Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Monday, 06 February 2012


By Jim Jordal

Now there was a Rich Man clothed in purple and fine linen who lived luxuriously every day. There was also a beggar named Lazarus who lay at the Rich Man’s gate where dogs licked his sores, and who received his food from the crumbs falling from the Rich Man’s table. Later the beggar died and was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom. The Rich Man also died, and from the torment of hell he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham and Lazarus far off. The Rich Man cried out to Abraham to please send Lazarus to dip his finger in water and cool his fevered tongue. But Abraham reminded him that in his lifetime he had received many good things, while Lazarus had received only evil things. So now he is comforted while you are tormented. Besides, there is a great gulf fixed between us that cannot be crossed in either direction. Then the Rich Man asked Abraham to please send Lazarus to his five brothers to testify to them lest they also come to this place of torment. Abraham replied that they should have heeded the warnings of Moses and the prophets. The Rich Man then said that his brothers would repent if one came to them from the dead. Abraham replied that if they will not heed Moses and the prophets they would not be persuaded even though one [Jesus] came to them from the dead.

Paraphrase of Christ’s Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31

The Rich Man and Lazarus is a metaphoric parable with many valid applications. It presents universal truth couched in a simple story in language understandable by uneducated people. Many parables, including this one, address the universal human experience of oppression of the poor at the hands of powerful, complacent dominators, with the hope of an inevitable redressing of the balances sometime in the future.

This parable has several valid applications to the current perilous plight of the world’s poor (symbolized by Lazarus) at the hands of wealthy oppressors (the Rich Man) and their evil political, economic and social systems. These are all current realities easily perceived in daily political and economic events. One is that oppression of the poor by wealthy, powerful dominators does exist and could easily be termed class warfare. Another is that there is Divine retribution in the form of release from suffering for victims and a certain punishment for those who oppress. A third is that there exists a vast gulf (Christ) between those being rewarded and those enduring punishment, and that this gulf cannot be crossed in this age or in the next.

The beggar (Gr.cringing pauper) named Lazarus was covered with sores (neglected physical problems, injuries) and was aided and comforted only by the dogs that licked his wounds. Dogs symbolize people so low on the social status scale that they are virtually non-people that could be discarded at will, yet they were the only help available for Lazarus. He ate whatever scraps fell from the Rich Man’s table (discarded in the alleyway or gutter). It’s difficult to develop a more pathetic picture of a human existence than Lazarus---lonely, dejected, without hope, utterly ignored and having no value to the powerful rulers and wealthy families that controlled the culture.

The crumbs that allowed Lazarus to exist were whatever was left over after the Rich Man had satisfied himself and his associates. They were useless scraps of garbage to him, but represented life itself to Lazarus. Today we have the same societal condition in the so-called trickle-down economic theory (called Supply Side economics in polite company), in which everything good is assigned to the wealthy, with the promise that they will spend it investing in job creation. Thus will wealth eventually trickle down to everyone else. If that were true then we should be awash in new jobs because the rich now enjoy the most favorable tax situation since before the Reagan years. So where are the jobs?

Will the economic balances ever be redressed? Yes, they will! Scripture indicates that sometime before the return of Christ there will be a massive, certain collapse of the world’s economic and political domination systems, termed Babylon in Revelation 18. God’s people are urged to "come out of her" so that they not participate in her sins or her punishment. The difference between the perishing domination system and the people who are spared is simply faith in Jesus Christ and adherence to his teachings regarding justice and righteousness. Nothing else will do!