In the previous parable (vv. 1–9), Jesus told us to use our money to bless others so that we might be “welcomed into eternal dwellings” (v. 9). The next parable explains what this means (vv. 19–31). It is a frightening and compelling story which shows how serious the issue of the right use of money is.
We meet two men whose lifestyles are completely different. One is extravagantly rich and the other unspeakably poor. This is the only parable in which Jesus gives a character a name. The poor man is called Lazarus, which means “God helps”. While he is physically poor, he is spiritually rich. Jesus has already announced, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). This is Lazarus.
In that same passage, Jesus said that those who are hungry and weep now will be full and will laugh in the age to come, while the well-fed now will be hungry then (6:20–26). This is what we see after the deaths of these two men. While Lazarus is in bliss in paradise, the rich man is in agony in hell. He should have demonstrated his faith in God by using his worldly wealth to bless Lazarus.
The rich man’s final request is for someone to warn his brothers, who also walk past the poor and needy with the same hardness of heart that he did (vv. 27–28). Abraham tells him that they have been warned. The law says, “If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites . . . do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted towards them. Rather, be open-handed and freely lend them whatever they need” (Deuteronomy 15:7–8).
The rich man then begs that Lazarus be returned from the dead to warn them. Abraham’s answer is the right one: they have the Scriptures (v. 31).
We have these same Scriptures today, both the Old Testament and New Testament. More than that, we have the wonderful example of our Lord and Saviour. Paul reminds us of the grace of Jesus, who “though he was rich, yet for your sake became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Let us pray for the grace and strength to live generously, that we may be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
Think about who might be the Lazarus at your gate.
Having read these two parables from Luke 16, what decisions will you make about your money and possessions?