The Rich Man and Lazarus

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“There was a cer­tain rich man, which was clothed in pur­ple and fine linen, and fared sump­tu­ously every day: and there was a cer­tain beg­gar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and de­sir­ing to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s ta­ble: more­over the dogs came and licked his sores. 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; and in hell he lift up his eyes, be­ing in tor­ments, and seeth Abra­ham afar off, and Lazarus in his bo­som. 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 re­ceivedst thy good things, and like­wise Lazarus evil things: but now he is com­forted, and thou art tor­mented. And be­side all this, be­tween us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you can­not; nei­ther can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee there­fore, fa­ther, that thou wouldest send him to my fa­ther’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may tes­tify unto them, lest they also come into this place of tor­ment. Abra­ham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, fa­ther Abra­ham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will re­pent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, nei­ther will they be per­suaded, though one rose from the dead.” Luke 16:19-31

We should note first of all that Je­sus’ illustration of the rich man and Lazarus may be much more than a para­ble, for it is told by Je­sus as if it is a true and fac­tual ac­count. Whether an ac­tual his­tor­i­cal event or a para­ble, we can still learn much from Je­sus’ telling of it.

The rich man is not iden­ti­fied by name; but the poor beg­gar’s name was Lazarus, which means “God is help.” Even though Lazarus was poor and full of sores, we know that he was a true be­liever in God, as his name in­di­cates, be­cause he was taken to heaven when he died. Even though the rich man was greatly blessed by God in ma­te­rial things, he did not be­lieve or lis­ten to the Word of God (Moses and the Prophets). This can be seen by the fact that there were no fruits of faith in his life in re­gard to poor Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, and by the fact that his soul went to hell when he died.

In ad­di­tion to teach­ing that one’s soul goes ei­ther to heaven or to hell when he dies, Je­sus warns against liv­ing life solely for the en­joy­ment of the good things of this world. One’s first con­cern should be to heed the Word of God and re­pent, turn­ing away from sin and the self­ish use of this world’s goods to faith in Christ, who died to re­deem us from sin and death. As a fruit of true re­pen­tance, we will then put to death our self­ish and sin­ful de­sires and use the goods of this world to help those in need. We will not close our hearts to the poor and needy but will do all we can to help them.

One more im­por­tant truth should also be learned. If one does not heed the Word of God dur­ing his life­time, there is no other hope for re­pen­tance; for the Holy Ghost works through the Law to con­vince us of our sin and the pun­ish­ment we de­serve, and through the Gospel to re­veal our Sav­ior and to as­sure us of eter­nal sal­va­tion through faith in Him. If one, dur­ing his life­time, re­fuses to turn from his sins to Christ Je­sus, his Sav­ior, there will be no more op­por­tu­nity for re­pen­tance. His tor­ment in hell will be for­ever! But when one, by the grace of God, heeds the Word and re­pents, trust­ing in Christ for for­give­ness and life, his soul, at the time of death, will be trans­ported by an­gels to the bo­som of Abra­ham.

O Je­sus, who my debt didst pay and for my sin wast smit­ten, within the Book of Life, oh, may my name be also writ­ten! I will not doubt; I trust in Thee, from Satan Thou hast made me free and from all con­dem­na­tion. Amen. ( The Lutheran Hym­nal, Hymn 611, Verse 5)

[De­vo­tion by Randy Moll. Scrip­ture quo­ta­tions are from the King James Ver­sion of the Bi­ble.]

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