The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)
JWs advise that we should not take this illustration as literal saying things such as heaven and hell are not in close proximity so that both the inmates can speak to each other, dipping the tip of one’s finger in water would not be enough to put off one’s thirst …etc.
Interestingly, Jesus himself did not want his listeners to take this illustration literally or figuratively because he mixed both, hence wanted to get the message typical of any story. If we were to take the illustration figuratively, who do “dogs that came and licked sores of Lazar” symbolize?
Also, the rich man in the story makes a powerful point when he says: ‘if someone from the dead is resurrected and speaks his surviving family members on earth, they will repent.’ (Luke 16:27-31) The powerful logic used in this argument is to be literal, can’t be figurative because it concerns about literal death of a person and his resurrection.
Those who are concerned about determining whether this illustration is literal or figurative miss the simple message of this story: God plays no role in the affairs of man and everyone can learn from experience (own or from others) that there is sowing and reaping, hence everyone is free to choose his destiny.
So, back to square one: Is it literal or figurative? Like much of the Bible, depends who you ask.
It is neither literal nor figurative because it is only a vessel that convey this simple message:
God plays no role in the affairs of man and everyone can learn from experience (own or from others) that there is sowing and reaping, hence everyone is free to choose his destiny
How can you say that "God plays no role in the affairs of man", when their future torment or comfort was dependent on listening to "Moses and the prophets" (verse 29-31) which are the voice of God?
Listening to prophets means “whatever you desire for men to do to you, you. shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets.” (Mathew 7:12) Such altruistic attitude and action means doing good to others and refraining from doing harm to others! Working for the welfare of others with no thought of reciprocation would also bring gratitude and reciprocation from others. Even if that doesn’t happen in some cases, still it is beneficial because our very make-up is such that doing something nice for another person produces a pleasant feeling that behavioral economists call a warm glow and strengthens your immunity. University of Zurich researchers investigated how areas in the brain communicated to produce this feeling. (http://www.media.uzh.ch/en/Press-Releases/2017/Generosity.html) One’s attitude and action affect his body and mind, and even others who will respond accordingly; hence reaping happens without the intervention of God.
Venus - JWs advise that we should not take this illustration as literal
The GB won't say the same about the 'faithful steward' parable though. They are inconsistent. This is deliberate of course. Otherwise they wouldn't get the worship they desire from the R&F.
Belief in holy books isn't my forte these days. So I'm happy to say that the GB are cult scam artists.
The story in historical context is to be taken literally. It is the same story the Pharisees told over and over again to justify their refusal to lift a finger to help the poor.
You are right--convenience determines which parable is to be taken literally and figuratively.
When I first read the explanation of this parable in "Is this life all there is?" book, I told myself: 'this can't be, this nothing but mere intellectual exercise. If it were to be taken figuratively, Jesus would have explained it clearly without the possibility for anyone to grapple with with later.
Going for the details and trying to establish figurative uses is like "throwing the baby and keeping the bathing water."
jws hate this passage it proves hell i have made many jws stand on their head trying to talk their way out of jesus words here
As I see it, although the account was meant to be understood literally; it is fictitious, just like the preceding story. Both were told to discredit the Pharisees.