The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is what we call an illustrative parable. It’s a story with a message.
The key question is on our day of judgement when we stand before God, who will be vindicated and go to heaven? The answer is unexpected, because it is not the religious or the self-righteous, but those who are humble before God, know their failings and ask God for mercy.
The Pharisees, who loved money had scoffed at Jesus.
Jesus' responded, in v15 with what people value highly is detestable in God's sight.
Continuing with the money theme developed earlier in the chapter (v1-13), Jesus exposes the self-righteousness of the Pharisees, particularly as it related to almsgiving, to giving to the poor. As far as Jesus is concerned, they were showing off. But their outwardly cultivated righteousness can only disgust God. It was their heart attitude that was at stake. Did they really care about the poor?
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus, v19-31, serves to illustrate that the kingdom of God will occur. The great reversal of the day of judgment when the rich / righteous will be brought low, and the poor / humble will be lifted high.
One Interpretation of this parable says that it serves to condemn "conspicuous consumption" (capitalism); such people "will discover in Hades the bitter truth of the implications of their disregard for the basic demands of the law and the prophets. Those who live so, despite all pretence of piety, will not mend their ways even if one should rise from the dead to bring them warning."
So, what we have in this parable is a judgment scene, the great reversal, the settling of accounts. "no man can serve two masters"; In the day of judgment when the poor / humble (repentant) are "comforted" and the rich (self-righteous) "are in agony." This should prompt the need for us to repentance, change our ways , now!
The parable itself is a moral folk-tale. It was a well-known Jewish story Bar Majan about the reversal of fortunes in the afterlife. The moral of the story is found in v29; "they have Moses and the Prophets, they should listen to them." This is Jesus' punch-line.
v19 There once was a rich man who enjoyed drinking and feasting, extravagantly every day]. He dressed in expensive Egyptian clothes and lived in luxury.
v20And there was a poor man called Lazarus, which means God helps. His pitch for begging was outside the rich mans house, where he laid every day. He was covered with ulcerated, sores.
v21. He was very hungry and longed to eat the scraps that the rich diners threw under the rich mans table. The street dogs came and nosed him and licked his sores.
v22 Then the poor man died and he was carried by angels to Abraham's side, to the heavenly banquet. He was the most important there because he was sitting next to Abraham. So his fortunes had been reversed.
v23 The rich man died and was in Hades, the intermediate place of the dead, where he was in torment, but not yet transferred to hell. So he could see heaven. He looked up and saw Lazarus
v24And he shouted to him. Dip the tip of your finger in water to cool my tongue because I am in torment here. Even after death the rich man thinks that Lazarus exists to serve his needs. Is this a problem with being rich that we think we are the centre of the world and other people are there to serve our needs?
v25 But Abraham spoke to him and said. Remember that in your lifetimeyou receivedgood thingswhileLazarus receivedbad things. Now he is comforted and you are in agony. Rough divine justice! Actions have consequences for us all.
v26 He continues. Besides all thisthere is an eternal chasm between us so that those who want to cross cannot do so. The time for changing for pleading for excuses is over.
v27So then the rich man says I beg you to send Lazarus to my family. He’s still using him!
v28Because I have five brothers who need to be warned so they don’t come to this place of torment.
v29 Because Father Abraham if someone returns from the dead they will listen to them.
V30 Abraham replied they have Moses and the prophets so let them listen to them.
v31 And if they disregard Moses and the Prophets, which they do, then, even if they had a visit by someone rising from the dead they wouldn’t change. And of course Jesus has risen from the dead and still people do not change.
This is a parable of crisis. Death can come at any time. So be prepared to meet your fate!