Mar 22

Session 9 Recap: Carson, “The Rich Man and Lazarus”

2015 | by Nathan Sherman | Category: Clarus 15

Editor’s Note: Peter Arndt is a Community Group Leader at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, NM. This post is a summary of D.A. Carson’s message from Sunday morning at Clarus, March 22, “The Rich Man and Lazarus,” from Luke 16:19-31.


Dr. Carson began the final session of Clarus 2015 by asking question of this parable: is Jesus saying that a simple reversal takes place in status between this world and the next? While at first glance, it appears this might be the case, but the rest of Scripture denies an idea this simplistic. Wealth in this world does not always result in suffering in the next, e.g., Abraham, Job, and Philemon.

Wealth as a means of self-justification is a major theme throughout the gospel according to Luke, and the rich man in this parable proves himself to be devoted to one master (wealth) and despising the other (God – Luke 16:11-13). He worships wealth as an idol and is blind to the suffering around him. Dr. Carson explained in the society of Lazarus’ day, the rich were to care for the poor, so the rich man failed to meet his responsibility. By not naming the rich man, who seems so important and posh, Jesus is identifying him as eternally not that important. Lazarus means “the one whom God helps,” and while it is initially difficult to see this to be true, by the end of the story, its clear who it is God helps. We can’t make our assessments of who God helps in this life alone—it’s too complex.

Their situation is reversed, in a sense, now eternally as the rich man is suffering and Lazarus is at rest at Abraham’s bosom. The rich man shows no signs of repentance—no acknowledgment of his wronging Lazarus—only a desire to relieve his suffering. Abraham speaks of how the rich man’s suffering is fitting judgment for his life and that his condition is irreversible. He appeals to Abraham to warn his loved ones of this place of torment, thinking incorrectly about what causes repentance in men. Dr. Carson observed that, as far as he can tell, there is not a hint that anyone will ever repent in hell. In this parable there is not a hint of contrition, apology, repentance on the part of the rich man—only the view that his view of the world is right over and against God’s. Just as in this life, in hell, the damned are still trying to justify themselves.

Abraham corrects the rich man by saying it is Moses and the prophet’s words that brings repentance, not messengers from the dead. This remains a poignant lesson also for this current age where men still seek signs—we have the Bible, which is all we need to bring repentance.

Dr. Carson concluded with three theological and pastoral reflections on this passage:

  1. There is a sphere of rejoicing to pursue,and there is a place of torment to flee.
  2. The things in which we take so much pride now (wealth, religious privilege, good looks, success and recognition) may actually blind us to our need for grace.
  3. God has not left himself without witness. We must listen to the witness of Scripture or we are dead.

The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus challenges all of us to choose God’s eternal rewards over earth’s temporal treasures, for once this life is over there is no undoing of the consequences.