LAZARUS AND THE RICH MAN
THE HIDDEN MEANING BEHIND THE PARABLE
We have all read the parable of the rich man. Most people think that it is about what happens to bad people when they die. But, if we look at context, this parable may not be about that at all. We are going to scrutinize the context of the previous chapter to see could have led Christ to tell this baffling parable. We see in the previous chapter that He is at odds with the powerful Scribes and Pharisees who scoff at Christ for keeping company with sinners, and they grumble that He even eats meals with them. Christ begins to tell these wealthy men a series of parables, that ends with the parable of Lazarus and the rich man.
The higher ups in Christ's time were the Pharisees, the Scribes and the Sadducees. (The Priests) These men wielded political, religious, social and financial clout. Had Christ played their games, He would have been one of them completely, but they had a big problem. He sometimes hung out with poor people, prostitutes, tax collectors, fishermen and the lower echelons of the society of that day. And the two did not normally mix. Just like today.
We all know what class structure is. Rich people prefer to hang out with rich people. You rarely see truly wealthy people hobnob with the poor on a regular basis. The Country Club is a private place where the "well to do" can avoid contact with the non-Country Club crowd. People think that India has a strict class structure, but really it is a common human trait found in all societies.
Not that the poor want to be away from the rich so much as it is the other way around. It was no different in Christ's time. The rich didn't want to have to mix with the lower classes, and especially they didn't want to eat with them. Christ didn't care about class. He mixed with both groups, He had meals with both groups. He might be eating at a rich mans house and the same night, be hanging out and dining with people considered to be "sinners" and the bottom of the barrel. This didn't make the Pharisees and Scribes very happy. They murmured about it. Remember this as part of the back story or the context.
"Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receives sinners, and eats with them." Luke 15:1-2
Luke 15 sets the stage for the parable of the rich man. (Luke 16:19). Christ responded to their murmuring. He didn't hit them head on. He subtly told them the parable of the lost sheep, "What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?" His point being...ok, even if these people are sinners, they are lost sheep to be saved, but that really didn't get through to them.
So, He told them another parable about the woman who had 10 pieces of silver and lost one piece, and hunted until she found it and she rejoiced. Again, they weren't buying.
Then He told them a harder parable about the prodigal son who wasted his inheritance on wine, women and song, and how his dad was still so happy that he came back home that he sacrificed the fatted calf for him, even though he had never done that for the "non-sinning good brother."
Christ told another parable or two but the Scribes and Pharisees began to deride Him. Christ's point all along had been that they didn't need to look down on sinners and poor people because God wanted to save them. Remember the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin, and the parable of the lost brother. But, His parables had no effect on them at all, so He finally told them a truly hard parable that got their attention and burned their ears.
If the parable of Lazarus and the rich man had been about punishing bad people, Christ could have skipped the whole Lazarus part and just said, 'there was a rich man and he died and went to hell." But no, Lazarus is a key part of the parable. These snobby Pharisees and Scribes were offended that Christ had meals with sinners. So, Christ made the point that poor Lazarus didn't get to eat a meal with the rich man, he didn't even get any crumbs from his table. He is rubbing their face in their condescension of poor people. They certainly wouldn't have given even a crumb from their tables to those who they felt were below them...they wouldn't eat with them at all!
THE PARABLE OF LAZARUS AND THE RICH MAN
19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried." Luke 16:19-22
What is Abraham's bosom? "Abraham's bosom" was an expression in the oral traditions of the Jewish Rabbi's for the state of bliss after death." So, Christ made it plain...poor Lazarus would have bliss, but not the rich man. (They knew He was talking about them.) Christ's point to them, was that being rich in this life would be no help to them after they were dead.
He continued, "And in hell (the grave) he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (bliss) And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime received thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. "
Those rich Scribes and Pharisees didn't want to hear this. Poor people would be in bliss and they the rich would be tormented. Christ was making a powerful point to them personally. There was no real man with a hundred sheep who really lost one, there was no real woman who had ten coins and lost one, there was no real man who had 2 sons and lost one AND...there was no real rich man. These parables were an attempt to get through to these rich and powerful men that they should not look down on others. These men didn't like Christ because He stood up for sinners, and poor people, and for women (the woman caught in adultery) and for all the social outcasts of that society.
This is the real and deep meaning of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Comfort is coming for the Lazarus's of the world. For the people who haven't had it so good in this life. Christ knew that the rich will have it rough later...and that it would be hard for an ultra rich man to even make it in the Kingdom of God.
The proud, the arrogant and the rich forget that they will not be able to carry their wealth with them into their judgment. (Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation 20.)
Revelation 20:11-13 says, "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened (The bible). Another book was opened, which is the book of life.
Imagine it. In the Great White Throne resurrection, all the dead, small and great, will come up together side by side. The rich will not be in one place and the poor in another. The Tsar of Russia could be standing right next to a little orphan girl who died in the potato famine in Ireland in the 1800s. Which one will be happier to be in the Kingdom of God? The Tsar of Russia had an opulent life before, but now that is over. He is no longer rich. He has no servants, or beautiful palaces...he will be tormented by the memory of all those things. The little orphan girl will have food and clothes and milk and everything she ever dreamed of. She will be comforted. She will be in the role of Lazarus and the Tsar will be in the role of the rich man. No doubt, it will be very hard for the ultra rich in the resurrection. They will have a hard time overcoming that...some will not.
This is the right explanation of why Christ gave the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man. It is about how God will handle class structure in the Kingdom of God....there won't be any. Even so, rich people have a shot at being in the Kingdom of God too. God wants to give eternal life and blessings to all who have ever lived, great and small.
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