avoid tax, but no one can avoid death. We all must die, but death is not the end, we must then go on to reap what we have sown in this life. It is this reality that Jesus places before us in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31.
Jesus has been speaking about money. We have had the parable of the unfaithful steward; Jesus has taught us about being faithful as stewards; He has warned us that we cannot love money and God; He has convicted the Pharisees of their hypocrisy and legalism and exposed how their greed has gone on under the disguise of external religion. Now comes the final hammer blow in this chapter around money, we have a parable showing the final results of a religious but selfish life. Jesus spoke earlier about using mammon to make friends for eternity 16:9, this parable shows how the rich man who was selfish has no friends in eternity. The main focus of this parable is the rich man. Lazarus does not say a word, but we have a lot detail around the rich man’s suffering and dialogue. We will look at this parable under two headings, firstly we will look at the lots of our main characters in this life; and then by contrast their lot in the afterlife.