What's the Point of Jesus' Parable of The Rich Man & Lazarus?
Hint: This famous story might not mean what you think it means!
In Luke 16, Jesus tells a fascinating story about two contrasting characters: one who lives in luxury, and the other who lives in extreme poverty and, unlike all the other parables Jesus tells, in this particular narrative, one of the characters is actually given a name. The poor man’s name is Lazarus and, as you make your way into the story, it almost appears as if the rich man ends up suffering in the afterlife because of his great wealth and that the poor man is comforted at Abraham’s side because of his poverty. For example, in verse 25, Abraham says to the rich man “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.”
The odd thing about this way of framing the story, however, is that, in Genesis 13, Abraham is described as a wealthy man. Verse 2 tells us that he was “very rich in livestock, silver, and gold” and that his possessions were so great, that “he wasn’t able to stay together with his cousin Lot as they entered the promised land because the land could not support both of them with all their flocks, herds and tents” (Gen 13:6). Indeed, as you make your way in to Genesis 14, you also discover that Abraham is not only wealthy, but he also happens to be the leader of a small army of 318 trained men. No wonder he was formally received by kings whenever he entered a new country.
If this is the case, however, how is it that this same Abraham can say to the rich man in this parable that, since he had received so many good things during his lifetime in contrast to Lazarus, that it is only fair for everything to be reversed in the afterlife? If Genesis 13:2 describes Abraham as “a very rich and wealthy man” during his lifetime, shouldn’t he also be forced to suffer with the rich man of Jesus’ parable?
Continue reading this article at The Heidelblog where it was recently released in two parts.
For those interested, I discussed the possible connection between this parable from Luke 16 and Jesus’ raising of a man named “Lazarus” from the dead (John 11) on a White Horse Inn episode a few years back (click here to listen). Also, below is a chart I recently made which highlights some of the parallels between Jesus’ parable and the reigning high priestly family of the period.
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