Luke 16:19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.
Luke 16:20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
Luke 16:21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.
Luke 16:22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried,
Luke 16:23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.
Luke 16:24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’
Jesus is on a roll with the parables and He tells this one in the same context as these past few parables on wealth. It all started with Pharisees asking why He ate with sinners and tax collectors. We went from the lost coin to the lost sheep to the lost son, through to the shrewd manager and how nothing is going to change about the Law to support your greed, not even divorce.
Before you read this parable and hear a bunch of things that Jesus isn’t saying, root yourself in the context. For one, Jesus is still talking about what we do with our riches and the kingdom of Heaven. You can’t serve two masters. You’ll love one and hate the other.
The other thing is that we know that Jesus likes to say stuff to shock or irritate the Pharisees. The Prodigal Son parable was well known among Rabbis, but it ended with the father being angry and the son working his way back into his father’s household. That whole running, kissing, killing the fattened calf business was an unexpected shock! Almost a parody!
So this rich guy that wears purple robes, like the high priest wore, eats delicious food every day. On the Sabbath, your meals would be simpler because you aren’t working so hard. Not for this guy. He’s wearing lavish priest-like robes every day and even eats big on the Sabbath.
With no napkins, forks, or knives, bread was used as a napkin. It would then be eaten at the end of the meal to fill you up, or if you were already stuffed from all of your lavish food it would be thrown out. That’s what Lazarus is longing to eat. He’s so poor that he can’t shoo away a dog from licking him. He’s living off of the rich man’s bread-napkins.
Jesus is telling an entertaining story. The rich man is ridiculously rich. The poor man is ridiculously poor. This is like Jesus telling a “Your mama’s so poor she got a free gmail account just to eat SPAM,” joke.
But then they both die and we hear how things are going in the afterlife. Richy is so miserable that he wishes Lazarus’ water covered finger would cool his burning tongue. Again, that’s hilariously disgusting. He’s so miserable that it would be relief for Lazarus’ dog-licked, poor-man’s fingers to be in his mouth.
Jesus is warning those Pharisees (and us!) about the value of money and the value of life. It’s worth paying attention to the call of Heaven and the poor people around us. It’s worth caring about our eternal fate.
To squander eternity on ourselves with robes, food, and no rest is not worth it. Look around and see where we can bring in the Kingdom right now. We can.
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