Illogical illustration of “the rich man and the poor man Lazarus” (Luke 16:19-31)

by venus 37 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • dropoffyourkeylee

    The Dives parable is usually interpreted as an allegory about Jews and Gentiles.

  • Vanderhoven7

    Let's consider the story of The Dishonest Steward immediately preceding our story of The Rich Man and Lazarus. (Luke 16:1-16) The account begins with the Master discovering that the steward handling all his business affairs has squandered his possessions. With the cat out of the bag, the covetous steward makes one final dishonest attempt to secure his own temporal future, by ingeniously letting his master's debtors off the hook with a rather attractive partial-debt repayment plan. Jesus, no doubt, had most of the people in his immediate audience in stitches by having the Master, who seems entirely impressed, commend his servant for shrewdly carrying out this absolutely unscrupulous and financially ruinous scheme.

    Assuming that God is the Master who is being defrauded, this parable appears to be saying that God will honor servants who swindle him in the pursuit of self interest. Jesus then concludes this "tongue in cheek" presentation with some "go ahead" advice that more than merely borders on irony.

    9. And I say unto you, make to yourselves friends of

    the mammon of unrighteousness; that when ye fail,

    they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

    Now contrast with this, the point Jesus was actually driving home through this satirical parable.

    10. He that is faithful in that which is least is

    faithful also in much...

    11. If ye therefore have not been faithful in the

    unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust

    the true riches?

    13. No servant can serve two masters... Ye cannot

    serve both God and mammon.

    The Pharisees were the ones in Jesus' audience who were guilty of "making to themselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness". They knew Jesus spoke this parable against them but they couldn't refute His satirized logic. Good satire, subtly but forcefully, brings home moral or spiritual truths and at the same time leaves unworthy opponents speechless; unable to argue, without first acknowledging that they fit into the negative allegory. The Pharisees were defenseless. They could only attack the person, not the concepts Jesus was challenging them with.

    14. And the Pharisees also who were covetous,

    heard all these things: and they derided him.

    The parable of the dishonest steward was clearly told to discredit, not praise, the Pharisees. Through the vehicle of satire, (i.e. by having the master commend the steward's dishonesty) Jesus publicly ridiculed their claim to God's recognition and approval. After pointedly exposing both their covetousness and disloyalty, Jesus directly condemns the Pharisees for whitewashing their actions before men.

    15. And he said unto them, YE ARE THEY WHICH JUSTIFY

    YOURSELVES BEFORE MEN; but God knows your hearts:

    For that which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God.

  • Vanderhoven7

    The Pharisees were the great hell-fire preachers of the day. They literally believed and taught that those they identified as sinners were going to be taken by wicked angels after death and tortured while they the righteous would go to a literal place on the right side of Sheol they named Abraham's Bosom.

    Jesus was not trying to scare them with their own story, but to undermine their authority in front of the common people who assumed they were righteous....somewhat like what we are doing to the GB on behalf of their rank-in-file victims.

  • venus


    There is no consistency between this illustration and the one immediately preceding to this where we find owner dismissing his manager for “wasting his possessions” and later commending him for repeating the same mistake. (Luke 16:1-8) In one illustration, one who manipulates wealth is praised and in another such one is condemned. Context also does not help because chapter-separation is a later introduction. Jesus started his series of illustrations when “the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.” (Luke 15:1) Then suddenly “The Pharisees, who loved money” too are mentioned among the audience to listen to the illustration of the rich man and the poor man Lazarus that shows hell is waiting for the money-lovers.

    I felt something fishy when I read the illustration in Luke 16:1-8 which makes no sense. It’s like Defense Chief praising Edward Snowden in his attempt to instill more patriotism in his staff. Hence I find human elements in the construction these illustrations.

  • Vanderhoven7

    Venus, Yes, context is important. Off to a funeral, get back to you later today.

  • Vanderhoven7

    Determining the literary of The Lazarus and Rich Man account:

    The correct literary form determines the interpretive approach that alone can do justice to this passage. And textual, historical and situational context helps us in this department.

    Anyone who has read and tried to fathom the foregoing account cannot help but be overwhelmed by the horrible plight of the unnamed rich man who unexpectedly finds himself in a place of torment in Hades after death. For many evangelicals, who adopt a traditional view of hell, this passage is to be understood as historical narration and clearly confirms various beliefs regarding the afterlife and in particular, the condition of the wicked during the intermediate state (i.e. between death and the final judgment). On the other hand, for the minority of evangelicals who deny conscious punishment after death, this passage is generally seen as parabolic, pointing figuratively to spiritual realities surrounding the advancing kingdom of God.

    I believe both views are scripturally unsupportable.

    In terms of textual and situational context:

    The Rich Man and Lazarus is the last in a series of 5 stories Jesus told consecutively to, as you mentioned Venus, a mixed audience consisting of his disciples, various respected religious leaders, as well as publicans and sinners. (Luke 15:1) Jesus had something for all his listeners. The first 3 stories, the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost/prodigal son, were definitely parables designed to provide comfort for the oppressed common people in the audience who needed to hear that God was seeking them and rejoicing over their movement toward repentance. The remaining 2 stories on the other hand, were obviously designed to bring discomfort to the religious leaders; the narrative of The Dishonest Steward, and the account currently under consideration.

    more later

  • Vanderhoven7

    - While Jesus often used non-literal, non-historical material to

    illustrate truth, would He ever resort to satire to make a point?

    That Jesus did employ satire at times is quite evident in the gospels. Examples of this include, Matthew 9:13, where Jesus exempts the Pharisees from His redemptive plan because He only came for sinners, not “the righteous” and again in Luke 13:13 where Jesus ironically expresses that prophets cannot possibly perish anywhere except in Jerusalem. Also in Matthew 22:23-33, Jesus silences the Sadducees on the question of the resurrection by expanding upon the nature of angels (verse 30). I don’t think for a moment that Jesus was seriously trying to convince the Sadducees of something they did not believe in by elaborating upon something else they equally dismissed as nonexistent.

    But does the account under consideration qualify as “satire”? In order to establish that the literary form of Lazarus and the Rich Man is satire, or more particularly, a parody, there must be clear evidence that:

    a. A common or "well known story line is being imitated".

    b. irony is employed; that the story’s outcome is changed such

    that there is clear “incongruity between the actual result

    of a sequence of events and the expected result”

    c. the unexpected results "highlight human stupidity" or corruption.

    d. "a comic end is served", the purpose of which is to cause listeners

    "to detach sympathies from certain people (groups), to judge their

    actions and to see the absurdity in their behavior.."

  • Vanderhoven7

    14. And the Pharisees also who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.

    If the account of the Dishonest Steward is an parable rather than a parody, why do you think the Pharisees were upset by it?

    Let me suggest it was because they were the unscrupulous steward in the story...and they knew it. They were the ones that soon would be fired as stewards of the kingdom. No doubt he common people had a good laugh as the steward was commended rather than chastised for ingratiating himself with the masters debtors for his own financial gain at the expense of the master.

    Then Jesus laid into them with the truth.

    15. And he said unto them, YE ARE THEY WHICH JUSTIFY YOURSELVES BEFORE MEN; but God knows your hearts: For that which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God.

    The story of the dishonest steward ended on a sour note with Jesus publicly accusing the Pharisees of justifying themselves before men. It was crucial for the Pharisees to maintain a facade of righteousness before the people since their authority was predicated on the popular assumption of that righteousness. But, what perhaps isn't so obvious is how they justified themselves in the eyes of common people who saw them consistently ignore the needs of widows, beggars and cripples. Certainly the Pharisees, as our story corroborates, could not have justified themselves by appealing to the LAW AND THE PROPHETS (verse 29). So to what might the Pharisees have appealed to cloak their sin and provide support for their outward pretense of righteousness? WELL, HOW ABOUT THEIR TRADITION?

    How does the Lazarus account incorporate Pharisaic tradition and how was their tradion used to justify not lifting a finger to help the poor. Luke 11:46

  • venus


    Both the illustrations (Dishonest Manager, and The Rich Man and Lazarus) fail in clarity—something that is essential for a spiritual teacher (1 Cor 14:8) This is the reason why it opens way for various interpretation, thus serve no purpose at all--something that is typical of human imagination.

  • Vanderhoven7

    It was clear to the Pharisees. That's why they derided Jesus. Then with absolute clarity Jesus explained the real issue behind the first account. You can't serve God and mammon (16:114). The Pharisees were serving mammon.

    Then with clarity again, in advance of telling the second story, Jesus directly condemned the Pharisees for their hypocrisy.

    15. And he said unto them, YE ARE THEY WHICH JUSTIFY YOURSELVES BEFORE MEN; but God knows your hearts: For that which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God.

    The purpose of telling both stories was to undermine Pharisaic authority in the eyes of the "rank and file"; something most of the people on this forum are hoping to achieve vis-a-vis the GB.

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