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Luke 16:19-31 – The Rich Man and Lazarus


Jesus tells a parable about a very rich man and a very poor man whose circumstances are reversed after they die.


This parable sits in the context of Jesus criticizing the Pharisees, whom Luke accuses of being "lovers of money" (16:14). But the parable speaks not only about them; it extends to Luke's readers, warning them about the blinding, dangerous capacities of wealth.

The rich man and Lazarus lead two totally opposite forms of existence. One is covered with opulent purple and fine linen; the other is covered in sores. One feasts daily; the other looks for scraps to curb his hunger. One lives inside a gated home; the other lies at the gate. One receives the dignity of a burial according to custom; the other is carried off to be with Abraham. They live close to one another, perhaps even visible to one another through the gate. After death, their conditions are totally reversed (recall Luke 1:52-53).

Jesus never explicitly states why the rich man receives his torment, but the story makes some clear suggestions. The man has disregarded the poor, even poor Lazarus who lived so nearby. This was done not out of ignorance but out of willful neglect. (It appears from v. 24, where the rich man knows Lazarus's name, that they are not strangers to each other.) The man also is presumptuous, perhaps assuming that he deserves good things in life because of his wealth or status. His request to Abraham, to have Lazarus come and cool his tongue, is audacious, for it suggests that Lazarus should do his bidding, even now in the afterlife.

Luke 16:19-31

The Rich Man and Lazarus

19 ‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.* The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.* 24He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” 25But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.” 27He said, “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” 29Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” 30He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” 31He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

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