Lazarus and the Rich Man I Introduction

Discover the richness of truly living for God in this bible study on Lazarus and the Rich Man. This parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man touches on man’s relationship to man, which the church often ignores or does not value enough. The rich man’s treatment of Lazarus moves him into abyss. If interested, please view our study on the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Jesus’ parables immediately challenge us by showing us how we should be living as children of His kingdom.

Indeed, the crux of this parable is more than the fact that:

  • We know there is an afterlife.
  • In addition, there is an eternal separation with suffering.
  • Finally, there is an eternal rest with God.

Lazarus and the Rich Man I Scripture -Part One

19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

Lazarus and the Rich Man I Scripture -Part Two

24 “Then 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.’25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’

27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house,28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’

Lazarus and the Rich Man I verses 19-20 -Part A

v19-20: This man wanted to ensure everyone “knew” what he had. In essence it was important for him to draw attention to himself. What do you think happens when we draw attention to ourselves? Answer: We grow insensitive and blind to the needs of others. Hey, “look at what God is doing for me” rather than being receptive to God and what He wants to do for others. In the rich man’s case, what God wants him to do for Lazarus.

The scripture passage states, “He feasted sumptuously every day.” Basically, this means he did not observe the Sabbath in that though he knows about the path and life of Abraham and Torah, he ignored it. He chose to pick what was important to him, rather than what is a priority to God. Did we catch that? Do we do that in our own lives?

Lazarus and the Rich Man I verses 19-20 -Part B

When it comes to the bible, do we slice it and dice it; take what is important to us and ignore what is a priority to God?

Outside within his (the rich man’s) reach lays a sick hungry poor man. How do we know he was sick? He was “laid” (carried) to the rich man’s gate; otherwise, he would have walked.

But this man has a name. Lazarus is the only individual with a name in all Jesus’ parables. In the other parables, we find the father, the prodigal son, the good Samaritan, the sower, but none are identified or have an identifiable name. Lazarus does and his name means “one whom God helps.”

Specifically, this in itself makes this parable relevant and serious. It validates the detail or deeply highlights the truth of “how we treat one another” will be something that God will take into account in eternity.

Lazarus and the Rich Man I verse 21a -Part A

v21a: He “desired” to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. The verb for “desired” in the Greek is used “for something a person wants, but is unable to have.” The rich man’s food is thrown away. It is available, but never offered; given to Lazarus. Understand, the big picture is not food, but about the person. How often does the pain of others grip our hearts and occupy our thoughts? Better still, how much time do we take for such people? Sadly, the food was given to the dogs instead. When is the last time we as believers have invited the broken and hurt people or person in our home and ministered the love, power and grace of Christ into their lives. Heck, even offer them lunch and listen to them within our home.

Lazarus and the Rich Man I verse 21a -Part B

Lazarus is sick, hungry and covered with sores. But his deepest suffering was mental and emotional. Think about it. Traditional Middle Eastern villages are tightly compacted. The gate at which Lazarus lay was easily within an earshot of the conversations the rich man and his guests. He can easily hear the talk about the food they were enjoying. He could hear about the vacations trips they had taken, the homes they had, the success they had with their jobs. The health and diets they were enjoying. Yet Lazarus is left without any thought, care or help.

As the rich man’s guests enter and leave his house there is not even a “hello.” Certainly, nothing of “how are you doing?” Believer, are we catching this? Of course, the same goes for the rich man himself. Anytime he was around outside his property or left and returned there was no greetings or acknowledgement toward Lazarus at all.

Lazarus and the Rich Man I verse 21b

v21b: The dogs are a further indictment against the rich man in his treatment of Lazarus. The dogs (in that culture) were used and meant to guard and protect the property similar to guard dogs. Yet the dogs demonstrated 3 things the rich man failed to convey and demonstrate.

Three things: affection, healing and friendship.

  • Firstly, their sign (demonstration) of “affection” (compassion):
    • They lick Lazarus. In other words, they do not ignore him, they care about him and demonstrate compassion. The attention Lazarus requires is more than physical.
  • Secondly, their sign (demonstration) of “healing” or ministry:
    • Lazarus had sores and he was filled with pain from them. A dog’s saliva contains peptide antibiotics and the ancients somehow discovered if a dog licked a person’s wounds, they would heal more rapidly. This was true of the ancient Phoenicians discovery.
  • Thirdly, their sign (demonstration) of “friendship”.
    • The rich man treats Lazarus as a stranger with indifference. The dogs treat him as their friend.

Lazarus and the Rich Man I verse 22-23

v22-23: Lazarus dies. Notice, it does not mention he was buried. This is done purposely to show us he did not even have enough for a funeral. The contrast is the rich man dies, but was buried.

Let’s start to observe the changeover.

Lazarus is now in the bosom of Abraham. He is not only in a place where he is welcomed, but also loved, healed, and honored. How will the rich man respond to this heavenly banquet of love, blessedness and comfort?

Lazarus and the Rich Man I verse 24 -Part A

v24: In the afterlife, what do you notice here?

  • The rich man:
    1. Recognizes Lazarus.
    2. Knows his name.

Consequently, this means he knew Lazarus was at his gate and was aware of his pain, suffering, hunger, and brokenness.

  • Observe, the rich man. He is tormented. Yet you would think the first thing the rich man would do is apologize to Lazarus and ask his forgiveness. You and I can deny our pride and treatment of others “here on earth”, but it will not work in eternity before God.

Lazarus and the Rich Man I verse 24 -Part B

Therefore, we must be concerned with the way we treat one another. The rich man was “mean” in heart and “mean” in thought. The flame of Hades is consuming him. We are almost hoping for him to say, “I am sorry” or something along those lines. But in the scriptures Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruit.”

Although fruit is connected to our relationship with God (the Root); the evidence is found in our relationships and treatment of others. We can find that in the Luke 6 and in Matthew 12.

Lazarus and the Rich Man I verse 24 -Part C

By the way, we use the excuse that people are thin skinned and you and I can just blurt anything out of my mouth. The other person should just have tough skin! Well, start reading Luke 17:1-2. This portion of scripture and more in chapter 17 are part of the context of Lazarus and the rich man.

Lazarus and the Rich Man I verse 24 -Part D

Another thing, if you are going to walk with God in true humility and (forgiveness); Christlikeness entails offering forgiveness to the level of the offense. In other words, if I caused a five-gallon offense of hurt to Lillian (my wife), which includes “any type attitude behavior”, I cannot offer her a cup worth of apology. Integrity, humility and the love of God should compel me to offer a five-gallon apology. [As a side note, please take a look at and read Dr. Rob Reimer’s book (Soul Care)]. But think of the parable in Matthew 18:23-35 and the phrase, “turn him over to the tormenters until the debt is paid.” We need to properly forgive each other and then we will treat one another appropriately. Yes, God forgives us immediately, but we must properly forgive others (i.e. spouse, best friend).

Lazarus and the Rich Man I verse 24 -Part E

v24: What other critical thing can we look at here in this verse?

The rich man speaks to Abraham, but never speaks (acknowledges) Lazarus during the entire dialogue in the afterlife.

A quick step back. We hear the rich man cry, “Abraham!” Abraham is his patriarch. He has the blood of Abraham in his veins. But he does not have the heart of Abraham. Abraham was faithful and obedient to God. He cared and was his brother’s keeper. Think about Lot. Also, Abraham went to war when his servants were taken. He was willing to give of himself. The rich man had the “talk”, but not the “walk”. Yet he is now begging for mercy.

Lazarus and the Rich Man I verse 24 -Part F

When Lazarus was in pain, there is no need or sense of urgency or compassion. Now, that the rich man is in pain he demands something be done immediately.

He wants Lazarus to relieve his pain; to cool his tongue with water. His coldness and unconcern treatment of Lazarus is still evident. No humility or grace. Our attitude can have a deep impact on how we treat people; whether we ignore them through indifference or inflict them with our verbal insults. This is how the rich man responds to the comfort Lazarus now enjoys.

Lazarus and the Rich Man I verse 25

v25: “My son (my dear boy).” Abraham does not deny that the rich man is a member of his extended family and addresses him in a kindly manner despite his treatment of Lazarus and dishonor to Abraham. (Again, he did not reflect the character or fruit of his patriarch Abraham).

As a side note, that phrase “Now he is comforted” reaffirms the most painful evil Lazarus endured was the treatment he received from the rich man.

Lazarus and the Rich Man I verse 26 -Part A

v26: Let’s take a look at the heart (character) of Lazarus. He has not verbally spoken. We do not hear him say, “hey, you half dead dog, you deserve what you are getting.” Revenge, anger, and hate is not found in Lazarus.

Lazarus and the Rich Man I verse 26 -Part B

Indeed, the bible decrees: “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.” (1 John 3:10-11,14,17-18).

Lazarus and the Rich Man I verse 26 -Part C

But Abraham points out another problem. Observe these words, “those who want to pass from here to you cannot”. Who “would want” to volunteer and journey from heaven to hell? There is only one other person on stage. The treatment of Lazarus toward the rich man is unlike the rich man treatment. I believe Lazarus is whispering in the ear of Abraham. Father Abraham, “that is my old neighbor down there. Poor man, he is in such a fix and such pain. There is nothing, but torment and agony. I am comforted and doing well. We have plenty of water here. If it pleases you, I will be glad to take a glass down to him to cool his tongue.”

Lazarus and the Rich Man I verses 27-28

v27-28: But even after this there is no change at all. No grace, no love, no consideration of how horrible he has spoken and treated Lazarus. Even though Abraham told him earlier to “Remember” (reflect) he basically cuts Abraham off and now wants Lazarus to warn his family so they do not suffer such pain and treatment.

Lazarus and the Rich Man I Application

  • Ask for forgiveness of God and the other person. If it is a spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend… get before God together.
  • Other forgiveness to the level of offense.
  • Get before God in His presence and “process” anything or those particular things that are affecting how we are treating that person or people.

Lazarus and the Rich Man I Conclusion

Ultimately, in the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man we need to ask, is your attitude affecting the way you treat others? Do you need to change the way you talk and treat people? What continuous steps of accountable submission and prayer have you taken?