4 September 2015Luke 16:19-31
“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.’” (vv. 30-31)
Psalm: Psalm 82
Today's parable raises an interesting question for us. The rich man (who is not named) ignores the suffering of Lazarus and lives in luxury while Lazarus suffers outside his gate. Jesus deliberately underlines how wealthy the rich man is in contrast to Lazarus. His clothing is the most opulent possible (verse 19); producing purple dye was difficult and time-consuming and so dying your clothing purple was regarded as a striking luxury in the ancient world. According to Jesus this rich man ate daily what most people would consider to be a feast. Even in death the rich man fares better. He receives a burial (which was a mark of respect) but we are not told the same for Lazarus (verses 22-23).
Then they both die and, in a shocking reversal of fortune, Lazarus is with Abraham while the rich man is tormented in Hades. Almost more shockingly (this is a story and not meant to give us a literal picture of hell) Abraham and the rich man are able to see each other and talk together from their different situations. What we may miss is the way in which even when he is in hell, the rich man still assumes that he is worthy of special privileges (verse 24). He still refers to Abraham as "father" - compare this with John the Baptist's statement that only those whose lives reflect their repentance may do so (Luke 3:8). He still wants his family to be treated differently, it is not enough that they (like all Jews) have Moses and the prophets to tell them what God asks of them, his family should be granted a miracle to ensure they get the message. What is more, he wants to send Lazarus as his messenger. Clearly, in his mind, Lazarus is still less important than him and his family.
Even the great shock of ending up in hell has not caused this man to fundamentally rethink his values. It is, perhaps, no wonder that Abraham argues that members of his family are no more likely to change, even if they see a man risen from the dead.
- The rich man cannot let go of his sense of privilege and rights. What does this say to us about how difficult human beings find it to change?
- Looking back over your own life, was there something which did help you to see life differently, even let go of a sense of privilege? What was it and how did it help you?