Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrrar
13. No servant can serve two masters] God requires a whole heart and an undivided service. “If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ,” Gal_1:10. “Whosoever … will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God,” Jam_4:4. “Covetousness … is idolatry,” Col_3:5.
13. This verse forms a natural conclusion to the comments on the parable; and, if it was uttered only once, we may believe that this is its original position, rather than in the Sermon on the Mount where it is placed by Mt. (6:24). So Schanz, Weiss.
οὐδεὶͅ οἰκέτῃ δύναται δυσὶ κυρίοιͅ δουλεύειν. “No domestic can be a slave to two masters”: comp. Jam_4:4. To be a servant to two masters is possible, and is often done. But to be at the absolute disposal of two masters is not possible. The force of δουλεύειν must be preserved, and the special meaning of οἰκέτῃ is also worth noting.
ἤ ἑνὸͅ ἀνθέξεται. The omission of the article makes very little, difference: “one or other of the two.” As the second clause is less strong than the first, the ἤ may be understood in the sense of “or at least he will hold on to”—so as to stand by and support.
οὐ δύνασθε. It is morally impossible, for each claims undivided service. Mammon is here personified as a deity, devotion to whom is shown in “covetousness which is idolatry” (Col_3:5). No vice is more exacting than avarice. D.C.G. art. “Covetousness.”
No servant can serve two masters… Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Very vividly is this experience brought out in the great parable which immediately follows There the rich man was evidently one who observed the sacred ritual of the Law of Moses: this we learn without doubt from his conversation after death with Abraham. Thus he tried, after his light, to serve God, but he also served mammon: this we learn, too, clearly from the description given to us of his life, from the mention of the gorgeous apparel and the sumptuous feeding. The service of the two was incompatible, and we know from the sombre sequel of the story to which master the rich man really held, and whom alas for him! in his heart he despised.
Ingenuity is an excellent thing in its way; it counts for much in the conduct of life; it renders valuable aid in our “taking possession of the earth and subduing it;” it has its place and function in the spiritual sphere, A holy love will press it into its service and make it further its benign and noble aims. But there is a dividing-line, which is such that no ingenuity will enable us to stand on both sides of it. We must elect whether we will take our place on this side or on the other of it. That line is found in the service of Jesus Christ. To be his servant is to have withdrawn from the service of the world; to remain in the latter is to decline “to serve the Lord.” We may be loyal enough to this present world, may be animated by its spirit, governed by its principles, numbered amongst its friends, and
I YET MAKE A LOUD PROFESSION OF PIETY; or
II YET ENJOY A GOOD REPUTATION FOR RELIGION, witness the Pharisees of our Lord”s time and the false prophets of an earlier age; or
III STILL COUNT OURSELVES AMONG THE PEOPLE OF GOD; for many of those whom God “knoweth afar off” are persuaded of themselves that they are quite near and very dear to him. In nothing do men make greater mistakes than in the estimation that they form of their own moral and spiritual worth. But no man can live under the dominion of any one sin or with his heart yielded to the objects and interests of time, and
IV YET BE A TRUE SERVANT OF CHRIST. For to be the servant and follower of Christ is:
1. To have surrendered self to him, and the spirit of selfishness is the essential spirit of worldliness.
2. To have sworn undying enmity to all the false doctrines and pernicious habits which abound in “the world,” and which both characterize and constitute it.
3. Not to be living for time, but to be building for eternity. C.
Servant (oiketēs). Household (oikos) servant. This is the only addition to Mat_6:24 where otherwise the language is precisely the same, which see note. Either Matthew or Luke has put the logion in the wrong place or Jesus spoke it twice. It suits perfectly each context. There is no real reason for objecting to repetition of favourite sayings by Jesus.
14.And the Pharisees, who were covetous, heard all these things. They who imagine that Christ was ridiculed by the Pharisees, because he chose to employ a plain and familiar style, and made no use of swelling words, do not sufficiently comprehend what Luke means. Haughty and disdainful men, I do acknowledge, view the doctrine of the Gospel with contempt; but Luke expressly declares the reason why Christ was the object of their derision to have been, that they were covetous Entertaining a firm and deep-seated conviction that the rich are happy, and that there is nothing better for men than to increase their wealth by every possible method, and earnestly to guard whatever they have acquired, they reject as foolish paradoxes all the sayings of Christ which had a contrary tendency. And, certainly, any one that speaks of despising riches, or bestowing alms on the poor, is regarded by the covetous as a madman. Horace’s words on this subject are well known: “The people hiss at me, but I am well satisfied with myself.” But if, even when they are condemned by universal opinion, they continue to flatter themselves, how much more will they ridicule as a fable that philosophy of Christ which is far removed from the ordinary belief?
Some other pretense, I have no doubt, was held out by the Pharisees for ridiculing and evading a doctrine which opposed their vice. But we must attend to the motive by which they were actuated; for it is a disease which almost always prevails in the world, that the greater part of men affect to despise whatever does not fall in with their corrupt morals. Hence the ridicule, and jest, and merriment, with which the word of God is frequently assailed; for every man fights in defense of his own vices, and all imagine that their witticisms will serve for a cloud to screen their criminality.
Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
14. who were covetous] Rather, lovers of money, 2Ti_3:2. The charge is amply borne out by the references in the Talmud to the rapacity shewn by the Rabbis and Priests of the period. See Mat_23:13.
they derided him] The word is one expressive of the strongest and most open insolence, 23:35. There is a weaker form of the word in Gal_6:7. Here the jeering was doubtless aimed by these haughty and respected plutocrats at the deep poverty of Jesus and His humble followers. It marks however the phase of daring opposition which was not kindled till the close of His ministry. They thought it most ridiculous to suppose that riches hindered religion—for were not they rich and religious?
14. Ἤκουον δὲ ταῦτα πάντα. This shows that the occasion is the same; but the scoffs of the Pharisees diverted Christ’s words from the disciples (ver. 1) to themselves. Note the πάντα.
φιλάργυροι ὑπάρχοντεͅ Avarice was their constant characteristic: for the verb see on 8:41 and 23:50. The adj. occurs 2Ti_3:2 and nowhere else in bibl. Grk., but is quite classical., 2 Mac 10:20 we have φιλαργυρεῖν. The covetousness of the Pharisees is independently attested, and they regarded their wealth as a special blessing for their carefulness in observing the Law. Hence their contempt for teaching which declared that there is danger in wealth, and that as a rule it promotes unrighteousness. They considered themselves an abiding proof of the connexion between riches and righteousness: moreover, they had their own explanation of the reason why a Rabbi who was poor declaimed against riches. Comp. 20:47.
ἐξμυκτήριζον. “Turned up the nose (μυκτήρ) at”: 23:35; Psa_2:4, Psa_34:16. Here deridebant (f), inridebant (a), subsannabant (d). In class. Grk. μυκτηρίζειν is more usual: Gal_6:7; 2Ki_19:21; Pro_1:30; Isa_37:22; Jer_20:7. In medical writers it means “bleed at the nose.”
And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. This shows that many of the dominant sect had been present and had listened to the parable of the unjust steward. Although scrupulous, and in a way religious men, these Pharisees were notorious for their respect and regard for riches, and all that riches purchase, and they felt, no doubt deeply, the Lord”s bitter reproach of covetousness. They, the rulers and leaders of Israel, the religious guides, were evidently attacked in such teaching as they had been lately listening to, not the common people whom they so despised. The scornful words alluded to in the expression, “they derided him,” were no doubt directed against the outward poverty of the popular Galilaean Teacher. “It is all very well,” they would say, “for one springing from the ranks of the people, landless, moneyless, to rail at wealth and the possessors of wealth; we can understand such teaching from one such as you.
The explanation of false judgment.
“Herein is a marvellous thing,” that the men who were reputed to be the best and wisest among the people of God went so far astray in their judgment and their behaviour that they treated with positive contempt the Good and the Wise One when he lived before their eyes and spoke in their hearing. It demands explanation.
I AN APPARENTLY UNACCOUNTABLE FACT. Here we have:
1. Heavenly wisdom derided by those who were divinely instructed. ThePharisees had the Law of God in their hands. Moreover, they had it in their minds and memories; they were perfectly familiar with it; they knew it well to the last letter. They had the great advantage of the devotional Scriptures following the legal, and the didactic and the illuminating prophetic Scriptures added to both. Then, to crown all, came the enlightening truths of the great Teacher himself; yet they failed to appreciate and even to understand him. Nor did they simply turn from him without response; they took up the position of acute and active opposition derided him;” they sought to bring his doctrine into popular contempt.
2. Divine goodness derided by those who were exceptionally devout. Noman could impeach the devoutness of the Pharisees, that is to say, so far as manner and habit were concerned. Their outward behaviour was reverent in the extreme; their habit of life was regulated by rules that brought them into frequent formal connection with God and with his Word. Yet with all their exterior piety they saw the Holy One of God living his transcendently beautiful his positively perfect life before them, and, instead of worshipping him as the Son of God, instead of honouring him as one of the worthiest of the sons of men, they actually judged him to be unholy and unworthy, and they endeavoured to bring him under the contempt of all good men! Such was their moral perversity, their spiritual contradictoriness.
II THE TRUE EXPLANATION OF IT. That which accounts for this radical and criminal mistake of theirs was spiritual unsoundness. They were all wrong at heart; they loved the wrong thing, and a false affection led them, as it will lead all men, very far astray. Everything is explained in the parenthetical clause, “who were covetous.” For covetousness is an unholy selfishness. It is a mean and a degrading carefulness about a man”s own circumstances, a small and a withering desire for an enrichment at other men”s expense; it is an affection which lowers and which enslaves the soul, ever dragging downwards and deathwards. And it is also a guilty worldliness. It is not that ambition to make the most and best of the present, which may be a very honourable aspiration; for “all things are ours as Christian men, things present” as well as things to come; (1Co_3:22) it is rather the moral weakness which allows itself to be lost and buried in the pursuits and pleasures of earth and time; it is the narrowing of the range of human attachment and endeavour to that which is sensuous and temporal, excluding the nobler longings after the spiritual and the eternal. This worldliness is not only a guilty thing, condemned of God; but it is a disastrous thing, working most serious evils to mankind.
1. It distorts the judgment.
2. It leads men into wrong and mischievous courses of action; it led the Pharisees to take such an attitude and to initiate such proceedings against Christ as culminated in his murder.
3. It ends in condemnation such severe judgment as the Lord passed on these blind guides. (see Mt 23) If we would be right at heart and in the sight of God, it is clear that “our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.
(1) Multiplied ceremonialism will not suffice.
(2) Perfected proprieties will not avail.
(3) Only a humble, trustful, loving heart will make us right.
A true affection, the love of Christ, will lead us into truth and wisdom, will commend us to God, will land us in heaven. C.
Vers. 14-31. The misuse of money.
The possibility of making “friends of the mammon of unrighteousness” has been clearly set before us by our Lord in the preceding parable. The “eternal tents” may afford us warmest welcome if we have conscientiously used our money. But the Pharisees who needed the warning against covetousness only derided him for his pains. It is supposed that it was his poverty which they thought took away his right to speak as he did of riches. He is consequently compelled to turn upon them a severer rebuke, and he does so in the sentences preceding, as well as in the substance of, the next parable. The intermediate sentences need not long detain us. Christ charges the Pharisees with self-justification. Now, this can only take place “before men.” It is an appeal to a mere human tribunal to those who can only judge by the appearance, but cannot search the heart. God, he tells them plainly, will not endorse this justification. He will reverse the sentence of self-complacency. He follows up this by stating the permanence of the Law. The reputation of the Pharisees may wither and decay, but not one tittle of the Law shall fail. And in present circumstances he declares that the Divine kingdom is being stormed by anxious men who have learned to humble themselves in penitence and pass into exaltation through pardon. They ought to see to it that they are not induced by lust to play fast and loose with the unchanging Law, and to imagine that they can divorce their wives on the usual pretexts, and be guiltless. Bat now we must proceed to the striking parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Upon the details of the story we do not tarry. It is an exquisitely powerful picture. The artist is here at his best. The rich man in his “purple and fine linen, faring sumptuously every day;” the poor man “laid at his gate, full of sores,” and thankful for the crumbs that fall from the rich man”s table and for the attention of the dogs; then two deaths, when lo! the positions are reversed, and the poor man finds himself in the bosom of Abraham and with his good things all about him, while the rich man finds himself in utter poverty, in need of everything and sure of nothing. The picture closes, too, all hope for such a selfish soul as the rich man proved himself to be. The following lessons are here taught us.
I EVERY ONE WITH MEANS HAS AMPLE OPPORTUNITY IN THIS LIFE OF BEING GENEROUS. (Ver. 20) The friends of the poor man laid him, or, as the word (ebeblhto) may mean, threw him down” at the rich man”s gate. There could be no doubt about the rich man”s opportunity; it was pressed upon his notice. And amid all the artificial separations which civilization makes between rich and poor, there is always some friendly hand to force opportunity upon us. “The poor we have with us always.” They appear, do what we may, at the feast of life, and we cannot exclude them from our considerations. It requires an effort to be utterly ungenerous. Now, we ought to bless God that he has not left us with any excuse for hard-heartedness. He brings the world”s needs to our very gates. He emphasizes opportunity. He gives us outflow for our generosities, He will not leave us in our hard-heartedness, but calls us evermore to nobler things.
II SELF-INDULGENCE MAKES PEOPLE ABSOLUTELY PITILESS. (Ver. 21) Mosheim, in a suggestive discourse from this parable, reminds us at the outset of the words of Peter about fleshly lusts warring against the soul.” It is wonderful how hardhearted luxurious living can make people. The rich man in the parable can find in his heart to pass out and in and never once to relieve his poor brother. The latter may have got crumbs from the rich man”s table, but if he did, it was more likely by the servants” charity than by the master”s orders. From the self-indulgent worldling he got no consideration. He is ignored, for the selfish soul has become pitiless. When self is supreme, it can shut out all consideration of others from one”s thoughts. When they obtrude themselves or are obtruded upon our attention, we say, alas! that they have no claim upon us, forgetting that they are our brothers. Against such hardheartedness we should all be upon our guard.
III DEATH, IN DEPRIVING THE SELFISH SOUL OF HIS GOOD THINGS, LEAVES HIM NECESSARILY IN TORMENT. (Vers. 22, 23) Good living is a most dangerous habit when it constitutes any man”s all. A soul, to be confined to this tariff, is in danger of dying into utter want. The round of sensual indulgence goes on day after day, the appetites are gorged, and man sinks down into the animal pure and simple. Now, if the world beyond makes no provision for such gross indulgences; if it has no venison and champagne; if the appetites are left without a larder and the famine of the senses has come; what kind of life must the poor soul have? It needs no furnace of actual fire to secure his torment. The burning desire, within which nothing can quench, leaves him of necessity in torment. If God has made no provision for the intemperate, for the gourmand, for the dissolute, in their environment beyond the grave, must not their lusts, denied satisfaction, be perpetual torment? The torment of unsatisfied desire, the hunger of a self-centred spirit, must be terrible!
IV UNBELIEF IS INEXCUSABLE, AND MAY BE INVINCIBLE. (Vers. 27-31) The selfish worldling had evidently been living without regard to a future life. In his torment he realizes that his five brethren are living the same heedless life. Lest, therefore, they should come and increase his torment, he asks that Lazarus be sent on a special mission to warn them about their doom. Now, it is plain that, with Moses and the prophets in their hands, they were without excuse. What, then, did Moses and the prophets teach? They do not teach with great distinctness the doctrine of a future life. They undoubtedly imply that doctrine. But the question is Did the rich man or his brethren need that doctrine to guard them against inhumanity of life? Must I tremble before prospective torment ere I am convinced that I ought to be generous and Considerate?nay, do I not know by the law of conscience that such conduct as is inhuman must incur the curse of God? Even the pagans are inexcusable when they live inhuman lives. Besides, we must not, with the rich man, imagine that a prescribed miracle may overbear all unbelief. Unbelief may be invincible. No miracle may be strong enough to defeat self-will. May we all be kept from such a hardened state!
V ABRAHAM, AS HE CHERISHES LAZARUS IN THE OTHER LIFE, SHOWS US HOW A RICH MAN MAY PERPETUATE HIS KINDLY OFFICES AND INFLUENCE. (Vers. 23-25) It has been very properly observed that in Abraham we have a rich man in blessedness, as a set-off to the other rich man in torment. Abraham was very probably the richer of the two while in life, but he had used his wealth for the good of his fellows. He had cherished the poor and needy. And so it is to good-hearted, faithful Abraham that the consolation of Lazarus is committed. Here the habits of helpfulness which the patriarch had cultivated upon earth find exercise in the better world. What a prospect is thus opened up to the large-hearted! Heaven will be full of opportunity for ministration. Those whose lot has been a hard one in this world will be taken to the bosom of the patriarchs of God those who have become “seniors” in his house of many mansions and receive from them the compensation which God has in store for all who have learned to love him. R.M.E.
Who were lovers of money (philarguroi huparchontes). Literally, being lovers of money. Philarguroi is an old word, but in the N.T. only here and 2Ti_3:2. It is from philos and arguros.
Heard (ēkouon). Imperfect active, were listening (all the while Jesus was talking to the disciples (Luk_16:1-13).
And they scoffed at him (kai exemuktērizon). Imperfect active again of ekmuktērizō. lxx where late writers use simple verb. In the N.T. only here and Luk_23:35. It means to turn out or up the nose at one, to sneer, to scoff. The Romans had a phrase, naso adunco suspendere, to hang on the hooked nose (the subject of ridicule). These money-loving Pharisees were quick to see that the words of Jesus about the wise use of money applied to them. They had stood without comment the three parables aimed directly at them (the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son). But now they do not remain quiet while they hear the fourth parable spoken to the disciples. No words were apparently spoken, but their eyes, noses, faces were eloquent with a fine disdain.
They derided him – The fact that they were “covetous” is here stated as the reason why they derided him, or, as it is literally, “they turned up the nose at him.” They contemned or despised the doctrine which he had laid down, probably because it showed them that with their love of money they could not be the true friends of God, or that their profession of religion was really false and hollow. They were “attempting” to serve God and mammon, and they, therefore, looked upon his doctrine with contempt and scorn.
Justify yourselves – “Attempt” to appear just; or; you aim to appear righteous in the sight of people, and do not regard the heart.
That which is highly esteemed – That is, mere external works, or actions performed merely to “appear” to be righteous.
Is abomination – Is abominable, or hateful. The word used here is the one that in the Old Testament is commonly given to “idols,” and denotes God’s “abhorrence” of such conduct. These words are to be applied “chiefly” to what Jesus was discoursing about. There are many things esteemed among people which are “not” abomination in the sight of God; as, for example, truth, parental and filial affection, industry, etc. But many things, much sought and admired, “are” hateful in his sight. The love of wealth and show, ambition and pride, frivolous and splendid vices, and all the wickedness that people contrive to “gild” and to make appear like virtue – external acts that “appear” well while the heart is evil – are abominable in the sight of God, and “should be” in the sight of people. Compare Luk_18:11-14; 1Sa_16:7.
15.It is you that justify yourselves before men. We see that Christ does not give way to their disdainful conduct, but constantly maintains the authority of his doctrine in opposition to their mockery; and it is the duty of all the ministers of the Gospel to pursue the same course, by meeting ungodly despisers with the dreadful judgment of God. He declares that the hypocrisy, with which they deceive the eyes of men, will be of no avail to them at the judgment-seat of God. They were unwilling to have it thought that their mockery was intended as a defense of their covetousness. But Christ affirms that this venom breaks out from a concealed ulcer; just as if one were to tell the mitred prelates of our own day, that their hostility to the Gospel arises from the severity with which it attacks their hidden vices.
But God knoweth your hearts. He says that they reckon it enough if they appear to be good in the eyes of men, and if they can boast of a pretended sanctity; but that God, who knoweth the hearts, is well acquainted with the vices which they conceal from the view of the world. And here we must attend to the distinction between the judgments of God and the judgments of men; for men bestow approbation on outward appearances, but at the judgment-seat of God nothing is approved but an upright heart. There is added a striking observation:
What is highly esteemed by men is abomination in the sight of God. Not that God rejects those virtues, the approbation of which He hath engraved on the hearts of men; but that God detests whatever men are disposed, of their own accord, to applaud. Hence it is evident in what light we ought to view all pretended acts of worship which the world contrives according to its own fancy. How much soever they may please their inventors, Christ pronounces that they are not only vain and worthless, but are even detestable.
And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts. The part the Pharisees played in public imposed upon the people. The great influence which they exercised was in great measure due to the respect generally felt for their strict and religious lives. The hypocrisy of this famous sect it was probably in many cases unconscious hypocrisy and the false colouring which it gave religion, contributed not a little to the state of things which led to the final disruption of the Jewish nation as a nation some forty years after these words were spoken. It is only a student of the Talmud who can form any notion of the Pharisee mind; a superficial study even of parts of this strange, mighty collection will show why our Lord was so seemingly hard in his rebukes of these often earnest and religious men; it will show, too, why the same Divine Master at times seemed to change his words of bitter wrath into accents of the tenderest sympathy and love. For that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. Especially alluding to that haughty pride of men in wealth and money, which, after all, is not theirs.
Divine and human judgment.
This declaration of Christ was a judgment in a double sense. It was drawn down upon themselves by the Pharisees, who had been doing their worst to bring into derision he doctrine and the character of our Lord. This reply was not indeed a retort, but it was of the nature of a judgment. It declared the mind of Christ, and it declared it in strong disapproval of evil-doing and strong condemnation of an evil spirit. It brings before us three subjects of thought.
I OUR DESIRE TO STAND WELL WITH OUR BRETHREN. “Ye… justify yourselves before men.” The desire to be justified of man is almost universal.
1. It may be a right and worthy sentiment. When the approval of man is regarded in the light of a confirmation of God”s acceptance of us or of the commendation of our own conscience, then is it right and honourable.
2. But it may be of very little value indeed; it is so when it is sought merely as a matter of gratification, irrespective of the consideration of its true moral worth. For the approval of man is often a very hollow and always a transient thing; change the company, and you change the verdict; wait until a later day, and you have a contrary decision. The hero of the past generation is the criminal of the present time. And it may be that the man or the action the multitude are praising is the one that God is most seriously condemning. Of what value, then, is “the honour that cometh from man”?
a. Care nothing for the opinion of the selfish and the vicious.
b. Care little for the judgment of those whose character you do not know.
c. Be desirous of living in the esteem of the good and wise.
II GOD”S SEARCHING GLANCE. “God knoweth your hearts.” Men do not see us as we are; we do not know ourselves with any thoroughness of knowledge; the power we have and use to impose on others reaches its climax when we impose on ourselves, and persuade ourselves that those things are true of us which are essentially false. Only God “knows us altogether; ” for it is he alone that “looketh upon the heart,” that is “a Discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” His glance penetrates to the innermost chambers of our soul. He sees:
1. The motives by which we are actuated in our deeds; seeing often that apparently good deeds are inspired by low or even bad motives, and that deeds which society condemns are relieved by unselfish promptings.
2. The feeling that accompanies our expression; whether it is slight or whether it is deep; often perceiving that it is more or that it is less than we imagine it to be.
3. The purpose of our heart toward himself; determining whether, in the presence of much profession, there is genuine devotedness; whether, in the absence of profession and even of assurance, there is not true godliness in the soul.
III THE DIVINE REVERSAL. “That which is highly esteemed,” etc. Of those things concerning which these strong words are true, there are:
1. Assumed and also unpractical piety. The hypocrite is hateful in the sight of Absolute Purity; we know what Christ thought of him. Less guilty and yet guilty is the mere ceremonialist he who has no more piety than is found in a multitude of sacred ceremonies, who has not learned to regulate his life or to regard the claims of others. To frequent the sanctuary on one day, and the next to take a mean advantage of some weak brother, is odious in the sight of the common Father.
2. Self-seeking philanthropy the show of doing good to others which is nothing more than a profitable pretence, a course of conduct which has a benevolent aspect but which is secretly aiming at its own enrichment.
3. Irreverent activity. Men often yield great admiration to those whose lives are full of successful labour, who build up large fortunes or rise to great eminence and power by much energy and unremitting toil. But if those men are living godless lives, are excluding from the sphere of their thought and effort that Divine One, “with whom they have everything to do,” and whose creative, preserving, and providing love has everything to do with their capacity, must we not say that the lives of these men are so seriously defective as to be even “abomination in the sight of God”? C.
Though Luke introduces some things between them, there can be no doubt that this example was intended by Christ to confirm the discourse which we have last examined. He points out what condition awaits those who neglect the care of the poor, and indulge in all manner of gluttony; who give themselves up to drunkenness and other pleasures, and allow their neighbors to pine with hunger; nay, who cruelly kill with famine those whom they ought to have relieved, when the means of doing so were in their power. Some look upon it as a simple parable; but, as the name Lazarus occurs in it, I rather consider it to be the narrative of an actual fact. But that is of little consequence, provided that the reader comprehends the doctrine which it contains.
19.There was a certain rich man He is, first of all, described as clothed in purple and fine linen, and enjoying every day splendor and luxury. This denotes a life spent amidst delicacies, and superfluity, and pomp. Not that all elegance and ornaments of dress are in themselves displeasing to God, or that all the care bestowed on preparing victuals ought to be condemned; but because it seldom happens that such things are kept in moderation. He who has a liking for fine dress will constantly increase his luxury by fresh additions; and it is scarcely possible that he who indulges in sumptuous and well garnished tables shall avoid falling into intemperance. But the chief accusation brought against this man is his cruelty in suffering Lazarus, poor andfull of sores, to lie out of doors at his gate.
These two clauses Christ has exhibited in contrast. The rich man, devoted to the pleasures of the table and to display, swallowed up, like an unsatiable gulf, his enormous wealth, but remained unmoved by the poverty and distresses of Lazarus, and knowingly and willingly suffered him to pine away with hunger, cold, and the offensive smell of his sores. In this manner Ezekiel (Eze_16:49) accuses Sodom of not stretching out her hand to the poor amidst fullness of bread and wine. Thefine linen, which is a peculiarly delicate fabric, is well-known to have been used by the inhabitants of eastern countries for elegance and splendor; a fashion which the Popish priests have imitated in what they call their surplices.
Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
19. There was a certain rich man] He is left nameless, perhaps to imply that his name was not “written in heaven” (10:20). Legend gives him the name Nimeusis. Dives is simply the Latin for ‘a rich man.’ Our Lord in the parable continues the subject of his discourse against the Pharisees, by shewing that wealth and respectability are very differently estimated on earth and in the world beyond. The parable illustrates each step of the previous discourse:—Dives regards all he has as his very own; uses it selfishly, which even Moses and the Prophets might have taught him not to do; and however lofty in his own eyes is an abomination before God.
in purple and fine linen] The two words express extreme luxury. Robes dyed in the blood of the murex purpurarius were very costly and were only worn by the greatest men
Byssus is the fine linen of Egypt (Gen_41:42; Est_8:15; Pro_31:26; Eze_27:7; Rev_18:12), a robe of which was worth twice its own weight in gold.
and fared sumptuously every day] Literally, “making merry (12:19) every day, splendidly,” Luther, lebte herrlich und in Freuden. It indicates a life of banquets. The description generally might well apply to Herod Antipas, 7:25; Mar_6:14, Mar_6:21.
There was a certain rich man – In the Scholia of some MSS. the name of this person is said to be Ninive. This account of the rich man and Lazarus is either a parable or a real history. If it be a parable, it is what may be: if it be a history, it is that which has been. Either a man may live as is here described, and go to perdition when he dies; or, some have lived in this way, and are now suffering the torments of an eternal fire. The account is equally instructive in whichsoever of these lights it is viewed. Let us carefully observe all the circumstances offered hereto our notice, and we shall see – I. The Crime of this man; and II. His Punishment.
I. The Crime of this man.
1. There was a certain rich man in Jerusalem. Provided this be a real history, there is no doubt our Lord could have mentioned his name; but, as this might have given great offense, he chose to suppress it. His being rich is, in Christ’s account, the first part of his sin. To this circumstance our Lord adds nothing: he does not say that he was born to a large estate; or that he acquired one by improper methods; or that he was haughty or insolent in the possession of it. Yet here is the first degree of his reprobation – he got all he could, and kept all to himself.
2. He was clothed with purple and fine linen. Purple was a very precious and costly stuff; but our Lord does not say that in the use of it he exceeded the bounds of his income, nor of his rank in life; nor is it said that he used his superb dress to be an agent to his crimes, by corrupting the hearts of others. Yet our Lord lays this down as a second cause of his perdition.
3. He fared sumptuously every day. Now let it be observed that the law of Moses, under which this man lived, forbade nothing on this point, but excess in eating and drinking; indeed, it seems as if a person was authorized to taste the sweets of an abundance, which that law promised as a reward of fidelity. Besides, this rich man is not accused of having eaten food which was prohibited by the law, or of having neglected the abstinences and fasts prescribed by it. It is true, he is said to have feasted sumptuously every day; but our Lord does not intimate that this was carried to excess, or that it ministered to debauch. He is not accused of licentious discourse, of gaming, of frequenting any thing like our modern plays, balls, masquerades, or other impure and unholy assemblies; of speaking an irreverent word against Divine revelation, or the ordinances of God. In a word, his probity is not attacked, nor is he accused of any of those crimes which pervert the soul or injure civil society. As Christ has described this man, does he appear culpable? What are his crimes? Why,
1. He was rich.
2. He was finely clothed. And
3. He feasted well.
No other evil is spoken of him. In comparison of thousands, he was not only blameless, but he was a virtuous man.
4. But it is intimated by many that “he was an uncharitable, hard-hearted, unfeeling wretch.” Yet of this there is not a word spoken by Christ. Let us consider all the circumstances, and we shall see that our blessed Lord has not represented this man as a monster of inhumanity, but merely as an indolent man, who sought and had his portion in this life, and was not at all concerned about another.
Therefore we do not find that when Abraham addressed him on the cause of his reprobation, Luk_16:25, that he reproached him with hard-heartedness, saying, “Lazarus was hungry, and thou gavest him no meat; he was thirsty, and thou gavest him no drink, etc.;” but he said simply, Son, remember that thou didst receive thy good things in thy lifetime, Luk_16:25. “Thou hast sought thy consolation upon the earth, thou hast borne no cross, mortified no desire of the flesh, received not the salvation God had provided for thee; thou didst not belong to the people of God upon earth, and thou canst not dwell with them in glory.”
There are few who consider that it is a crime for those called Christians to live without Christ, when their lives are not stained with transgression. If Christianity only required men to live without gross outward sin, paganism could furnish us with many bright examples of this sort. But the religion of Christ requires a conformity, not only in a man’s conduct, to the principles of the Gospel; but also a conformity in his heart to the spirit and mind of Christ.
19. Ἄνθρωπος, a man) This parable (for it is a parable, though a true narrative may lie underneath it) not only condemns the abuse of external goods by covetousness and pride, but also condemns a proud contempt of the law and the prophets: comp. ver. 14 et seqq. The rich man is the exact representative of the Pharisees: Lazarus is an example of the poor in spirit: The state of both respectively in this life and in that which is to come is shown.—πορφύραν καὶ βύσσον, purple and fine linen) forming a beautifully blending of colours.
19-31. § The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus; in two scenes, one on earth (19-22) and the other in Hades (23-31). It continues the lesson respecting the right employment of earthly possessions. The unjust steward showed what good results may follow from a wise use of present advantages. The rich man shows how disastrous are the consequences of omitting to make a wise use of such things. This second parable illustrates in a marked way some of the utterances which precede it. “That which is exalted among men” describes the rich man in his luxury on earth. “An abomination in the sight of God” describes him in his misery in Hades. “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one tittle of the law to fail,” shows that Moses and the Prophets still avail as the teachers of conduct that will lead a man to Abraham’s bosom rather than to the place of torment. There is no taint of “Ebionitic heresy” in the narrative. It emphasizes the dangers of wealth; but it nowhere implies the unlawfulness of wealth. (See Milligan, A Group of Parables, in the Expositor for September 1892, p. 186.) It is not suggested that the rich man ought to have renounced his riches, but that he ought not to have found in riches his highest good. He ought to have made his earthly possessions a means of obtaining something much higher and more abiding. Out of this mammon, which in his case was unrighteous mammon, he might have made Lazarus and others his “friends,” and have secured through them eternal tabernacles. His riches were “his good things,” the only good things that he knew; and when he lost them he lost everything. “What doth it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life?” There is no reason for supposing that the second half of the parable is a later addition, or that it is the only part which has a meaning. It is when both are combined that we get the main lesson,—that to possess great wealth and use it solely for oneself, without laying up treasure in heaven, is fatal.
The parable is sometimes understood quite otherwise. Lazarus is the Jewish people, ill-treated by earthly powers, such the Romans and their underlings; and Dives and his five brothers are the Herods: (1) Herod the Great, (2) Archelaus, (3) Philip, (4) Antipas, (5) Agrippa 1., (6) Agrippa 2. Father, sons, and grandsons are thus all put together as brothers for simplification. It is a natural consequence of such an interpretation as this that the parable is assumed to be the invention of a later age, and to have been wrongly attributed to Christ. It is difficult to believe that He could have wished to suggest any such meaning.1 Moreover, this interpretation destroys the connexion with the context.
19. Ἄνθρωπος δέ τις ἦν πλούσιος. “Now a certain man was rich” is less probable than “Now, there was a certain rich man”: comp. ver. 1, 13:11. Note the τις.
πορφύραν καὶ βύσσον. The former for the upper garment, the latter for the under. Both were very costly. The former means first the murex, secondly the dye made from it (1 Mac. 4:23), and then the fabric dyed with it (Mar_15:17, Mar_15:20). Similarly, βύσσος is first Egyptian flax, and then the fine linen made from it (Exo_26:1, Exo_26:31, Exo_26:36; Eze_16:10, Eze_27:7). The two words are combined Pro_31:22: comp. Rev_18:12, Rev_18:16. For εὐφραινόμενος comp. 12:19, 15:23, 29: λαμπρῶς occurs nowhere else in bibl. Grk.
There was a certain rich man. He is thus introduced by the Lord without any details respecting his age or place of residence nameless, too! Seems he not to have been reading from that book where he found the name of the poor man written, but found not the name of the rich; for that book is the book of life?” (Sermon 178. 3 of St. Augustine). Tradition says his name was Nimeusis, but it is simply a baseless tradition. Which was clothed in purple and fine linen. The words which describe the life of Dives were chosen with rare skill; they are few, but enough to show us that the worldly hero of the story lived a life of royal magnificence and boundless luxury. His ordinary apparel seems to have been purple and fine linen. This purple, the true sea purple, was a most precious and rare dye, and the purple garment so dyed was a royal gift, and was scarcely used save by princes and nobles of very high degree. In it the idol-images were sometimes arrayed. The fine linen (byssus) was worth twice its weight in gold. It was in hue dazzlingly white. And fared sumptuously every day. With this princely rich man banquets were a matter of daily occurrence. Luther renders the Greek here, “lebte herrlich und in Freuden.” Thus with all the accompaniments of grandeur this nameless mighty one lived, his halls ever filled with noble guests, his antechambers with servants. Everything with him that could make life splendid and joyous was in profusion. Some have suspected that our Lord took, as the model for his picture here, the life of the tetrarch Herod Antipas. The court of that magnificent and luxurious prince would certainly have well served as the original of the picture; but Herod was still living, and it is more likely that Jesus was describing the earth-life of one who had already been” dismissed” from his earthly stewardship, and who, when he spoke the parable, was in the world to come.
Vers. 19-31. The rich man and Lazarus.
A parable so striking and solemn that, as has been said, “they must be fast asleep who are not startled by it.” It is in several respects unique. Figure is so blended with reality, so rapidly passes into reality, that we are doubtful where and how far to separate between the form of truth and the truth itself. Indeed, it has been questioned whether the discourse is to be regarded as a parable at all; whether it is not to be regarded as the record of facts and experiences. Alone, too, of all the pictorial sayings of Jesus, it carries thought into the region behind the veil; it gives us a glimpse into the hidden economy. He who has access to the invisible takes us whither the eye of man has never pierced. And yet it is most difficult to settle on what principle we shall interpret the mysterious conversations reported, and what signification we are to attach to the words concerning the world of the dead. Let us not strain the sentences beyond the meanings which they are fairly entitled to bear; let us aim at a calm, truthful, practical application of Christ”s teaching to heart and conscience.
I Consider THE RELATION OF THE PARABLE TO THE WORDS WHICH PRECEDE, AND TO THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH SURROUND, IT. The Pharisees, we are told in ver. 16, had derided the teaching as to “the mammon of unrighteousness,” their opposition having been intensified by the declaration, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” The reply of Christ contains an indictment with two counts, in respect of which their mammon-worship was made apparent.
1. Their self-justifying spirit before men. Their piety was so disposed as to attract the observation and win the applause of men. It was the covering of covetousness, because it indicated a dependence on men, a wish to make gain of godliness. The parable which follows illustrates the same state of mind and heart under another phase of the same world-worship. Certainly the portrait of the rich man resembles the Sadducee rather than the more severe and abstemious Pharisee. But extremes often meet. Pharisee and Sadducee have this in common man and the present are more than God and the future: to look well, to stand well with society, is really the horizon of the aim and the prize of the ambition.
2. Their merely outward and legal righteousness. In their casuistry (as, e.g., about marriage, glanced at in ver. 19) they tampered with the eternally right and good; and their essential unbelief was proved by the failure to see that Moses and the prophets prepared men for that kingdom of God to which John had pointed, and into which he had called every one to press. They were so imbedded in their respectabilities that they felt no need of this kingdom, and did not receive it. The parable presents a man who, having Moses and the prophets, had never awakened out of a false, carnal security, had never seen his real poverty and wretchedness. And all, in the latter part of the tale, which brings out his awakenment when too late the torments of his conscience, his appeal, his cry, his pleading for his brethren is intended to vivify the worthlessness and worse than worthlessness of the trust on which the Pharisee was built up, and to declare that, before the judgment-seat of the Eternal, Moses and the prophets would witness against him for his rejection of the Light that had come into the world.
II Now, having seen its root in moral conditions which Christ intended to lay bare, REGARD THE SALIENT FEATURES OF THE SKETCH BEFORE US.
1. There is a rich man. No particulars as to his estate are given; no judgment is passed on his character. It is not said that he had amassed his wealth by unfair means, or that he was unjust, or that he was harsh; he is simply presented as rich, fond of show and glitter and good living. Now and again a monarch might assume his robe of costly purple, but purple and fine linen are the ordinary dress of this Dives, and the appointments of his table are always splendid. A jovial, magnificent personage, to whom menials in gorgeous array do homage, and whom all the flunkeydom of his city silently reverences. There is only one drawback. At the entrance to his palace, a beggar a miserable creature, full of sores is laid; one so reduced that he is glad of the crumbs which fall from the table. Such crumbs are dainties to him. Clearly, no effort is made to relieve this beggar; none is employed to heal his diseases; his only guardians and mediciners are the curs which prowl about Eastern cities. The “inhumanity of man” is condemned by the action of these curs.
2. The rich man has no name, the beggar has Lazarus, or Eleazar, “God”s help.” Beautifully Augustine asks, “Seems not Christ to you to have been reading from that book where he found the name of the poor man written, but found not the name of the rich; for that book is the book of life?” Thus day by day, the millionaire, reclining on his couch, his table groaning with delicacies, elegantly sipping at this, and taking that, and withal complaining of indigestion, occasionally sallying forth and dazzling all by his splendour, is yet offended by the loathsome thing at the gate, from which the eye is withdrawn. Day by day the gaunt form of haggard poverty obtrudes on the rights of wealth; squalor, in all its hideousness, stares into the face of wealth. Is it not the contrast which, instead of lessening, becomes more intense as the curious complexity which we call civilization develops? civilization, with its heights separated only by hand-breadths from its depths. Day by day it is so, until
3. Died.” Ah! a word which it is impossible to expunge, which gathers up the fears and tears, which crowns or crushes the hopes of men. First the beggar. To him death is a message of relief, bidding away from sores which dogs have licked to joys in which angels share, from the flagged pavement, hard and cold, of the palace of the rich man harder and colder still, to the embrace and warmth and fulness of Abraham”s bosom. “It is well,” says Dives, when he misses the bundle of rags and disease; “it is the best thing which could happen to that Lazarus!” But the clock moves on; the “purple and fine linen” begin to hang about the limbs; the viands come and go untasted; there is the sickness, the sick-bed, the muffled knocker, the bated breath of physicians and attendants. Oh, horror of horrors! it is death! All must be left. The hands which used to be so full are now still, starched, and empty! The poor to die, that is good; but the rich man also to die! What is the difference between the two? Of the one the burial is noted; no doubt a grand affair, for which, possibly, he had himself arranged. I have heard of a Dives, who, afraid that he might not have a sufficiently splendid coffin, procured a sarcophagus from Egypt, and lay down in it to be sure that it would fit. The burial; yes, but something more! Beggar and millionaire are in Hades the shell of the Old Testament the unknown place, the unseen region which contains the departed until the coming of the Lord. What of the beggar? While he was on earth man in pity carried him to the palace gate, and laid him there to starve and rot unless the crumb was thrown to him. When he dies angels carry him to the place of bliss, though not yet heaven, which was signified sometimes by the word “paradise,” sometimes by the phrase “under the throne,” sometimes by Abraham”s bosom.” For the millionaire there is only Hades; no purple robe and fine linen, no sumptuous feast; the robe and the linen are now only a garment of fire, the sumptuous feast only a reminiscence continued in torments. To him Hades is only the reservation to the judgment of the great day.
4. And there is the awakenment. The Lord describes it in sentences which it is better only to summarize. The eyes of Dives are lifted up, and lo! near, yet far off, is Abraham, and can it be? with him Lazarus; no rags now, no sores now; his now the “purple and fine linen” and the sumptuous living, for he is in the bosom of Abraham. And through these distances there rings a cry no cry to the Father in heaven, no cry for repentance; only to “Father Abraham,” and only a respite from the pain, even a moment”s respite; a cry which is still charged with the old hauteur, “Send that beggar to serve me. ” To this he has come; there is no thought of banquet or wines; only the tip of the erstwhile beggar”s finger dipped in water and cooling the tongue. Alas! the reply sounds the knell of all hope; mild, yet awful, it is, “Son, remember!” What? The good things are exhausted. He had got all that he had lived for; he had, in the bygone existence, a choice of things, and he had made his choice. His reward was drained. Lazarus had no portion in the world which was gone from sight. His election had been outside of it. He has come to his choice; he has entered on his reward. He is comforted, but thou art tormented.” For the rest, even supposing the will to grant the request, it cannot be. “There is a great gulf fixed” (ver. 26), and no passage may be between the upper and lower sides of the Hades of the dead. “Without God, and without hope.” Is it a touch of still surviving humanity, or is it lest the misery be aggravated, that the petition of Dives proceeds, “Then send him where there is no gulf fixed; send him to my father”s house, to my five brethren” (vers. 27, 28). “They have Moses and the prophets” (ver. 29). “Nay, but if one went to them from the dead, they will repent” (ver. 30). “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (ver. 31).
CONCLUSION. What a variety of “instruction in righteousness” is suggested by this parable! It invites thought in the direction of the most awful questions which connect themselves with human destiny.
1. As to the Hades the condition, or place, of the dead. Dean Alford proposes a good. rule of interpretation: “Though it is unnatural to suppose that our Lord would, in such a parable, formally reveal any new truth respecting the fate of the dead, yet, in conforming himself to the ordinary language current on these subjects, it is impossible to suppose that he whose essence is truth could have assumed as existing anything which does not exist. It would destroy the truth of our Lord”s sayings ii” we could conceive him to have used popular language which does not point at truth.” What is that, then, in the figures, in the symbols employed, as to which we can say, “Here is matter to be pondered and believed in”? Christ seems to put the stamp of his approval on these things.
(1) That there is a conscious personal life after death. If this is not true, he would have started from a falsehood.
(2) That in this future life the identity of the self is preserved. All references imply this. The rich man lifts up his eyes. He sees Lazarus. He cries, “Father Abraham!” He recalls his father”s house and his five brethren. The I who was is the essential I for ever.
(3) That in the other world, the intermediate Hades, there is a separation between the evil and the good. We should not unduly strain the meaning of “the great gulf fixed.” It is in Abraham”s reply to a soul in which there is no sign of a turning to God; which is as far from the faith of the patriarch as hell is from heaven. Between a soul thus godless, and the holy dead who are at rest in the Lord, there is a great gulf fixed. But to press this into an argument for a hell of endless torment is to overstep the limits of parabolic interpretation. Yet, undoubtedly, a most solemn warning is conveyed the warning that, in the world to come, the distinctions of character are sharp, clear, and fixed; that then the real tendencies of mind are manifested, and find their natural affinities. As to the torment of this Dives in Hades, Luther hit on the right explanation when, in one of his sermons, he exclaims, “It is not corporeal. All is transacted in the conscience as he perceives that he has acted against the gospel. Nothing was actually spoken by him, but only internally felt.” It is in view of this that we apprehend the scope of” the recorded conversation. That is the outward form in which the emotion, the terror, of the conscience is portrayed. For, the retribution, whose fire is not quenched, is pointed to in the saying, “Son, remember!” “It is not necessary to imagine anything beyond the stroke, stroke, stroke, ever repeating, of a scorpion-conscience,” recalling, revivifying all the past, the real character of actions being made evident, as with the force of a fire from whose heat nothing can be hidden. To perceive the awful vengeance-taking on every soul of man that doeth evil, it is not necessary to suppose more than the quickening of conscience into full energy, than the continual accusation of the soul which forgets nothing, or finds all preserved, eternized for it, “when the roaring cataract of earthly things is still.
2. To return to the most pressing instruction of the parable; life or death is the choice before every one of us. Death; if to any one comforts are more than duties, if the plane of the existence is a merely worldly one good things of one kind or another, and the kingdom of God left out of the reckoning. The rich man is not condemned because of his riches; the poor man is not carried into Abraham”s bosom because of his poverty. The riches were the temptation, and the soul had been mastered; but one may be rich and yet simple in heart as a child, not trusting in the riches, willing to distribute, and recognizing the stewardship to God for all. One may be poor, yet greedy, showing covetousness by the fierceness with which the sense of want is expressed, by the bitter envying of the more fortunate, by the utter absence of poverty of spirit. But,” Son, remember!” if thou livest for good things, thou mayest have them; but then, the greater the prosperity, the greater the curse, the more fatal will the possession be to the true life the life in God. By-and-by, for even the hardest and dullest there is an awakenment to shame and everlasting contempt. Here, messages of love, the very pleading of the one risen from the dead may fail to reach the heart; there, where the ever-shifting scenes of this world disappear for ever, shall be heard the voice of conscience, speaking only for doom.
Vers. 19-26. The sin and doom of selfish worldliness.
This parable, taken (as I think it should be), not in connection with the immediately preceding verses (16-18), but with those that come before these (with vers. 1-15), is a very striking confirmation of the doctrine delivered by Christ concerning selfishness and worldliness. He brings its sinfulness and its doom into bold relief.
I WHERE THE RICH MAN WAS WRONG.
1. Not in being rich. He is not brought forward as the type of those whose very possession of wealth because ill-gotten is itself a crime and a sin. He may be supposed to have entered on his large estate quite honourably.
2. Not in being vicious. There is no trace of drunkenness or debauchery here.
3. Not in being scandalously cruel. It is not a monster that is here depicted; not one that took a savage and shameful pleasure in witnessing the sufferings of others. He was so far from this that he consented to the beggar being placed at his gate, and (it may be taken) that he allowed his servants to give the suppliant broken pieces from his table; he was not at all unwilling that the poor wretch outside should have for his dire necessity what he himself would never miss. This is where he was wrong.
4. He was living an essentially selfish and worldly life. God gave him his powers and his possessions in order that with them he might glorify his Maker and serve his brethren. But he was expending them wholly upon himself, or rather upon his present personal enjoyment. If he parted with a few crumbs which he could not feel the loss of, that was an exception so pitifully small as to serve no other purpose than that of “proving the rule.” It went for nothing at all. His spirit was radically and utterly selfish; his principles were essentially worldly. It was nothing to him that outside his gates was a world of poverty, of which poor Lazarus was only one painful illustration; that sad fact did not disturb his appetite or make his wines lose anything of their relish. It was nothing to him that there were treasures of a better kind than those of house and lands, of gold and silver; that there was an inheritance to be gained in the unseen world; enough for him that his palace was his own, that his income was secure, that his pleasures there was no one to interrupt. Selfishness and worldliness characterized his spirit; they darkened and degraded his life, and they sealed his doom.
II THE SEVERITY OF HIS DOOM. “In hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments;” “There is a great gulf fixed.” Jesus Christ was not now unveiling the future world for curious eyes; he was simply using current language and familiar imagery to intimate to us that the man who has lived a selfish and worldly life will meet with severe condemnation and grievous penalty in the next world; a penalty in regard to which he has no right to expect either mitigation or release.
1. Are our lives governed by the spirit of active benevolence? To throw the crumbs to Lazarus is far from “fulfilling the law of Christ”. (Gal_6:2) We must go a very long way beyond that infinitesimal kindness. We must have a heart to pity the poor and needy; a soul to sympathize with them and share their burdens; (Mat_8:17) a generous hand to help them. (Luk_10:33-37) The sorrow and the sin of the world must be upon our heart as a serious and heavy weight, and we must be ready to make an earnest effort to soothe the one and to subdue the other.
2. Have we regard to the day of trial and the future of retribution? C. (see Mat_25:41-46)
Vers. 19, 20. Poverty at the gate of wealth.
Here is a picture which we recognize in England in this nineteenth century quite as readily as it would be recognized in Judaea in the days of our Lord; it is that of poverty and wealth in very close association. It is not only a picture to look upon but a problem to solve, and one of much urgency as well as great difficulty.
I POVERTY AND WEALTH IN CLOSE JUXTAPOSITION. As the rich man of the parable could not enter his house without seeing Lazarus lying in rags and sores at his gate, so are we unable to pass our days without being impressed with the fact that “the poor even the very poor we have with us,” and indeed all around us. Lazarus lies at our gate. Not only have we the professional beggar, who has adopted “begging” as his means of livelihood, but we have the whole army of the unfortunate, who have been incapacitated by some means, and who cannot “work that they may eat;” and we have also another large and equally pitiable multitude of the ill-paid, who cannot earn enough by the honest industry in which they are employed to sustain themselves and their families. And so it comes to pass that in England to-day, side by side with competence, with wealth, with inestimable affluence, is poverty walking in rags, lying in loneliness, shivering with cold and hunger, working without reward that is worthy of the name. It is a sad sight in a Christian land; and it is not sad alone, it is alarming; for such extremes are full of evil and of peril.
II THE PAINFUL ASPECT OF THIS FEATURE OF OUR MODERN LIFE. For who can doubt:
1. The dangers attending great wealth? It leads to luxury, and luxury favours sloth, indulgence, a false standard of the worth and purpose of life, a proud heart, and a haughty bearing. In circumstances where there is no necessity for energetic and patient labour, and where there is every opportunity of enjoyment, many evil weeds grow fast, and there the best flowers that grow in the garden of the Lord too often languish. Or who can doubt:
2. The perils of extreme poverty? These lead down by a straight and steep path to servility, to craftiness and cunning, to falsehood, to dishonesty, to envy and hatred. And who can fail to see:
3. The evil influence on the State of these two extremes? Here there can be no true brotherhood, no proper association and co-operation; here is separation from one another, a division as great as that which is interposed by the high mountain range or the broad sea; nay, greater than that! Many English people see more and know more of the inhabitants of Switzerland than they see and know of the denizens of the streets of another part of their own parish. It is the uninteresting and objectionable poor at their gate who are the “strangers.
III ONE MITIGATING FEATURE. This juxtaposition of poverty and wealth provides an opportunity for the exercise of sincere benevolence and of the highest Christian wisdom. To the Christian heart there is a plaintive plea which cannot be unheard or disregarded, even though Lazarus be kept out of sight and hearing by judicious arrangements. And to the honest patriot there is an inviting and urgent problem to which, far more than to the questions of fortifications and armaments, he will give earnest heed, viz. how to bring about an approachment, an intermingling, of all classes and conditions of men, a better distribution of the great resources of the land.
IV THE TRUE HOPE OF ADJUSTMENT. Whither shall we look for a better distribution of the riches of the land?
1. Almsgiving can only touch the fringe of the difficulty.
2. Economic changes may have a valuable part to play in the matter; but we are not yet agreed as to the best course to take.
3. Beneficent legislation will certainly bring its large contribution; it can do two things: it can
(1) educate the whole nation, and so provide every citizen with necessary weapons for the battle of life; and it can
(2) do much to remove temptation from the path of the weak. But it is:
4. Spiritual renewal which must prove the main source of social reconstruction. Change the character, and you will change the condition of men. And the one force which will effect this is the redeeming and regenerating truth of God, made known by the holy lives and in the loving words of the disciples of Jesus Christ. C.
Imperfect, and frequentative; denoting his habitual attire.
Originally the purple fish from which the color was obtained, and thence applied to the color itself. Several kinds of these were found in the Mediterranean. The color was contained in a vein about the neck. Under the term purple the ancients included three distinct colors: 1. A deep violet, with a black or dusky tinge; the color meant by Homer in describing an ocean wave: “As when the great sea grows purple with dumb swell” (“Iliad,” xiv., 16). 2. Deep scarlet or crimson – the Tyrian purple. 3. The deep blue of the Mediterranean. The dye was permanent. Alexander is said by Plutarch to have found in the royal palace at Susa garments which preserved their freshness of color though they had been laid up for nearly two hundred years; and Mr. St. John (“Manners and Customs of Ancient Greece”) relates that a small pot of the dye was discovered at Pompeii which had preserved the tone and richness attributed to the Tyrian purple. This fixedness of color is alluded to in Isa_1:18 – though your sins were as scarlet, the term being rendered in the Septuagint φοινικοῦν, which, with its kindred words, denoted darker shades of red. A full and interesting description of the purple may be found in J. A. St. John’s “Manners and Customs of Ancient Greece,” iii., 224: sq.
Fine linen (βύσσον)
Byssus. A yellowish flax, and the linen made from it. Herodotus says it was used for enveloping mummies (ii., 86), a statement confirmed by microscopic examinations. He also speaks of it as a bandage for a wound (vii., 181). It is the word used by the Septuagint for linen (Exodus 25:4; 28:5; 35:6, etc.). Some of the Egyptian linen was so fine that it was called woven air. Sir Gardner Wilkinson says that some in his possession was, to the touch, comparable to silk, and not inferior in texture to the finest cambric. It was often as transparent as lawn, a fact illustrated by the painted sculptures, where the entire form is often made distinctly visible through the outer garment. Later Greek writers used the word for cotton and for silk. See Wilkinson’s “Ancient Egyptians,” first series, iii., 114 sq., and Rawlinson’s “History of Ancient Egypt,” i., 4:87, 512. A yellow byssus was used by the Greeks, the material for which grew around Elis, and which was enormously costly. See Aeschylus, “Persae,” 127.
Fared sumptuously (εὐφραινόμενος λαμπρῶς)
Lit., making merry in splendor. Compare Luk_15:23, Luk_15:24, Luk_15:29, Luk_15:32. Wyc., he ate, each day, shiningly.
Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
20. named Lazarus] Lazarus is not from lo ezer, ‘no help,’ i. e. ‘forsaken,’ but from Elî ezer, ‘helped of God,’ Gotthilf. It is contracted from the commoner Eleazar. This is the only parable in which a proper name occurs; and the only miracles of which the recipients are named are Mary Magdalene, Jairus, Malchus, and Bartimaeus. Whether in the name there be some allusive contrast to the young and perhaps wealthy Lazarus, brother of Martha and Mary, as Prof. Plumptre has conjectured, is uncertain. From this parable come the words—lazaretto, lazzarini, a lazar, &c.
at his gate] Not a mere pulê but a pulōn—a stately portal.
20. ὀνόματι Λάζαρος . For ὀνόματι see on 5:27: the expression is freq. in Lk. Nowhere else does Christ give a name to any character in a parable. That this signifies that the name was “written in heaven,” while that of the rich man was not, is farfetched. Tertullian urges the name as proof that the narrative is not a parable but history, and that the scene in Hades involves his doctrine that the soul is corporeal (De Animâ, 7.).2 It is possible that the name is a later addition to the parable, to connect it with Lazarus of Bethany. He was one who “went to them from the dead,” and still they did not repent. As he was raised from the dead just about this time, so far as we can determine the chronology, there may be a reference to him. But it is more probable that the name suggests the helplessness of the beggar; and some name was needed (ver. 24). Tradition has given the name Nineuis to the rich man. The theory that the story of the raising of Lazarus has grown out of this parable is altogether arbitrary.
ἐβέβλητο πρὸς τὸν πυλῶνα αὐτοῦ. Not “had been flung at his gate,” as if contemptuous roughness were implied. In late Greek βάλλειν often loses the notion of violence, and means simply ‘lay, place”: 5:37; Joh_5:7, Joh_5:7:6, Joh_5:18:11, Joh_5:20:25, Joh_5:27, Joh_5:21:6; Jam_3:3; Num_22:38. By πυλῶνα is meant a large gateway or portico, whether part of the house or not (Act_10:17, Act_10:12:14; Mat_26:71; 2Ch_3:7; Zep_2:14). It indicates the grandeur of the house.
εἱλκωμένος . The verb occurs here only in bibl. Grk., but is common in medical writers, especially in the pass., “be ulcerated.”
The irregular augment, instead of the usual ἡλκωμένος, is well attested here, and perhaps arose from analogy with ἔλκω. Comp. κατειργάσατο (Rom_15:18). WH. ii. App. p. 161; Greg. Proleg. p. 121. Syr-Sin. omits.
Vers. 20, 21. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man”s table. In striking contrast to the life of the rich man, the Master, with a few touches, paints the life of the beggar Lazarus. This giving a name to a personage in the parable occurs nowhere else in the evangelists” reports of our Lord”s parabolic teaching. It probably was done in this case just to give us a hint, for it is nothing more, of the personal character of the poor sufferer who in the end was so blessed. The object of the parable, as we shall see, did not include any detailed account of the beggar-man”s inner life; just this name is given him to show us why, when he died, he found himself at once in bliss. Among the Jews the name very often describes the character of him who bears it. The Greek name Lazarus is derived from two Hebrew words, El-ezer (“God-help”), shortened by the rabbis into Leazar, whence Lazarus. He was, then, one of those happy ones whose confidence, in all his grief and misery, was in God alone. Well was his trust, as we shall see, justified. The gate at which he was daily laid was a stately portal (pulwn). Lazarus is represented as utterly unable to win his bread. He was a constant sufferer, covered with sores, wasting under the dominion of a loathsome, incurable disease. This representative of human suffering has taken a strange hold on the imagination of men. In many of the languages of Europe the name of the beggar of the parable appears in the terms “lazar,” “lazar-house,” and “lazaretto,” “lazzaroni.” Unable himself to walk, some pitying friend or friends among the poor the poor are never backward in helping others poorer than themselves, thus setting a noble example to the rich brought him and laid him daily close by the splendid gates of the palace of Dives. The crumbs signify the broken fragments which the servants of the rich man would contemptuously, perhaps pityingly, toss to the poor helpless beggar-man as he lay by the gate. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. These were the wild, homeless pariah dogs so common in all Eastern cities, who act as the street-scavengers, and are regarded as unclean. This mention of the dogs clustering round him does not suggest any contrast between the pitying animals and pitiless men, but simply adds additional colour to the picture of the utter helplessness of the diseased sufferer; there he lay, and as he lay, the rough homeless dogs would lick his unbandaged wounds as they passed on the forage.
21.And even the dogs came. It was quite enough to prove the hardened cruelty of the rich man, that the sight of wretchedness like this did not move him to compassion. Had there been a drop of humanity in him, he ought at least to have ordered a supply from his kitchen for the unhappy man. But the crowning exhibition of his wicked, and savage, and worse than brutal disposition was, that he did not learn pity even from the dogs There can be no doubt that those dogs were guided by the secret purpose of God, to condemn that man by their example. Christ certainly produces them here as witnesses to convict him of unfeeling and detestable cruelty. What could be more monstrous than to see the dogs taking charge of a man, to whom his neighbor is paying no attention; and, what is more, to see the very crumbs of bread refused to a man perishing of hunger, while the dogs are giving him the service of their tongues for the purpose of healing his sores? When strangers, or even brute animals, supply our place, by performing an office which ought rather to have been discharged by ourselves, let us conclude that they are so many witnesses and judges appointed by God, to make our criminality the more manifest.
Ver. 21.—And dogs came and licked his sores. Francis Lucas thinks that they did this as if feeding on a dead body, and that they thus caused the poor sufferer much pain, for, S. Chrysostom adds, “he had not the strength to drive them away.”
But in another sense the dogs may be considered as cleansing and healing the poor man’s sores. Hence S. Chrysostom says, “The wild animals in compassion lick the sores which no one, much less the rich glutton, cared to cleanse. For the rich, unmindful of the condition of their fellowmen, laugh at misery, and turn away from those whom they ought to pity.” S. Ambrose.
S. Chrysostom (hom. De Lazaro), enumerates nine grievous ills to which the poor man was subjected:
1. A poverty so extreme, that he could not even obtain the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table.
2. A disease so grievous and so weakening, that he was unable to drive away the dogs which gathered round him.
3. Desertion by all, even those who ought to have aided him.
4 The constant sight of the rich man’s happiness, for his bodily pains and his grief of mind were increased by the knowledge, that they who were possessed of every enjoyment had no thought or consideration for him.
5. The hard heartedness of the rich man, who passed him by, without a kind word or look.
6. His loneliness, for “it is pleasant to have a companion in misfortunes.”
7. Uncertainty as to the future, for since the coming of Christ, faith in the resurrection of the dead is a wonderful support in affliction.
8. The long continuance and constancy of his sufferings.
9. The loss of reputation, for many thought that his sufferings were a direct punishment for some great crime. But, like another Job, he bore all his trials with fortitude and an undaunted mind. Hence God has set forth Lazarus, Job, Tobias and S. Lydwina, whose sufferings are recorded by Sirius, to be as long as the world last examples of patience to all who are sick and afflicted
21. ἐπιθυμῶν χορτασθῆναι . This does not imply (Iren. ii. 34, 1) that his desire was not gratified. His being allowed to remain there daily, and his caring to remain there daily, rather indicates that he did get the broken meat. He shared with the dogs (Mar_7:28). But perhaps it does imply that what was given to him did not satisfy his hunger. Some authorities insert from 15:16 καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐδίδου αὐτῷ et nemo illi dabat, which even as a gloss seems to be false.
The silence of Lazarus throughout the parable is very im pressive. He never murmurs against God’s distribution of wealth, nor against the rich man’s abuse of it, in this world. And in Hades he neither exults over the change of relations between himself and Dives, nor protests against being asked to wait upon him in the place of torment, or to go errands for him to the visible world.
ἀλλὰ καὶ οἱ κύνες . “Nay, even the dogs.” This shows his want and his helplessness. Not only was his hunger unsatisfied, but even the dogs came and increased his misery. He was scantily clad, and his sores were not bound up; and he was unable to drive away the unclean dogs when they came to lick them. The suggestion that the dogs were kinder to him than the rich man was, is probably not intended; although the main point of vv. 20, 21 is to continue the description of Dives rather than to make a contrast to him. Here was a constant opportunity of making a good use of his wealth, and he did not avail himself of it.
ἐπέλειχον. “Licked the surface of.” Here only in bibl. Greek. The reading ἀπέλειχον has very little authority. For ἀλλὰ καί comp. 12:7, 24:22.
With the crumbs that fell (apo tōn piptontōn). From the things that fell from time to time. The language reminds one of Luk_15:16 (the prodigal son) and the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mar_7:28). Only it does not follow that this beggar did not get the scraps from the rich man’s table. Probably he did, though nothing more. Even the wild street dogs would get them also.
Yea, even the dogs (alla kai hoi kunes). For alla kai see also Luk_12:7; Luk_24:22. Alla can mean “yea,” though it often means “but.” Here it depends on how one construes Luke’s meaning. If he means that he was dependent on casual scraps and it was so bad that even the wild dogs moreover were his companions in misery, the climax came that he was able to drive away the dogs. The other view is that his hunger was unsatisfied, but even the dogs increased his misery.
Licked his sores (epeleichon ta helkē autou). Imperfect active of epileichō, a late vernacular Koiné verb, to lick over the surface. It is not clear whether the licking of the sores by the dogs added to the misery of Lazarus or gave a measure of comfort, as he lay in his helpless condition. “Furrer speaks of witnessing dogs and lepers waiting together for the refuse” (Bruce). It was a scramble between the dogs and Lazarus.
22.And it happened that the beggar died. Christ here points out the vast change which death effected in the condition of the two men. Death was no doubt common to both; but to be after death carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom was a happiness more desirable than all the kingdoms of the world. On the other hand, to be sentenced to everlasting torments is a dreadful thing, for avoiding which a hundred lives, if it were possible, ought to be employed. In the person of Lazarus there is held out to us a striking proof that we ought not to pronounce men to be accursed by God, because they drag out, in incessant pain, a life which is full of distresses. In him the grace of God was so entirely hidden, and buried by the deformity and shame of the cross, that to the eye of the flesh nothing presented itself except the curse; and yet we see that in a body which was loathsome and full of rottenness there was lodged a soul unspeakably precious, which is carried by angels to a blessed life. It was no loss to him that he was forsaken, and despised, and destitute of every human comfort, when heavenly spirits deign to accompany him on his removal from the prison of the flesh.
And the rich man also died, and was buried. In the rich man we see, as in a bright mirror, how undesirable is that temporal happiness which ends in everlasting destruction. It deserves our attention, that Christ expressly mentions the burial of the rich man, but says nothing of what was done to Lazarus. Not that his dead body was exposed to wild beasts, or lay in the open air, but because it was thrown carelessly, and without the slightest attention, into a ditch; for it may naturally be inferred from the corresponding clause, that no more attention was paid to him when he was dead than when he was alive. The rich man, on the other hand, buried magnificently according to his wealth, still retains some remnant of his former pride. In this respect, we see ungodly men striving, as it were, against nature, by affecting a pompous and splendid funeral for the sake of preserving their superiority after death; but their souls in hell attest the folly and mockery of this ambition.
And Lazarus was carried by angels. When he says that Lazarus was carried, it is a figure of speech by which a part is taken for the whole; for the soul being the nobler part of man, properly takes the name of the whole man. This office is, not without reason, assigned by Christ to angels, who, we are aware, have been appointed to be ministering spirits (Heb_1:14) to believers, that they may devote their care and labor to their salvation.
Into Abraham’s bosom. To detail the variety of speculations about Abraham’s bosom, in which many commentators of Scripture have indulged, is unnecessary, and, in my opinion, would serve no good purpose. It is quite enough that we receive what readers well acquainted with Scripture will acknowledge to be the natural meaning. As Abraham is called the father of believers, because to him was committed the covenant of eternal life, that he might first preserve it faithfully for his own children, and afterwards transmit it to all nations, and as all who are heirs of the same promise are called his children; so those who receive along with him the fruit of the same faith are said, after death, to be collected into his bosom. The metaphor is taken from a father, in whose bosom, as it were, the children meet, when they all return home in the evening from the labors of the day. The children of God are scattered during their pilgrimage in this world; but as, in their present course, they follow the faith of their father Abraham, so they are received at death into that blessed rest, in which he awaits their arrival. It is not necessary to suppose that reference is made here to any one place; but the assemblage of which I have spoken is described, for the purpose of assuring believers, that they have not been fruitlessly employed in fighting for the faith under the banner of Abraham, for they enjoy the same habitation in heaven.
It will perhaps be asked, Is the same condition reserved after death for the godly of our own day, or did Christ, when he rose, open his bosom to admit Abraham himself, as well as all the godly? I reply briefly: As the grace of God is more clearly revealed to us in the Gospel, and as Christ himself, the Sun of Righteousness, (Mal_4:2,) has brought to us that salvation, which the fathers were formerly permitted to behold at a distance and under dark shadows, so there cannot be a doubt that believers, when they die, make a nearer approach to the enjoyment of the heavenly life. Still, it must be understood, that the glory of immortality is delayed till the last day of redemption. So far as relates to the word bosom, that quiet harbor at which believers arrive after the navigation of the present life, may be called either Abraham’s bosom or Christ’s bosom; but, as we have advanced farther than the fathers did under the Law, this distinction will be more properly expressed by saying, that the members of Christ are associated with their Head; and thus there will be an end of the metaphor about Abraham’s bosom, as the brightness of the sun, when he is risen, makes all the stars to disappear. From the mode of expression which Christ has here employed, we may, in the meantime, draw the inference, that the fathers under the Law embraced by faith, while they lived, that inheritance of the heavenly life into which they were admitted at death.
The rich man also died, and was buried – There is no mention of this latter circumstance in the case of Lazarus; he was buried, no doubt – necessity required this; but he had the burial of a pauper, while the pomp and pride of the other followed him to the tomb. But what a difference in these burials, if we take in the reading of my old MS. Bible, which is supported by several versions: forsothe the riche man is deed: and is buried in helle. And this is also the reading of the Anglo-saxon: and was in hell buried. In some MSS. the point has been wanting after εταφη, he was buried; and the following και, and, removed and set before επαρας he lifted up: so that the passage reads thus: The rich man died also, and was buried in hell; and lifting up his eyes, being in torment, he saw, etc. But let us view the circumstances of this man’s punishment.
Scarcely had he entered the place of his punishment, when he lifted up his eyes on high; and what must his surprise be, to see himself separated from God, and to feel himself tormented in that flame! Neither himself, nor friends, ever suspected that the way in which he walked could have led to such a perdition.
1. And seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom, Luk_16:23. He sees Lazarus clothed with glory and immortality – this is the first circumstance in his punishment. What a contrast! What a desire does he feel to resemble him, and what rage and despair because he is not like him? We may safely conclude that the view which damned souls have, in the gulf of perdition, of the happiness of the blessed, and the conviction that they themselves might have eternally enjoyed this felicity, from which, through their own fault, they are eternally excluded, will form no mean part of the punishment of the lost.
2. The presence of a good to which they never had any right, and of which they are now deprived, affects the miserable less than the presence of that to which they had a right, and of which they are now deprived. Even in hell, a damned spirit must abhor the evil by which he is tormented, and desire that good that would free him from his torment. If a lost soul could be reconciled to its torment, and to its situation, then, of course, its punishment must cease to be such. An eternal desire to escape from evil, and an eternal desire to be united with the supreme good, the gratification of which is for ever impossible, must make a second circumstance in the misery of the lost.
3. Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, Luk_16:25. The remembrance of the good things possessed in life, and now to be enjoyed no more for ever, together with the remembrance of grace offered or abused, will form a third circumstance in the perdition of the ungodly. Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime, etc.
4. The torments which a soul endures in the hell of fire will form, through all eternity, a continual present source of indescribable wo. Actual torment in the flames of the bottomless pit forms a fourth circumstance in the punishment of the lost. I am tormented in this flame, Luk_16:24.
5. The known impossibility of ever escaping from this place of torment, or to have any alleviation of one’s misery in it, forms a fifth circumstance in the punishment of ungodly men. Besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf, Luk_16:26. The eternal purpose of God, formed on the principles of eternal reason, separates the persons, and the places of abode, of the righteous and the wicked, so that there can be no intercourse: They who wish to pass over hence to you, cannot; neither can they pass over, who would come from you hither. A happy spirit cannot go from heaven to alleviate their miseries; nor can any of them escape from the place of their confinement, to enter among the blessed. There may be a discovery from hell of the paradise of the blessed; but there can be no intercourse nor connection.
6. The iniquitous conduct of relatives and friends, who have been perverted by the bad example of those who are lost, is a source of present punishment to them; and if they come also to the same place of torment, must be, to those who were the instruments of bringing them thither, an eternal source of anguish. Send Lazarus to my father’s family, for I have five brothers, that he may earnestly testify (διαμαρτυρηται) to them, that they come not to this place of torment. These brothers had probably been influenced by his example to content themselves with an earthly portion, and to neglect their immortal souls. Those who have been instruments of bringing others into hell shall suffer the deeper perdition on that account.
22. This verse serves to connect the two scenes of the parable. The reversal of the positions of the two men is perhaps intimated in the fact that Lazarus dies first. The opportunity of doing good to him was lost before the rich man died, but the loss was not noticed.
ἀπενεχθῆναι αὐτόν. . “His soul was carried,” a loco alieno in patriam. Clearly we are not to understand that what never happened to anyone before happened to him, and that body and soul were both translated to Hades. In saying that he died (ἀποθανεῖν) the severance of soul and body is implied. And the fact that his burial is not mentioned is no proof that it is not to be understood Jesus would scarcely have shocked Jewish feeling by the revolting idea that close to human habitations a corpse was left unburied, In each case the feature which specially characterized the death is mentioned. See Aug. De Civ. Dei, xxi. 10, 2.
ὑπὸ τῶν ἀγγέλων . The transition was painless and happy. A Targum on Cantic. iv. 12 says that the souls of the righteous are carried to paradise by Angels. Comp. the λειτουργικὰ πνεύματα of Heb_1:14 and the ἄγγελοι λειτουργοί of Philo. But it is no purpose of the parable to give information about the unseen world. The general principle is maintained that bliss and misery after death are determined by conduct previous to death; but the details of the picture are taken from Jewish beliefs as to the condition of souls in Sheol, and must not be understood as confirming those beliefs. The properties of bodies are attributed to souls in order to enable us to realize the picture.
εἰς τὸν κόλπον Ἀβραάμ. This is not the objective genitive, “the bosom which contained Abraham,” but the subjective, “that in which Abraham received Lazarus.” Comp. Mat_8:11. Lazarus in Sheol reposes with his head on Abraham’s breast, as a child in his father’s lap, and shares his happiness. Comp. Joh_1:18. The expression is not common in Jewish writings; but Abraham is sometimes represented as welcoming the penitent into paradise. Edersh. L. & T. 2. p. 280. Comp. οὕτω γὰρ παθόντας (v.l. θανόντας) ἡμᾶς Ἀβραὰμ καὶ Ἰσαὰκ ἀκὼβ ὑποδέξονται (4 Mac 13:17). Such expressions as “go to one’s fathers” (Gen_15:15), “lie with one’s fathers” (Gen_47:30), “be gathered to one’s fathers” (Jdg_2:10), and “sleep with one’s fathers” (1Ki_1:21), apply to death only, and contain no clue as to the bliss or misery of the departed. “Abraham’s bosom” does contain this. It is not a synonym for paradise; but to repose on Abraham’s bosom is to be in paradise, for Abraham is there (Joh_8:56: Diptychs of the Dead in the Liturgy of S. James).
καὶ ἐτάφη. It is not the contrast between the magnificence of his funeral (of which nothing is stated) and the lack of funeral for Lazarus (of which nothing is stated) that is to be marked, but the contrast between mere burial in the one case and the ministration of Angels in the other.
Some authorities seem to have omitted the καί before ἐν τῷ ᾄδῃ and to have joined these words with ἐτάφη. Vulg. has et sepultus est in inferno: elevans autem oculos suos. Aug. has both arrangements. Comp. Joh_13:30, Joh_13:31 for a similar improbable shifting of a full stop in some texts. Other examples Greg. Proleg. p. 181.
23.And, lifting up, his eyes in hell. Though Christ is relating a history, yet he describes spiritual things under figures, which he knew to be adapted to our senses. Souls have neither fingers nor eyes, and are not liable to thirst, nor do they hold such conversations among themselves as are here described to have taken place between Abraham and the rich man; but our Lord has here drawn a picture, which represents the condition of the life to come according to the measure of our capacity. The general truth conveyed is, that believing souls, when they have left their bodies, lead a joyful and blessed life out of this world, and that for the reprobate there are prepared dreadful torments, which can no more be conceived by our minds than the boundless glory of the heavens. As it is only in a small measure—only so far as we are enlightened by the Spirit of God—that we taste by hope the glory promised to us, which far exceeds all our senses, let it be reckoned enough that the inconceivable vengeance of God, which awaits the ungodly, is communicated to us in an obscure manner, so far as is necessary to strike terror into our minds.
On these subjects the words of Christ give us slender information, and in a manner which is fitted to restrain curiosity. The wicked are described as fearfully tormented by the misery which they feel; as desiring some relief, but cut off from hope, and thus experiencing a double torment; and as having their anguish increased by being compelled to remember their crimes, and to compare the present blessedness of believers with their own miserable and lost condition. In connection with this a conversation is related, as if persons who have no intercourse with each other were supposed to talk together. When the rich man says, Father Abraham, this expresses an additional torment, that he perceives, when it is too late, that he is cut off from the number of the children of Abraham
23. καὶ ἐν τῷ ᾅδῃ. “In Hades,” the receptacle of all the departed until the time of final judgment, and including both paradise and Gehenna. That Hades does not mean “hell” as a place of punishment is manifest from Act_2:27, Act_2:31; Gen_37:35, 42:38, 44:29; Job_14:13, Job_17:13, etc. That Hades includes a place of punishment is equally clear from this passage. In the Psalms of Solomon Hades is mentioned only in connexion with the idea of punishment (14:6, 15:11, 16:2). See Suicer, s.v. The distinction between Hades and Gehenna is one of the many great advantages of RV. Dives “lifts up his eyes,” not to look for help, but to learn the nature of his changed condition.
ὑπάρχων ἐν βασάνοις. Torment is now his habitual condition: not ὤν, but ὑπάρχων. That he is punished for his heartless neglect of great opportunities of benevolence, and not simply for being rich, is clear from the position of Abraham, who was rich. Comp. μέγας γὰρ ψυχῆς ἀγὼν καὶ κίνδυνος ἐν αἰωνίῳ βασάνῳ κείμενος τοῖς παραβᾶσι τὴν ἐντολὴν τοῦ Θεοῦ (4 Mac. 13:15); and contrast δικαίων δὲ ψυχαὶ ἐν χειρὶ Θεοῦ, καὶ οὐ μὴ ἅψηται αὐτῶν βάσανος (Wisd. 3:1). Luxurioso carere deliciis poena est (Ambr).
ὁρᾷ Ἀβραάμ. The Jews believed that Gehenna and paradise are close to one another: Edersh. Hist. of Jewish Nation, p. 432 ed. 1896. We need not suppose that the parable teaches us to believe this. The details of the picture cannot be insisted upon.
ἀπὸ μακρόθεν. The ἀπό is pleonastic, and marks a, late use, when the force of the adverbial termination has become weakened: Mat_27:51; Mar_5:6, Mar_14:54, Mar_15:40, etc. In LXX we have ἀπὸ ὄπισθεν (freq. in 1 and 2 Sam.), ἀπὸ ἐπάνωθεν, ἀπὸ πρωΐθεν: and in Aq. ἀπὸ ἀρχῆθεν and ἀπὸ κυκλόθεν.
With κόλποις comp. ἱμάτια of a single garment (Act_18:6; Joh_13:4, Joh_19:23) and γάμοι of a single wedding (12:36). We have similar plurals in late class. Grk.
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments; more accurately, in Hades (the unseen world of the dead) he lift up his eyes. The idea of suffering does not lie in these first words, but in the participle “being in torments,” which immediately follows. It is noticeable that, in this Divine picture of unhappy life in the other world there is no coarse, vulgar word-painting such as we meet with so often in mediaeval human works. The very fact of the man”s being unhappy is gently represented. The graver aspect of the torments we learn from the hapless one”s own words. Still, it is all very awful, though the facts are so gently told us. “Being in torments:” How could it be otherwise for such a one as Dives? The home of the loving, where Abraham was, would be no home for that selfish man who had never really loved or cared for any one save himself. What were the torments? men with hushed voices ask. A little further on the doomed one speaks of a flame and of his tongue apparently burning, owing to the scorching heat; but it would be a mistake to think of a material flame being intended here. There is nothing in the description of the situation to suggest this; it is rather the burning never to be satisfied, longing for something utterly beyond his reach, that the unhappy man describes as an inextinguishable flame. Were it desirable to dwell on these torments, we should remind men how lustful desires change rapidly into torture for the soul when the means for gratifying them exist not. In the case of Dives, his delight on earth seems to have been society, pleasant jovial company, the being surrounded by a crowd of admiring friends, the daily banquet, the gorgeous apparel, the stately house, these details more than hint at the pleasure he found in the society of courtier-friends; but in the other world he seems to have been quite alone. Whereas among the blessed there appears to be a sweet companionship. Lazarus is in the company of Abraham, who, of course, only represents a great and goodly gathering. “Abraham”s bosom” is simply the well-known expression for that feast or banquet of the happy souls judged worthy of an entrance into Paradise. But in that place where the rich man lifted up his eyes there seems a strange and awful solitariness. A total absence of everything, even of external causes of trouble, is very noticeable. He was alone; alone with his thoughts. And seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Expositor’s Greek NT
Vv. 23. In the other world.—ἐν τῷ ᾅδῃ: from the O.T. point of view Hades means simply the state of the dead. Thus both the dead men would be in Hades. But here Hades seems = hell, the place of torment, and of course Lazarus is not there, but in Paradise.—ἀπὸ μακρόθεν: Paradise dimly visible, yet within speaking distance; this is not dogmatic teaching but popular description; so throughout.—ἐν τοῖς κόλποις: plural here (cf. ver. 22); so often in classics.
In hell – The word here translated hell (“Hades”) means literally a dark, obscure place; the place where departed spirits go, but especially the place where “wicked” spirits go. See the Job_10:21-22 notes; Isa_14:9 note. The following circumstances are related of it in this parable:
1. It is “far off” from the abodes of the righteous. Lazarus was seen “afar off.”
2. It is a place of torment.
3. There is a great gulf fixed between that and heaven, Luk_16:26.
4. The suffering is great. It is represented by “torment” in a flame, Luk_16:24.
5. There will be no escape from it, Luk_16:26.
The word “hell” here means, therefore, that dark, obscure, and miserable place, far from heaven, where the wicked shall be punished forever.
He lifted up his eyes – A phrase in common use among the Hebrews, meaning “he looked,” Gen_13:10; Gen_18:2; Gen_31:10; Deu_8:3; Luk_6:20.
Being in torment – The word “torment” means “pain, anguish” Mat_4:24; particularly the pain inflicted by the ancients in order to induce people to make confession of their crimes. These “torments” or tortures were the keenest that they could inflict, such as the rack, or scourging, or burning; and the use of the word here denotes that the sufferings of the wicked can be represented only by the extremest forms of human suffering.
And seeth Abraham … – This was an aggravation of his misery. One of the first things that occurred in hell was to look up, and see the poor man that lay at his gate completely happy. What a contrast! Just now he was rolling in wealth, and the poor man was at his gate. He had no expectation of these sufferings: now they have come upon him, and Lazarus is happy and forever fixed in the paradise of God. It is more, perhaps, than we are authorized to infer, that the wicked will “see” those who are in paradise. That they will “know” that they are there is certain; but we are not to suppose that they will be so near together as to be seen, or as to make conversation possible. These circumstances mean that there will be “a separation,” and that the wicked in hell will be conscious that the righteous, though on earth they were poor or despised, will be in heaven. Heaven and hell will be far from each other, and it will be no small part of the misery of the one that it is far and forever removed from the other.
24. Πάτερ Ἀβραάμ. He appeals to their relationship, and to his fatherly compassion. Will not Abraham take pity on one of his own sons? Comp. Joh_8:53. Note the characteristic καὶ αὐτός (see on 1:17, 5:14). The φωνήσας implies raising his voice, in harmony with ἀπὸ μακρόθεν.
πέμψον Λάζαπον. Not that he assumes that Lazarus is at his beck and call, although Lange thinks that this is “the finest masterstroke of the parable” that Dives unconsciously retains his arrogant attitude towards Lazarus. See also his strange explanation of the finger-drop of water (L of C. i. p. 507). On earth Dives was not arrogant; he did not drive Lazarue from his gate; but neglectful. In Hades he is so humbled by his pain that he is willing to receive alleviation from anyone, even Lazarus.
ἵνα βάψῃ τὸ ἄκρον τοῦ δακτύλου αὐτοῦ ὕδατος. The smallest alleviation will be welcome. On earth no enjoyment was too extravagant: now the most trifling is worth imploring.
With the part. gen. ὕδατος comp. βάψει τὸν δάκτυλον τὸν δεξιὸν ἀπὸ τοῦ ἐλαίου (Lev_14:16). To understand τι and make ὔδατός τι nom. to βάψη is an improbable constr. See win. xxx. 8. c, p. 252.
ὀδυνῶμαι ἐν τῇ φλογὶ ταύτῃ. “I am in anguish in this flame” of insatiable desires and of remorse: a prelude to the γέεννα τοῦ πυρός (Mat_5:22). For ὀδυνῶμαι see on 2:48.
And 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. His intense longing seems to be for companionship. “Oh for a friend,” he seems to say, “who could speak to me, comfort me, give me the smallest alleviation of the pain I suffer!” What picture of a hell was ever painted by man comparable to this vision of eternal solitude, peopled alone by remorseful memories, described by Jesus? As the Divine Speaker advanced in his thrilling, melancholy description of the rich man”s condition in the world to come, how vividly must the listeners have recalled the Master”s earnest advice to them, in his former parable of the steward, to make to themselves while here friends who would receive them into everlasting habitations! They saw the meaning of that detail of the parable then. Were flay, in their luxurious abundance, were they making friends here who would help them there in the eternal tents? Were they not, perhaps, making the same mistake as the rich man of the story? The question might be asked Why is Abraham, the father of the chosen race, the centre of this blessed life in Hades? In reply, firstly, it must be remembered that the whole colouring of this parable is peculiarly rabbinic, and in the schools of the rabbis the life of the blessed in Paradise is represented as a banquet, over which, until Messiah come, Abraham is represented as presiding. And, secondly, when the parable was spoken, the Saviour was actually on earth; his great redemption work had still to be accomplished. There was truth as well as error mingled in that strange rabbinical teaching. Messiah, as Messiah, when the parable was being probably acted, had not entered that realm where Abraham and many another holy and humble man of heart were in the enjoyment of exquisite bliss.
Father Abraham – The Jews considered it a signal honor that Abraham was their “father” – that is, that they were “descendants” from him. Though this man was now in misery, yet he seems not to have abandoned the idea of his relation to the father of the faithful. The Jews supposed that departed spirits might know and converse with each other. See Lightfoot on this place. Our Saviour speaks in conformity with that prevailing opinion; and as it was not easy to convey ideas about the spiritual world without some such representation, he, therefore, speaks in the language which was usual in his time. We are not, however, to suppose that this was “literally” true, but only that it was designed to represent more clearly the sufferings of the rich man in hell.
Have mercy on me – Pity me. The rich man is not represented as calling on “God.” The mercy of God will be at an end when the soul is lost. Nor did he “ask” to be released from that place. Lost spirits “know” that their sufferings will have no end, and that it would be in vain to ask to escape the place of torment. Nor does he ask to be admitted where Lazarus was. He had no “desire” to be in a holy place, and he well knew that there was no restoration to those who once sink down to hell.
Send Lazarus – This shows how low he was reduced, and how the circumstances of people change when they die. Just before, Lazarus was laid at his gate full of sores; now he is happy in heaven. Just before, he had nothing to give, and the rich man could expect to derive no benefit from him; now he asks, as the highest favor, that he might come and render him relief. Soon the poorest man on earth, if he is a friend of God, will have mercies which the rich, if unprepared to die, can never obtain. The rich will no longer despise such people; they would “then” be glad of their friendship, and would beg for the slightest favor at their hands.
Dip the tip … – This was a small favor to ask, and it shows the greatness of his distress when so small a thing would be considered a great relief.
Cool my tongue – The effect of great “heat” on the body is to produce almost insupportable thirst. Those who travel in burning deserts thus suffer inexpressibly when they are deprived of water. So “pain” of any kind produces thirst, and particularly if connected with fever. The sufferings of the rich man are, therefore, represented as producing burning “thirst,” so much that even a drop of water would be refreshing to his tongue. We can scarce form an idea of more distress and misery than where this is continued from one day to another without relief. We are not to suppose that he had been guilty of any particular wickedness with his “tongue” as the cause of this. It is simply an idea to represent the natural effect of great suffering, and especially suffering in the midst of great heat.
I am tormented – I am in anguish – in insupportable distress.
In this flame – The lost are often represented as suffering “in flames,” because “fire” is an image of the severest pain that we know. It is not certain, however, that the wicked will be doomed to suffer in “material” fire. See the notes at Mar_9:44.
25.Son, remember. The word son appears to be used ironically, as a sharp and piercing reproof to the rich man, who falsely boasted in his lifetime that he was one of the sons of Abraham. It seems as if pain inflicted by a hot iron wounded his mind, when his hypocrisy and false confidence are placed before his eyes. When it is said that he is tormented in hell, because he had received his good things in his lifetime, we must not understand the meaning to be, that eternal destruction awaits all who have enjoyed prosperity in the world. On the contrary, as Augustine has judiciously observed, poor Lazarus was carried into the bosom of rich Abraham, to inform us, that riches do not shut against any man the gate of the kingdom of heaven, but that it is open alike to all who have either made a sober use of riches, or patiently endured the want of them. All that is meant is, that the rich man, who yielded to the allurements of the present life, abandoned himself entirely to earthly enjoyments, and despised God and His kingdom, now suffers the punishment of his own neglect.
Receivedst THY good things. The pronoun thy is emphatic, as if Abraham had said: Thou wast created for an immortal life, and the Law of God raised time on high to the contemplation of the heavenly life; but thou, forgetting so exalted a condition, didst choose to resemble a sow or a dog, and thou therefore receivest a reward which befits brutal pleasures. But now he enjoys comfort When it is said of Lazarus, on the other hand, that he enjoys comfort, because he had suffered many distresses in the world, it would be idle to apply this to all whose condition is wretched; because their afflictions, in many cases, are so far from having been of service to them, that they ought rather to bring upon them severer punishment. But Lazarus is commended for patient endurance of the cross, which always springs from faith and a genuine fear of God; for he who obstinately resists his sufferings, and whose ferocity remains unsubdued, has no claim to be rewarded for patience, by receiving from God comfort in exchange for the cross.
To sum up the whole, they who have patiently endured the burden of the cross laid upon them, and have not been rebellious against the yoke and chastisements of God, but, amidst uninterrupted sufferings, have cherished the hope of a better life, have a rest laid up for them in heaven, when the period of their warfare shall be terminated. On the contrary, wicked despisers of God, who are wholly engrossed in the pleasures of the flesh, and who by a sort of mental intoxication, drown every feeling of piety, will experience, immediately after death, such torments as will efface their empty enjoyments. It must also be recollected, that this comfort, which the sons of God enjoy, lies in this, that they perceive a crown of glory prepared for them, and rest in the joyful expectation of it; as, on the other hand, the wicked are tormented by the apprehension of the future judgment, which they see coming upon them.
Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
25. Son] Rather, Child. Even in the punishment of Hades he is addressed by a word of tenderness (15:31, 19:9).
receivedst] Rather, receivedst to the full.
thy good things … evil things] The ‘good things’ of Dives were such as he had accounted to be absolutely his own, and to be really good (Mat_6:2); the ‘evil things’ of Lazarus were not ‘his,’ but part of God’s merciful discipline to him, Rev_7:14. The parable gives no ground for the interpretation that the temporal felicity of Dives was a reward for any good things he had done, or the misery of Lazarus a punishment for his temporal sins.
but now] Add ‘here,’ with the best MSS.
thou art tormented] ‘Pained,’ as before. The parable is practically an expansion of the beatitudes and woes of 6:21-25.
25. Τέκνον. He does not resent the appeal to relationship: the refusal is as gentle as it is decided. The rich man cannot fail to see the reasonableness of what he experiences.
ἀπέλαβες. “Thou didst receive in full.” This seems to be the meaning of the ἀπο-. Nothing was stored up for the future: Comp. ἀπέχειν, 6:24; Mat_6:2, Mat_6:5, Mat_6:16. Note the μνήσθητι. It is only in the mythological Hades that there is a river of Lethe, drowning the memory of the past. See second small print, p. 425.
τὰ ἀγαθά σου. Herein also was fatal error. He had no idea of any other good things, and he kept these to himself.
καὶ Λάζαρος ὁμοίως τὰ κακά. There is no αὐτοῦ. His evil things were not his own, but he accepted them as from God, while the rich man took his good things as possessions for which he had no account to render. Comp. vv. 11, 12.
νῦν δὲ ὧδε. Contrast of time and place: “But now here.” The ὁ δὲ of TR. has scarcely any authority. The same corruption is found 1Co_4:2. Comp. οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ᾅδου ζητῆσαι τρυφήν (Ecclus. 14:16). There is, however, no hint that during their lives Dives had been sufficiently rewarded for any good that he had done, and Lazarus sufficiently punished for any evil that he had done. And there is also no justification of the doctrine that to each man is allotted so much pleasure and so much pain; and that those who have their full allowance of pleasure in this world cannot have any in the world to come. Abraham’s reply must be considered in close relation to the rich man’s request. Dives had not asked to be freed from his punishment. He accepted that as just. He had asked for a slight alleviation, and in a way which involved an interruption of the bliss of Lazarus. Abraham replies that to interfere with the lot of either is both unreasonable and impossible. Dives had unbroken luxury, and Lazarus unbroken suffering, in the other world. There can be no break in the pangs of Dives, or in the bliss of Lazarus, now. Apoc. Baruch, lxxv. 9.
ὀδυνᾶσαι. An intermediate form between ὀδυνάεσαι and ὀδυνᾷ. Such things belong to the popular Greek of the time. Comp. καυχᾶσαι (Rom_2:17; 1Co_4:7), κατακαυχᾶσαι (Rom_11:18), and see on φάγεσαι and πίεσαι (Luk_17:8). See Expos. Times, viii. p. 239.
But Abraham said, Son; remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. Abraham here simply bids the tortured man to call to his memory the circumstances of the life he had lived on earth, telling him that in these circumstances he would find the reason for his present woeful state. It was no startling record of vice and crime, or even of folly, that the father of the faithful calls attention to. He quietly recalls to the rich man”s memory that on earth he had lived a life of princely splendour and luxury, and that Lazarus, sick and utterly destitute, lay at his palace gate, and was allowed to lie there unpitied and unhelped. And because of the studied moderation of its language, and the everyday character of its hero Dives for he, the rich man, not Lazarus, is the real hero, the central character of the great parable-lesson the lesson of the parable goes home necessarily to many more hearts than it would have done had the hero been a monster of wickedness, a cold calculating or else a plausible villain, a man who shrank not from sacrificing the lives and happiness of his fellow-men if their lives or happiness stood in his way. Dives was merely a commonplace wealthy man of the world, with self-centred alms, and the sin for which he was condemned to outer darkness was only that everyday sin of neglecting out of the mammon of unrighteousness in other words, out of his money to make for himself friends who should receive him into the eternal tents.
Son – This is a representation designed to correspond with the word “father.” He was a descendant of Abraham a Jew – and Abraham is represented as calling this thing to his remembrance. It would not lessen his sorrows to remember that he was a “son” of Abraham, and that he ought to have lived worthy of that relation to him.
Remember – This is a cutting word in this place. One of the chief torments of hell will be the “remembrance” of what was enjoyed and of what was done in this world. Nor will it be any mitigation of the suffering to spend an “eternity” where there will be nothing else to do, day or night, but to “remember” what “was” done, and what “might have been,” if the life had been right.
Thy good things – That is, property, splendor, honor.
Evil things – Poverty, contempt, and disease.
But now … – How changed the scene! How different the condition! And how much “better” was the portion of Lazarus, after all, than that of the rich man! It is probable that Lazarus had the most “real” happiness in the land of the living, for riches without the love of God can never confer happiness like the favor of God, even in poverty. But the comforts of the rich man are now gone forever, and the joys of Lazarus have just commenced. “One” is to be comforted, and “the other” to be tormented, to all eternity. How much better, therefore, is poverty, with the friendship of God, than riches, with all that the world can bestow! And how foolish to seek our chief pleasures only in this life!
26.A vast gulf lieth. These words describe the permanency of the future state, and denote, that the boundaries which separate the reprobate from the elect can never be broken through. And thus we are reminded to return early to the path, while there is yet time, lest we rush headlong into that abyss, from which it will be impossible to rise. The words must not be strictly interpreted, when it is said, that no one is permitted to pass who would wish to descend from heaven to hell; for it is certain, that none of the righteous entertain any such desire.
A great gulf – The word translated “gulf” means chasm, or the broad, yawning space between two elevated objects. In this place it means that there is no way of passing from one to the other.
Fixed – Strengthened – made firm or immovable. It is so established that it will never be movable or passable. It will forever divide heaven and hell.
Which would pass – We are not to press this passage literally, as if those who are in heaven would “desire” to go and visit the wicked in the world of woe. The simple meaning of the statement is, that there can be no communication between the one and the other – there can be no passing from one to the other. It is impossible to conceive that the righteous would desire to leave their abodes in glory to go and dwell in the world of woe; nor can we suppose that they would wish to go for any reason unless it were possible to furnish relief. That will be out of the question. Not even a drop of water will be furnished as a relief to the sufferer.Neither can they pass to us … – There can be no doubt that the wicked will desire to pass the gulf that divides them from heaven. They would be glad to be in a state of happiness; but all such wishes will be vain. How, in the face of the solemn statement of the Saviour here, can people believe that there will be a “restoration” of all the wicked to heaven? He solemnly assures us that there can be no passage from that world of woe to the abodes of the blessed; yet, in the face of this, many Universalists hold that hell will yet be vacated of its guilty millions, and that all its miserable inhabitants will be received to heaven! Who shall conduct them across this gulf, when Jesus Christ says it cannot be passed? Who shall build a bridge over that yawning chasm which he says is “fixed?” No: if there is anything certain from the Scripture, it is that they who enter hell return no more; they who sink there sink forever.
27.I beseech thee, father. To bring the narrative into more full accordance with our modes of thinking, he describes the rich man as wishing that his brothers, who were still alive, should be warned by Lazarus. Here the Papists exercise their ingenuity very foolishly, by attempting to prove that the dead feel solicitude about the living. Any thing more ridiculous than this sophistry cannot be conceived; for with equal plausibility I might undertake to prove, that believing souls are not satisfied with the place assigned to them, and are actuated by a desire of removing from it to hell, were it not that they are prevented by a vast gulf. If no man holds such extravagant views, the Papists are not entitled to congratulate themselves on the other supposition. It is not my intention, however, to debate the point, or to defend either one side or another; but I thought it right to advert, in passing, to the futility of the arguments on which they rest their belief that the dead intercede with God on our behalf. I now return to the plain and natural meaning of this passage.
27. But perhaps there is no χάσμα between paradise and the other world; and Dives makes another request, which, if less selfish than the first, is also less humble. It implies that he has scarcely had a fair chance. If God had warned him sufficiently, he would have escaped this place of torment.
Vers. 27, 28. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father”s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them; lest they also come into this place of torment. The condemned acquiesces in this dread fact; convinced of the utter impossibility of any interchange of sympathy between him and the dwellers in the realms of bliss, he ceases to pray for any alleviation of his own sad and wretched state. But another wail of woe quickly rises from the awful solitude. What means this second prayer of the doomed man? Are we to read in it the first signs of a new and noble purpose in the lost soul, the first dawning of loving thoughts and tender care for others? It seems, perhaps, unkind not to recognize this; but the Divine Speaker evidently had another purpose here when he put these words into the mouth of the lost rich man he would teach the great lesson to the living that a selfish life is inexcusable. On first thoughts, the rich man”s request to Abraham appears prompted alone by his anxiety for the future of his brothers who were still alive; but on examination it would seem, to use the striking words of Professor Bruce, that he wished rather to justify his own sad past by some such. reflection as this: “Had only some one come from the dead with the calm, clear light of eternity shining in his eyes, to inform me that this life beyond is no table, that Paradise is a place or state of unspeakable bliss, and Gehenna a place or state of unspeakable woe, I should have renounced my voluptuous, selfish ways, and entered on the path of piety and charity. If one had come to me from the dead, I had surely repented, and so should not have come to this place of torment.
Vers. 27-31. A dangerous delusion.
The rich man found himself undergoing the penalty of a selfish and worldly life, and, bethinking himself of his five brethren, he desired for them the advantage which he himself had not possessed; he prayed that a visitant from the unseen world might appear to them and warn them of the danger in which they stood. He thought this extraordinary privilege would accomplish for them what the ordinary influences around them had not wrought. He was assured that in this notion he was mistaken; if they were not hearing “Moses and the prophets, neither would they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.
I THE ONE HOPE FOR ERRING AND SINFUL MEN that they may be persuaded. They are living in sin; for selfishness and worldliness are such in the sight of God that they may be said to be sin itself; they are the soul turning from the living God to find its centre, its sphere, its satisfaction, in its own poor self, in the material and transitory good of this present world. And living in sin, men are living under God”s high displeasure, under his solemn and awful condemnation, in peril of final banishment and penalty in the future. The one hope for them is that they will be persuaded:
1. To consider. To consider whence they came, whose they are, unto whom they owe their powers and their possessions, what is the true end and aim of human life, their accountableness to the God whom they have neglected and displeased, the nearness of death, the greatness of eternity.
2. To repent. That is, not to be convulsed with a strong and passing agony of soul, nor to use the current and approved language of contrition, but to change their minds, their views, their feelings; to have in their hearts a deep sense of shame and of regret that they should have so sadly misspent their powers and. lost their opportunities.
3. To resolve. To come to a deliberate and fixed resolution to live henceforth unto God their Saviour.
II THE REFUGE OF THE DISOBEDIENT, There are many who, when they thus recognize their duty, are “not disobedient to the heavenly vision;” they say, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” and proceed without delay to do his holy will. But there are others who weakly and wrongly postpone the hour of decision and of return. They think that the time will come for them to enter the kingdom of God, but it has not yet arrived. There has not happened to them any great visitation. God has not appeared in any striking and overwhelming form. There will come an hour when it will be made manifest to them that they must no longer delay; when they will be mightily constrained to yield themselves to the service of the Supreme; then they will freely and gladly respond; meantime they will pursue the old path of selfishness and worldly pleasure.
III THE VANITY AND THE FOLLY OF THIS RESORT,
1. The vanity of it. Jesus Christ taught that men, if they were unmoved by the sacred truths they learned in Deuteronomy and Isaiah, would not be stirred to newness of life even by an apparition flora the unseen world; that it was not by the extraordinary and the startling, but by the divinely true, that souls were to be saved. And this doctrine is in conformity with the known facts of our human experience. Men that know their Lord”s will but delay to do it will find some excuse for disobedience when the unusual or even when the supernatural is before them. The disobedient heart goes on in sinful procrastination, with a vague and feeble hope that this hour will come; but it does not arrive. He has a vision of sudden death, but he rises from the sick-bed to pursue the old path; he loses some companion and is powerfully admonished of his own mortality, but he returns from his friend”s grave the same man that he was before; he goes to hear the wonderful preacher and listens with admiration not unmixed with fear or even trembling, but he awakes on the morrow with a closed mind, with an unbroken heart. Some great trouble overtakes and overthrows him, but his soul is hardened, and the “sorrow of the world worketh death” and not life in his case. His hope is a vain one.
2. The folly of it. Why should he wait for the extraordinary, the supernatural? Has he not at hand everything he needs to convince him and to induce him to take the step of spiritual decision? Why want some one from heaven to bring down the word of truth or the Saviour himself? (Rom_10:6) All that we want we have.
(1) Our conscience is urging us to a life of holy service.
(2) Our reason tells us that our present and eternal welfare is bound up with the forgiveness and the favour of the living God, in whose power we stand and who holds all our future in his sovereign hand.
(3) Our Divine Father is summoning us to his side, to his hearth, to his table, and is waiting to welcome us.
(4) Our gracious Saviour is inviting us to an immediate and to an absolute trust in himself.
(5) The Holy Spirit of God is pleading and striving with us. There is no reason, there is no excuse, for a single day”s delay. Every one to whom it is right to listen, everything to which it is wise to yield attention, says, “Come.” It is only the evil voices around us and from below that say, “Wait.” Delay means the doom of Dives; immediate obedience leads along the paths of heavenly wisdom and holy service to the home of the blessed. C.
Cambridge Bible:Lk Farrar
28. I have five brethren] If there be any special meaning in this detail, the clue to it is now lost. Some have seen in it a reference to the five sons of the High Priest Annas, all of whom succeeded to the Priesthood,—Eleazar, Jonathan, Theophilus, Matthias, and the younger Annas, besides his son-in-law Caiaphas. But this seems to be very unlikely. An allusion to Antipas and his brethren is less improbable, but our Lord would hardly have admitted into a parable an oblique personal reflexion.
28. διαμαρτύρηται αὐτοῖς. “May bear witness successfully,” right through to a good issue. But the δια- need not mean more than “thoroughly, earnestly” (Act_2:40, Act_2:8:25, Act_2:10:42, Act_2:18:5, Act_2:20:21, Act_2:23, Act_2:24, Act_2:23:11, Act_2:28:23). Elsewhere in N. T. only five times, but freq. in LXX. That any five persons then living, whether Herods, or sons of Annas, or among the audience, are here alluded to, is most improbable. That the request is meant to illustrate the Pharisees’ craving for signs is more possible: and the lesson that the desire to warn others from vicious courses may come too late is perhaps also included. But the simplest explanation of the request is that it prepares the way for the moral of the parable,—the duty of making use of existing opportunities.
Expositor’s Greek NT
Ver. 28. ἀδελφούς, brothers, in the literal sense. Why force on it an allegorical sense by finding in it a reference to the Pharisees or to the Jewish people, brethren in the sense of fellow-countrymen? Five is a random number, true to natural probability; a large enough family to make interest in their eternal well-being on the part of a deceased member very intelligible.—διαμαρτύρηται, urgently testify to, telling them how it looks beyond, how it fares with their brother, with the solemn impressiveness of one who has seen.
29.They have Moses and the prophets. In the persons of the rich man and Abraham Christ reminds us, that we have received an undoubted rule of life, and that therefore we have no right to expect that the dead will rise to instruct and persuade us. Moses and the prophets were appointed to instruct, while they lived, the men of their own age; but it was with the design, that the same advantage should be derived by posterity from their writings. As it is the will of God that we should receive instructions, in this manner, about a holy life, there is no reason why the dead should assure us of the rewards and punishments of the future state; nor is there any excuse for the indifference of those who shelter themselves under the pretext, that they do not know what is going on beyond this world. Among irreligious men, we are aware, is frequently heard this wicked saying, or rather this grunting of hogs, that it is foolish in men to distress themselves with fears about a matter of uncertainty, since no one has ever returned to bring us tidings about hell.
With the view of counteracting every enchantment of Satan of this description, Christ draws their attention to the Law and the Prophets, agreeably to that passage in the writings of Moses:
It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou shouldest do it, (Deu_30:12.)
They who ridicule as fabulous what Scripture testifies as to the future judgment, will one day feel how shocking is the wickedness of giving the lie to the holy oracles of God. From such lethargy Christ arouses his followers, that they may not be deceived by the hope of escaping punishment, and thus fail to improve the time allowed for repentance.
Abraham’s reply amounts to this: By Moses and the prophets God had sufficiently made known to his people the doctrine of salvation, and nothing remains for us but that it obtain the assent of all. So thoroughly infected is the mind of man with a depraved curiosity, that the greater part of men are always gaping after new revelations. Now as nothing is more displeasing to God than when men are so eager to go beyond due bounds, he forbids them to inquire at magicians and soothsayers respecting the truth, and to consult pretended oracles after the manner of the Gentiles; and in order to restrain that itching curiosity, he promises, at the same time, that he will give prophets, from whom the people may learn whatever is necessary to be known for salvation, (Deu_18:9.) But if the prophets were sent for the express purpose; that God might keep his people under the guidance of his word, he who is not satisfied with this method of instruction is not actuated by a desire to learn, but tickled by ungodly wantonness; and therefore God complains that He is insulted, when He alone is not heard from the living to the dead, (Isa_8:19.)
The division of the word of God, which Abraham makes, into the Law and the Prophets, refers to the time of the Old Testament. Now that the more ample explanation of the Gospel has been added, there is still less excuse for our wickedness, if our dislike of that doctrine hurries us in every possible direction, and, in a word, if we do not permit ourselves to be regulated by the word of God. Hence too we infer how solid is the faith of Papists about purgatory and such fooleries, when it rests on nothing but phantoms.
29. Λέγει, saith) Abraham gives no answer on the point, whether Lazarus could be sent by him to the brothers of the rich man. There is not, certainly, such a wide gulf separating from the earth either heaven or hell, as separates the two latter from one another.—Μωσέα, Moses) A personification for the Law, appropriately used here as being in antithesis to Lazarus. It is just the same as if they had Moses face to face. [Besides these means of conviction, we are supplied amply with the words of Christ and the writings of His witnesses, by whom also the resurrection from the dead is solemnly affirmed.—V. g.] The scope of this narrative is to commend Scripture, which the Pharisees despised, being ‘covetous,’ ver. 14, ‘justifying’ and “exalting themselves,” ver. 15, and despising the law, ver. 17, all which feelings of the Pharisees are utterly swept away by Scripture. Moses and the prophets are here considered especially, inasmuch (in so far) as they testify concerning Christ Jesus, ver. 16, whom the Pharisees were deriding, ver. 14.—ἀκουσάτωσαν, let them hear) This is said sternly. No man is compelled. It is in the believing hearing of the word that we are saved, not by means of apparitions. Herod, as being one not desirous to hear, is not permitted to see a miracle. The question as to men’s state after death is less openly and less at large treated of in the Old Testament [than in the New]; and yet that which is revealed on the subject must suffice for leading men (the Jews) to repent. They are mistaken who suppose that it is only by the revelation of those mysteries that the ungodly are to be gained over to religion.
30.Nay, father Abraham. This is a personification, as we have said, which expresses rather the feelings of the living than the anxiety of the dead. The doctrine of the Law is little esteemed by the world, the Prophets are neglected, and no man submits to hear God speaking in his own manner. Some would desire that angels should descend from heaven; others, that the dead should come out of their graves; others, that new miracles should be performed every day to sanction what they hear; and others, that voices should be heard from the sky. But if God were pleased to comply with all their foolish wishes, it would be of no advantage to them; for God has included in his word all that is necessary to be known, and the authority of this word has been attested and proved by authentic seals. Besides, faith does not depend on miracles, or any extraordinary sign, but is the peculiar gift of the Spirit, and is produced by means of the word. Lastly, it is the prerogative of God to draw us to himself, and he is pleased to work effectually through his own word. There is not the slightest reason, therefore, to expect that those means, which withdraw us from obedience to the word, will be of any service to us. I freely acknowledge, that there is nothing to which the flesh is more strongly inclined than to listen to vain revelations; and we see how eagerly those men, to whom the whole of Scripture is an object of dislike, throw themselves into the snares of Satan. Hence have arisen necromancy and other delusions, which the world not only receives with avidity, but runs after with furious rage. But all that is here affirmed by Christ is, that even the dead could not reform, or bring to a sound mind, those who are deaf and obstinate against the instructions of the law.
30. Οὐχὶ, nay) Therefore the rich man during his life did not know the plan of salvation; and the wretched man, after having left behind his luxury, brought with him into hell his low estimation for Scripture. Hence he gave a counsel (proposed a plan) by no means in accordance with true theology. He supposed that, as he himself was now affected, so the survivors will presently be sure to be affected. Do thou [reader] rather look upon Lazarus whilst still living; so there will be no need of Lazarus’ appearing after death. Ungodly men demand that in one moment the reality of things invisible should be shown to themselves, first of all, in a manner altogether palpable, and such as to exclude the possibility of faith:1 they shrink back from laborious investigation, faith, and patience.—τὶς, one) Lazarus, or some one else.—ἀπὸ νεκρῶν, from the dead) Therefore the rich man had not believed, neither did his brothers then believe, that there is a hell or a state of blessedness. It is not professed Sadduceeism, as the tenet of a sect, which is to be inferred from this [as the condemning characteristic of the rich man], but practical atheism, wherewith even not merely the Sadducees, but the Pharisees also were tainted, with (i.e. notwithstanding) all their hypocrisy. They were really deriding mockers, ver. 14. And it is probable that five Pharisees are stigmatized in ver. 28 above the rest.—μετανοήσουσιν, they will repent) That there is need of repentance, all are aware, even without apparitions: for even the self-indulger knew this in hell; although he could not comprehend that Moses and prophets aim at enforcing this same truth.
Ver. 30,31. How vain is man in his imaginations: We are prone all of us to think after the rate that this rich man is here brought in speaking; that although persons be deaf to the sound of the word, yet some sensible evidence of the wrath of God would make a change in their hearts and lives. There is no such thing. There is not, possibly, in all the book of God a text that more speaks the desperate hardness of a sinner’s heart than this, nor a text which looks more dreadfully upon persons sitting under the means of grace, reading and hearing the word of God, and yet find not their hearts so affected with the reading and hearing of it, as thereby to be brought to repentance, and faith, and such holiness of life as it requireth. If it were possible that such men and women should see one come out of the bottomless pit, tearing his hair, and wringing his hands, and gnashing his teeth, and bewailing his misery, and begging of them to be wise by his example, telling them for what sins he is made so miserable, and with tears and highest expressions of passion beseeching them that while they have time they would leave off those courses, acquaint themselves with God, and be at peace, that thereby good might come unto them, they would not yet believe nor repent; nor would this have any further effect upon them, than a little passion, till they could get the din out of their ears. For though sensible evidence be the highest advantage in the world to moral persuasion, yet these things are under no Divine appointment to such an effect. Henceforth let us wonder no more that a drunkard sees his companion drop down dead before him, yet presently cries again, Fill the glass; that hundreds of sinners are daily hurried down to hell in their wickedness, and yet their companions take no warning. In a fight at sea or land hundreds drop, yet their companions do not fly, but are held up by their stomachs and passion, and their ears are made deaf by the noise of the drums and trumpets. So in the world hundreds of sinners drop down daily into the pit, yet the rest of their companions tumble their companions into their graves, and never consider the work of the Lord, nor consider the operation of his hands, till they also like sheep be laid in the grave, and death comes to feed upon them, and hell to devour them also. This now to those that duly consider not things, and in particular do not consider this text, seemeth strange and amazing. But it is no more to be wondered at than that hundreds read and hear the word of God, and are not by it converted and changed. It is not to be expected that any providence of God should work upon those souls any saving change, upon whom the word doth not work. That is the ordinance of God, with which the Holy Spirit joins itself, which alone can produce this change. If God works not this change thus, he will work it by nothing else; though he sometimes maketh use of such providences towards souls to whom he intends good, to make them observe and attend to the word better, in order to so blessed an effect.
Vers. 30, 31. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. The Master not only wished to drive home this momentous truth to the hearts of the group of varied ranks and orders listening to him then; his words were for a far larger auditory, so he prolongs the dialogue between Dives and Abraham. “If Lazarus from the dead would only go to them,” pleaded the lost soul. “Even if I send,” replied Abraham, “and Lazarus goes, they will not be persuaded.” They would see him, listen to him, perhaps, and then, when the first feelings of amazement and fear were dying away, would find some plausible reasons for disregarding the messenger and his message. Criticism would discuss the appearance; it would be disposed of by attributing it to an hallucination, or others would suggest that the visitant from the other world had never been really dead, and these pleas would be readily taken up by others who cared not to examine the question for themselves, and so life, careless, selfish, thoughtless, would go on as it had done aforetime. A striking example of what the Lord asserted through the medium of the shade of Abraham took place within a few days from that time. Another Lazarus did come back again from the dead into the midst of that great company of friends and mourners and jealous watchers of Jesus gathered round the sepulchral cave of Bethany, and though some true, faithful hearts welcomed the mighty sign with awful joy, still it served not to touch the cold and calculating spirit of Pharisee, scribe, and Sadducee, thirsting for the blood of the Master, whom they feared and hated, and whose word had summoned back the dead into their midst. The mighty wonder wrought no change there. One went unto them from the dead, and yet their hard hearts only took counsel together how they might put Lazarus again to death.
And so the parable and this particular course of teaching came to a close. Perhaps it is the deepest, the most soul-stirring of all the utterances of the Master. Expositors for eighteen centuries have drawn out of its clear, fathomless depths new and ever new truths. It is by no means yet exhausted. This voice from the other side of the veil charms and yet appals, it terrifies and yet enthrals all ages, every class, each rank of men and women. There are many other important items of special teaching which have been scarcely touched on in the notes above. Among the more interesting of these is the brief notice of the life which the blessed lead in Paradise. The happy dead are represented as a wide family circle. Abraham is pictured with Lazarus in his bosom. The image is taken from the way guests used to sit at a banquet. John at the Last Supper occupied a similar position with regard to the Master (Joh_13:23, Joh_13:25) to that occupied by Lazarus with regard to Abraham here. The two extremes of the social scale are thus represented as meeting in that blessed company on terms of the tenderest friendship. With these were Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets. (Luk_13:28) “All the just,” as Marcion gives it in his recession of St. Luke. And while the Paradise-life for the blessed dead is described as a holy communion of saints, there is evidently no corresponding communion in the case of the unhappy dead. The selfish rich man finds himself in an awful solitude. The suffering is rather represented by the image of the void; there are no external causes of pain apparently; hence his longing to speak a word with Lazarus, to feel the touch of a friendly sympathizing hand, if only for a moment, to distract his burning remorseful thoughts. There was nothing to live for there, nothing to hope for, but he felt he must go on livinghopeless. As no special crime, no glaring sin of lust or wanton excess or selfish ambition, is laid to the rich man”s charge, and yet when dead he is represented as lifting up his eyes, being in torments, many, especially men belonging to those schools which are generally unfriendly to the religion of Jesus Christ, have endeavoured to show that the condemned was condemned on account of his riches, while the saved was saved because of his deep poverty. Nor is this error alone common to the Tubingen school, and to brilliant free-lances in religious literature like M. Renan. Some such mistaken notion doubtless materially aided the rise and the popularity of the mendicant orders, who played so important a part in the Christianity of the Middle Ages in so many lands. But the burden of our thrilling parable emphatically is not “Woe to the rich! blessed are the poor!” The crime of the life to which so awful a punishment was meted out as the guerdon, was selfish inhumanity, which Christ teaches us is the damning sin. (See his words in his great picture of the final judgment, Mat_25:41-46) Lazarus was no solitary individual; he was one of the many suffering poor who abound in this world, and to find whom the rich need not go far from their own gates. Lazarus represents here the opportunity for the exercise of Dives”s humanity. Of this, and doubtless many like opportunities, Dives cared not to avail himself. He was apparently no ill-natured, cruel man, he was simply self-centred, delighting in soft living, generous wines, costly fare, sumptuous clothing, good society. He loved to be surrounded with applauding, pleasant guests; but the Lazaruses of the world, for him, might pine away and die in their nameless awful misery. Professor Bruce, with great force, puts the following words into the beggar Lazarus”s mouth; these words tell us with startling clearness what was the sin of Dives: “I was laid at this man”s gate; he knew me; he could net pass from his house into the street without seeing my condition, as a leprous beggar, yet as a beggar I died.” Dives here was endowed richly with all the materials of human happiness, but he kept all his happiness to himself, he took no trouble whatever to diffuse his joy and gladness, his bright and many-coloured life among that great army of weak, poor, woe-begone brothers and sisters who go far to make up the population of every great city. That riches are not in themselves a ground for exclusion from the blessed life is plainly shown by the position occupied by Abraham in that happy family circle of the blessed. For Abraham, we know, was a sheik possessed of vast wealth. Then, too, in the latter part of the parable, when the imminent danger which the five brothers of the lost Dives ran of being similarly lost, was discussed, the danger is represented as springing from their careless disregard of the Law and the prophets, and not from the fact of their being rich men. When Ezekiel sought for examples of the most righteous men that had ever lived, he chose, it must be remembered, as exemplars of mortals living the fair, noble life loved of God, three men distinguished for their rank and riches Noah, Daniel, and Job. (Eze_14:14, Eze_14:20)
If they hear not Moses, etc. – This answer of Abraham contains two remarkable propositions.
1. That the sacred writings contain such proofs of a Divine origin, that though all the dead were to arise, to convince an unbeliever of the truths therein declared, the conviction could not be greater, nor the proof more evident, of the divinity and truth of these sacred records, than that which themselves afford.
2. That to escape eternal perdition, and get at last into eternal glory, a man is to receive the testimonies of God, and to walk according to their dictates.
And these two things show the sufficiency and perfection of the sacred writings. What influence could the personal appearance of a spirit have on an unbelieving and corrupted heart? None, except to terrify it for the moment, and afterwards to leave it ten thousand reasons for uncertainty and doubt. Christ caused this to be exemplified, in the most literal manner, by raising Lazarus from the dead. And did this convince the unbelieving Jews? No. They were so much the more enraged; and from that moment conspired both the death of Lazarus and of Christ! Faith is satisfied with such proofs as God is pleased to afford! Infidelity never has enow. See a Sermon on this subject, by the author of this work.
To make the parable of the unjust steward still more profitable, let every man consider: –
1. That God is his master, and the author of all the good he enjoys, whether it be spiritual or temporal.
2. That every man is only a steward, not a proprietor of those things.
3. That all must give an account to God, how they have used or abused the blessings with which they have been entrusted.
4. That the goods which God has entrusted to our care are goods of body and soul: goods of nature and grace: of birth and education: His word, Spirit, and ordinances: goods of life, health, genius, strength, dignity, riches; and even poverty itself is often a blessing from the hand of God.
5. That all these may be improved to God’s honor, our good, and our neighbor’s edification and comfort.
6. That the time is coming in which we shall be called to an account before God, concerning the use we have made of the good things with which he has entrusted us.
7. That we may, even now, be accused before our Maker, of the awful crime of wasting our Lord’s substance.
8. That if this crime can be proved against us, we are in immediate danger of being deprived of all the blessings which we have thus abused, and of being separated from God and the glory of his power for ever.
9. That on hearing of the danger to which we are exposed, though we cannot dig to purchase salvation, yet we must beg, incessantly beg, at the throne of grace for mercy to pardon all that is past.
10. That not a moment is to be lost: the arrest of death may have gone out against us; and this very night-hour-minute, our souls may be required of us. Let us therefore learn wisdom from the prudent despatch which a worldly-minded man would use to retrieve his ruinous circumstances; and watch and pray, and use the little spark of the Divine light which yet remains, but which is ready to die, that we may escape the gulf of perdition, and obtain some humble place in the heaven of glory. Our wants are pressing; God calls loudly; and eternity is at hand!
31. Εἰ … οὐκ ἀκούουσιν. “If, as matters now stand, they are refusing to hear.” We go beyond the tenour of the reply when we make it mean that “a far mightier miracle than you demand would be ineffectual for producing a far slighter effect.” Does ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀναστῆ imply “a far mightier miracle” than ἀπὸ νεκρῶν πορευθῇ? And does πεισθήσονται imply “a far slighter effect” than μετανοήσουσιν? “Persuaded” obviously means “persuaded to repent”; and one who “goes from the dead” to warn the living must “rise from the dead.” By this conclusion Christ once more rebukes the demand for a sign. Those who ask for it have all that they need for the ascertainment of the truth; and the sign if granted would not produce conviction. Saul was not led to repentance when he saw Samuel at Endor, nor were the Pharisees when they saw Lazarus come forth from the tomb. The Pharisees tried to put Lazarus to death and to explain away the resurrection of Jesus. For allegorical interpretations of the parable see Trench, Parables, p. 470, 10th Exo_1
Be persuaded – Be convinced of the truth; of the danger and folly of their way; of the certainty of their suffering hereafter, and be induced to turn from sin to holiness, and from Satan unto God.
From this impressive and instructive parable we may learn:
1. That the souls of people do not die with their bodies.
2. That the soul is “conscious” after death; that it does not “sleep,” as some have supposed, until the morning of the resurrection.
3. That the righteous are taken to a place of happiness immediately at death, and the wicked consigned at once to misery.
4. That wealth does not secure from death.
“How vain are riches to secure
Their haughty owners from the grave!”
The rich, the beautiful, the happy, as well as the poor, go down to the grave. All their pomp and apparel, all their honors, their palaces, and their gold cannot save them. Death can as easily find his way into the splendid mansions of the rich as into the cottages of the poor; and the rich shall turn to the same corruption, and soon, like the poor, be undistinguished from common dust and be unknown.
5. We should not envy the condition of the rich.
“On slippery rocks I see them stand,
And fiery billows rollI below.
“Now let them boast how tall they rise,
I’ll never envy them again;
There they may stand with haughty eyes,
Till they plunge deep in endless pain.
“Their fancied joys how fast they flee!
Like dreams, as fleeting and as vain;
Their songs of softest harmony.
Are but a prelude to their pain.”
6. We should strive for a better inheritance than can be possessed in this life.
“Now I esteem their mirth and wine.
Too dear to purchase with my blood:
Lord, ’tis enough that thou art mine –
My life, my portion, and my God.”
7. The sufferings of the wicked in hell will be indescribably great. Think what is represented by “torment;” by burning flame; by insupportable thirst; by that state where a single “drop” of water would afford relief. Remember that “all this” is but a representation of the pains of the damned, and that this will have no intermission day or night, but will continue from year to year, and age to age, without any end, and you have a faint view of the sufferings of those who are in hell.
8. There is a place of sufferings beyond the grave a hell. If there is not, then this parable has no meaning. It is impossible to make “anything” of it unless it be designed to teach that.
9. There will never be any escape from those gloomy regions. There is a gulf fixed – “fixed,” not movable. Nor can any of the damned beat a pathway across this gulf to the world of holiness.
10. We see the amazing folly of those who suppose there may be an “end” to the sufferings of the wicked, and who, on that supposition, seem willing to go down to hell to suffer a long time, rather than go at once to heaven. If man were to suffer but a thousand years, or even “one” year, why should he be so foolish as to choose that suffering rather than go at once to heaven, and be happy at once when he dies?
11. God gives us sufficient warning to prepare for death. He has sent his Word, his servants, his Son; he warns us by his Spirit and his providence; by the entreaties of our friends and by the death of sinners; he offers us heaven, and he threatens hell. If all this will not move sinners, what would do it? There is nothing that would.
12. God will give us nothing farther to warn us. No dead man will come to life to tell us of what he has seen. If he did we would not believe him. Religion appeals to man not by ghosts and frightful apparitions. It appeals to their reason, their conscience, their hopes, their fears. It sets life and death soberly before people, and if they “will not” choose the former, they must die. If you will not hear the Son of God and the warnings of the Scriptures, there is nothing which you will or can hear. You will never be persuaded, and will never escape the place of torment.