Luke 16:13–15, 19–31comment (0)
April 26, 2012
By Cecil Taylor
Related Scripture: Luke 16:13-15, 19-31
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Dean, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
CHRISTIANITY 105: MANAGE MONEY WELL
Background to the Example Story (13–15)
“You cannot serve God and money” made a decisive point. Wealth must never displace God in a believer’s affections.
The Pharisees, who loved money, sneered at Jesus. He responded, “That which is prized among men is abhorrent to God!” The story of the rich man, sometimes called Dives (DYE-veez) from the Latin word for “rich,” and the poor man Lazarus illustrates. This is not a parable. No parable ever names one of its characters. This is an example story. The story comes in two parts.
Part One: Reversal of Fortunes in the Life to Come (19–26)
In eternity the rich man and Lazarus traded fortunes. Popular Jewish theology held that wealth was a sign of God’s favor, while poverty and disease were signs of God’s curse. A glimpse of the afterlife shows how wrong that theology was. It was the poor and diseased person who was really right with God while the rich man wound up in torment.
Dives’ outer garments were dyed with costly royal purple and his undergarments were of fine linen, the most delicate and expensive fabric known to the ancient world. When he died, he “was buried.” To the end, no misfortune fell on the rich man that might smack of divine judgment. His life of ease and luxury was followed by honorable burial. But his future destiny was horrid.
Lazarus’ utter wretchedness is clear. The rabbis said, “There are three whose life is no life: he who depends on the table of another (for food), he who is ruled by his wife and he whose body is burdened with sufferings.” But at his death, angels escorted Lazarus to paradise. “Into Abraham’s bosom” may indicate the place next to Abraham at the heavenly banquet (John 13:22) or it may describe close and intimate fellowship (John 1:18) with the patriarch. Either way “Abraham’s bosom” was a place of peculiar honor. The picture is that of a child lying on his father’s chest or sitting in his lap.
Part Two: Problem of Disbelief in the Life to Come (27–31)
To his dismay, the rich man discovered there was life beyond and its nature was retribution. On the other side of death Dives found himself in torment.
Rich Jews were more likely to be Sadducees, so Dives probably belonged to that sect. If so, all his life the rich man had been taught the old Jewish view that death ended all meaningful life. Dives discovered he had been horribly misinformed. Death does not end it all. There is life after. And for Dives that life was in a place of torment. In Jewish thought, springs of water were part of the landscape of Paradise while thirst that could not be slaked was one of the torments of the damned. Abraham could not grant the man’s request to send Lazarus with a drop of water to ease Dives’ thirst. A great gulf “has been, and remains, fixed” (v. 26) between the two parts of the realm of the dead.
Since Abraham could not send Lazarus to help him, Dives begged Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers that there was life beyond the grave. Abraham replied that there was sufficient warning in the law and the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible. Lazarus could not speak the truth more compellingly than Scripture. Dives objected. “Scripture is not enough. They need compelling signs.” The patriarch’s last word, however, was that those who reject God’s revelation in Scripture would not be convinced even if one rose from the dead. He was right. Not many weeks later Jesus Himself came back from the dead but these very Jews remained stubbornly unconvinced.
Why was the rich man condemned? The only hint given stands in Luke 16:30. The man’s words suggest he knew his problem was that he never “repented” toward God in his lifetime. All his life Dives believed he had only one life to live so he spent both his life and his money on himself and wasted no time or money on God or others.