Luke 16:14–31. The Rich Man and Lazarus.

Key Notes: On divorce. Sins of omission and neglect. Hell.

16:14–18 When Jesus finished the parable of the bad steward and said we cannot serve God and money, the Pharisee who were listening in, laughed. Jesus then gave them a series of four short responses. They are not easily connected.

•They might be able to convince the public of their virtues, since wealth was seen as a sign of God's favor, but God was able to see their hearts and found their greed abominable.

•The Law and the Prophets was an era of 2000 years that ended with John the Baptist and was succeeded by the era of the Gospel (probably news to them). The Gospel was exciting very strong reactions: angry rejection, or aggressive pursuit. But the substance of the Law did not change. "Thou shalt not commit adultery" “Thou shalt not covet…..” (Could they have understood?)

For example, the Pharisees were taught by Rabbi Hillel that a man could divorce his wife if she upset him by burning his supper. Rabbi Akiba thought that finding a prettier woman would be grounds for divorce. What the Law of Moses said about divorce pertained to a special case, the remarriage of a divorced woman: "When a man takes a wife...if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a bill of divorce...and {she} becomes another man's wife...and the latter husband dislikes her and writes her a bill of divorce...then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife...."(Deut.24:1–4)

But Jesus based His teaching of divorce on the pre-Law teachings of Genesis. "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh. What God has joined together let man not put asunder." (Matt.19:5–6 referring to Gen.2:24)

16:19–31 Then Jesus went on to amplify His message with a second parable about money. A rich man lived in luxury with the finest of clothing and food. At the door of his villa lay a sick beggar named Lazarus, hungry for crumbs, with sores licked by the town dogs. The beggar died and went to Paradise. The rich man also died and was buried (perhaps the beggar's body had been thrown in the dump) and ended in Hades. The rich man did not protest the injustice of his plight but asked Abraham to send him some water by Lazarus. [The poor man he had neglected must now care for him!] Abraham replied that no one could get across the abyss that separated them. Failing at that, the rich man asked for Lazarus to go and preach to his five brothers. Abraham replied that the Law and Prophets were enough to lead them to Paradise. But the rich man insisted that a resurrected person would be more powerful a persuader than Moses and the Prophets. Abraham observed that even a resurrection would not convert those who turned away from God's Old Testament message.

Two examples corroborate Jesus' word on the resurrection and its failure to persuade unbelievers.
The chief priests tried to kill Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, whom Jesus raised from the dead. He was leading people to follow Jesus. Jn.12:10
Jesus was resurrected. Peter and John were arrested for speaking about it. Acts 4:2
Even the miraculous release of Peter and John from prison did not stop the Jewish leaders from trying to smother the truth. Acts 5:22–32

No wonder that Jesus appeared only to the believers. We often are disappointed with our own poor attempts to convince people of the Gospel, but even solid evidence for the Resurrection could not turn the hard-hearted to God. Then why should we bother? Because of God's command to preach regardless of whether people are receptive or not.

There are a number of other lessons in this parable.
•The rich man did nothing. He had no ill-will toward the beggar. He only neglected him, a sin of omission. Sins of omission are much more difficult to evaluate in ourselves and others than sins of commission. When have we done enough? In this story, the beggar's presence at the gate demanded a response from anyone walking by the gate, so there would seem to be no excuse.

•The angels carried Lazarus to Abraham's bosom. The angels are active: they attend Christ (IIThes.1:7); they bring news of salvation (Lk.2:14); they rejoice over our salvation (Lk.15:10); they protect God's children. Matt.18:10; Acts 5:19

•Heaven and Hell are real and Jesus says more about them than anyone else. Hell is given much more description than Heaven, as if the stick were a more important motive than the carrot. Hell is a place of unquenchable (Matt.3:12) and eternal fire (Matt.18:8), "where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched" (Mk.9:48). It is also a place of outer darkness where men weep and gnash their teeth in anguish and remorse. Matt.8:12

•The dead are not asleep or extinguished. Jesus said "...have you not read what was said to you by God, 'I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' He is not God of the dead but of the living." (Matt.22:32)

•There is no way across between Heaven and Hell. Our destinies are fixed in this life.
"...it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment...."(Heb.9:27)
Purgatory is a myth.

The chapter in summary starts with Jesus teaching the disciples to use their money to win believers who would receive them into Heaven. When the Pharisees scoffed, Jesus advised them that the Law was still valid, for example, on divorce, and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Lev.19:18). So that they would not think that that was just a suggestion, Jesus told the parable of the rich man who did not use his money on behalf of the poor beggar and ended up in Hell.

His first parable had been positive: make to yourselves friends with the unrighteous mammon and you will be rewarded. His second parable was negative: if you don't help people with the unrighteous mammon you will be lost. Take your pick: use your money wisely or lose your soul.

Objections are that it sounds like poverty gets one to Heaven, and righteousness is by works. But we know that neither is correct. Faith without works is dead, though, being alone. Jm.2:17