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Lazarus and the Rich Man Parable Life Lessons

The Lazarus and the Rich Man Parable is also known as the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus or the Parable of the Rich Man Who Wanted to Enter Heaven. This parable is included in one Gospel of the Bible, in the Book of Luke 16:19-31. It serves as a warning that we are to use our wealth to help those in need, as Jesus asks us to do. As one example, He said in Matthew 25:31-46 that every time we help someone in need, we are actually helping Jesus.

The Rich Man and Lazarus Parable Life Lessons - homeless man lying in street

The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man Summary

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus summary is that the Rich Man ignored the needs of Lazarus as Lazarus lay hungry and hurting outside of the Rich Man’s house. After they died and the Rich Man was thirsty from his torment in hell, he asked Lazarus to give him some water, but Lazarus was unable to cross the divide between heaven and hell. The Rich Man then requested that Abraham go warn the Rich Man’s relatives, but Abraham said they had already been told through the prophets and by Jesus rising from the dead. If they still didn’t heed the Word of God, one more person from the dead warning them wouldn’t make them believe either.

The actual parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus can be found HERE.

What Had the Rich Man Done Wrong?

At a different time, in Luke 18:25, Jesus said that it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven. This is not to say that rich people can’t get to heaven, it’s just tricky. In the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, what the rich man had done wrong was not helping the needy man – Lazarus. The rich man’s sin was idolizing his money over helping the needy. Money is a sneaky idol!

Is it a Sin to be Rich?

Being wealthy was not the Rich Man’s sin. Being wealthy is not a sin specifically. For one thing, the definition of being wealthy isn’t clear. It would be defined differently based on a person’s circumstances. For someone who never had money, they might consider being wealthy when they have a thousand dollars in savings. Conversely, a person who was raised in a lavish lifestyle might not consider having a half-million dollars to be wealthy.

So, the amount of money isn’t the sin. It’s the mindset that a person easily slips into when they have money that becomes the sin. Jesus warns about this many times. It’s hard for people with a lot of money (the rich) to not let the money come between them and God. Using the example of the rich man in Matthew 16, the man says that he wants to get to heaven and he’s been following the commandments. Then Jesus tells him that he must give away his wealth! The man walks away dejected because he knows he can’t (or won’t) do it. The man chose his wealth over following Christ. And that’s the challenge. Once a person has wealth, it’s hard to keep God as their priority over money.

With that in mind, does God expect us to be poor? No. Jesus never said we must be financially poor to be saved. His message is that we should consider our wealth as a gift from God’s abundant blessings (which it is) and not even consider it ‘ours’. We should be willing to help those in need freely. Jesus said in Luke 21:1 that the poor woman who gave what little money she had was more generous than the rich people who had given a lot more money, but it was out of their excess.

Anyone with money would be wise to make a serious self-assessment as to how God and money stack up in their priorities. After all, a person cannot serve both God and money (Luke 16:13).

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus Explained

The rich man had plenty of opportunities to help Lazarus. He figuratively stepped over Lazarus’s battered and starving body every day as Lazarus begged for help. The rich man knew better, because when he died and went to hell, he didn’t say he wasn’t aware that he should be kind and generous to those in need, but that he didn’t realize the extreme penalty for not doing it! In other words, he figured it was no big deal to cruise along in his fancy lifestyle and not be bothered by Lazarus or others who were less fortunate.

Once he realized that the offense of not helping the needy had an eternally damning consequence, he wanted to spare his family the same fate. But they already knew – through the prophets in the Old Testament as well as Jesus and His disciples. If we choose to ignore all the prior warnings, one more warning isn’t going to make a difference.

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is a huge wake-up call for those who are “blessed” with wealth or other worldly possessions. Jesus said in Luke 12:48 that to whom much is given, much is expected and that sums up the risk and expectation for those who are “given much” wealth. The good news is that the choice of how generous we are to the needy with our “wealth” lies in our own hands.

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus Life Lessons

As with all the parables, Jesus spoke them at a certain time and place for His original audience, but human nature hasn’t changed, so His messages still speak to us today. The following Life Lessons from the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man will give you food for thought for your own life.

1. God Hasn’t Forgotten About You

Let’s begin our life lessons of the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus from the perspective of Lazarus. Lazarus had been destitute for a long while. He was homeless, sick, hurting, and hungry. He must have wondered if God had forgotten about him or didn’t care about him. But God never forgets about any of His people. So then why did Lazarus suffer so long? Why do good people suffer today? Why has God allowed you to carry the burdens you carry?

These are common questions we ask ourselves. Do these bad things occur or continue to exist because God doesn’t care about the people affected? Even if we don’t have clear answers as to ‘why’ some people seem to have an especially hard lot in life, we can be one hundred percent certain that it’s not because God’s forgotten about them or punishing them. He assures us many times in the Bible, most notably in the beautiful Beatitudes (Matthew 5. Also see my free devotional) He said blessed are the poor in spirit and those who mourn because someday (in heaven) they would be rewarded accordingly.

Does it seem fair? By human standards, it doesn’t seem fair. But God doesn’t have human terms. God’s ways are beyond our ways. Somehow, God uses everything for good. If we had witnessed Jesus suffering on the cross, all we would have seen through our human eyes is how painful and terrifying His experience was. In Jesus’ humanity and at His lowest point, He actually felt abandoned (forsaken) by God. But in hindsight, we can see that, although it was a painful experience for Jesus, the good that it brought about in offering salvation to the world was an unimaginable gift to humankind.

When we feel forlorn and forsaken, we can use the example of Jesus on the cross to remember that God is with us, even in our suffering. Somehow and someway, even when we don’t understand it, God uses it for good. A beautiful reward awaits the suffering. In the meantime, He’s right alongside you.

2. God Rewards the Downtrodden

Between Lazarus and the Rich Man, the Rich Man gets most of the attention in the parable. However, let’s focus for a minute on how Lazarus was transformed from the poor, sickly, homeless man to resting comfortably in heaven with Abraham. It’s hard to live through worldly pain and suffering, but God gives us amazing glimpses into heaven and hopefully the promise of being comforted and filled for eternity offers some peace today.

3. Beware of Money

It says in 1 Timothy 6:10 that the love of money is the root of all evil. Money isn’t evil. It’s just paper or coins. It’s the love of it on our part that brings out the evil. In Mark 12:29, Jesus described the most important commandment as loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This means God is supposed to be at the top of every list! We’re supposed to care about doing His will because we’re supposed to trust He has our best interest in mind and He knows the best as to which path our life should take. When we prioritize money over God, we’re choosing to separate ourselves from Him.

What does it look like to prioritize money over God? When money separates us from loving others, it’s an idol. Some examples would be things like neglecting family time or obligations because you’re working for money beyond what you need. We do need money. We need a place to live and food to eat. Our children need clothing and schooling. But when we have plenty and still constantly seek a bigger house, a better car, or a more lavish vacation than our friend took, we should evaluate our motives for money versus God. If we’re working endless hours per week for extra frills while missing our children’s activities or not spending time with our spouse, then money has taken priority over God. If we don’t help people who need help and support our church, we’ve let money come between us and God.

Just as each of us has our own personal relationship with God, we have a unique personal relationship with money. Only you can know whether money is an idol in your life and your heart.

4. Here’s Your Warning

The Rich Man wanted to send a warning to his living loved ones, so they didn’t end up in eternal torment like he had. His request was denied. They’d already had many warnings – and so have we.

There are plenty of references to this message, beginning with the prophets and the Old Testament. One example from the Old Testament is Deuteronomy 15:11 where it’s written that there will always be poor people and we should open our hand wide to the needy and poor. While Jesus walked the earth, the people at the time had the benefit of hearing His sermons firsthand. And after Jesus’ crucifixion, the New Testament documented Jesus’ and the apostles’ messages. That’s a lot of warnings!

Anyone who’s heard the message has no excuse. We’ve already been warned once – or one hundred times. The choice to heed the warning and keep God as our highest priority falls directly on us. Will you heed the warning?

5. There’s No Crossing the Great Spiritual Divide

There are some people who think hell is a myth. I think that’s wishful thinking because the Bible refers to it on many occasions. The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is just one example. This parable enforces that once our fate is sealed by our heart and actions, we are either sent to the most beautiful and loving place we could ever imagine or a world of eternal torture. There’s no in-between and no path connects the two. This indicates that once our fate is sealed, there’s no changing it. The best news about this is that when we set our minds and hearts on living for Christ, we can expect an amazing afterlife with our indescribable Creator.

Are you seeking deeper faith, a more meaningful life, or greater inner peace?

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Lazarus and the Rich Man Parable Bible Verse Luke 16:19-31

The Rich Man and Lazarus

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”


Find the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (or the Parable of the Rich Man Who Wanted to Enter Heaven) Commentary at Bible Study Tools.com. This link will lead you to the free Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, but you can find other Biblical commentaries HERE. They include free and paid versions. I have referred to Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary for this post.

This post may contain affiliate links. This is my full disclosure.

More Parables!

Do you love the parables as much as I do? You may enjoy reading life lessons on these others (listed below), these activities for adults and children, or this list of Parables and Meanings. More parable lessons are underway. See them all HERE!

Do you love journaling? Does writing down your personal reflections help you process your thoughts more fully? Perhaps these Christian writing journals will be helpful as you reflect on the life lessons of the parables.

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