The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

Chances are that people who read my blog have heard at least one sermon on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

Today, let’s try to hear Jesus’ message as if we were one of crowd of people who heard it for the first time.

The reaction to the parable will differ based on the person’s reason for being in the crowd. Which one of the following best represents you?

Sincere Followers – Jesus had male and female followers who apparently traveled with him throughout Galilee and on the journey to Jerusalem.

The twelve disciples were part of this group, as were some women who supported the movement.

Religious Authorities – It is tempting to dismiss the religious authorities, because they fiercely opposed Jesus.

It is important to take the scribes and Pharisees seriously, because their religious convictions prevented them from being able to appreciate Jesus’ actions and teaching.

Religious beliefs in America and in parts of the world have become extremely polarized over the past few years. In this environment, people who claim Jesus as Lord and Savior are often at odds with one another.

We do well to step back from our intense convictions and ask Jesus to help us see things through his perspective.

My frequent question, “How am I like the bad guys?” is a good one to consider as we read through the Gospel of Luke.

— The Self-Absorbed – More than any other account, the Gospel of John identifies people in the crowd as those who want Jesus for their self-centered purposes.

This is another category that is due serious consideration.

Much of modern preaching – mine included – involves telling listeners how Jesus will help you have a better marriage, achieve financial freedom, experience health and peace, and so much more.

I am sure there were other kinds of people in the crowd. Please find your place among the listeners and try to hear the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus as if you are hearing it for the first time.

Starting At Two Different Places

Luke 16.19-21“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.

“And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,

“Who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores.”

The rich man was dressed in the clothes of royalty. Apparently, he ate like a king, too.

The poor man was defined by what he lacked and was unable achieve.

We do well to ask ourselves who is the “poor man” at our gate and whether we have tried to help or not?

Two Different Destinations

Both the rich man and Lazarus died. They had two distinct destinations.

Luke 16.22-23“The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

“In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.”

Hades is the realm of the dead. The rich man did not have the status of a name, and experienced torment.

Lazarus was at the side of Abraham. In his lifetime, he was a no-name person, but in Jesus’ parable he has a name.

When was the last time you considered your death? How does the fact that one day there will be a reckoning for your behavior affect your current actions and attitudes?

Master and Servant

Even in torment, the rich man believed he had the ability to command Lazarus to serve him.

Luke 16.24-26 “He 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.’

“But 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.

“‘Besides 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.’”

Lazarus was a no-name nobody, whose needs were invisible outside the gate of the rich man.

We do well to contemplate the poor who live outside the gate of our society. At the very least, we can learn about their plight and pray for them.

The Time for Listening

Moses and the Prophets consistently emphasized the fact that God’s people are to care for the most vulnerable of society – the widows, orphans, and immigrants.

In addition to Moses and the Prophets, many refuse to listen to Jesus, the One who rose from the dead.

Luke 16.27-31 “He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house—

“‘For I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’

“He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’

“He 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.’”

Jesus told parables to convince people to change their attitudes and actions.

As we consider our place in the crowd, let’s ask ourselves about our willingness to change.

Sincere Follower – In what way will I adjust my attitudes and actions toward the needy person at the “gate” of my life as a response to this parable?

Religious Authorities – In what way does this interpretation of the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus challenge my beliefs?

Am I willing to have an open mind about the interpretation?

The Self-Absorbed – Am I willing to think beyond my own interests and needs to see the persons in need around me?

Am I willing to get educated about the poor person at the “gate” of my life?

Will I pray about how I can join Jesus in his attitude and actions based on this parable?

YouTube Video

In today’s YouTube video, I tell a sad and somewhat funny story on how I wrongly used this parable early in my ministry.

Rudy Ross has some excellent insights in the video, too.

You can find the video on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.

Please email your prayer request to or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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