Tag Archives: Reversal

Reversal of Roles

Luke 16:19-31

Context: Escalating conflict with Pharisees:

14 The Pharisees, who dearly loved their money, heard all this and scoffed at him. 15 Then he said to them, “You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.


Only parable with a named character

Reversals:       Luke 1:51-52

a) Fixed Position (contrast)           19-20   Rich Man (inside)                                                                                                                                                        Lazarus (outside)
b) Unfulfilled Longing (hunger)     21a     Lazarus (outside)
c) Torment (sores; dogs licking)    21b     Lazarus (outside)
22        Lazarus: Angelic Transport
d) Deaths—Reversal
Rich Man: Burial
ɔ) Torment (flames)                              23     Rich Man (outside)
q) Unfulfilled Longing (thirst)           24     Rich Man (outside)
ɐ) Fixed Position (contrast)         25-26     Rich Man (outside)
Lazarus (inside)

Note that this parable doesn’t portray Lazarus as notably virtuous in any way. It is his poor and neglected condition that is the object of God’s action. Nor is the rich man wicked in other respects. It is simply that his luxury so absorbed him that he did not notice – and not noticing sealed his fate.

Ultimately, then, the parable is about failure in conversion, which explains why it has a sequel (vv.27-31) prolonging the dialogue between the rich man and Abraham

Questions for Reflection

In Luke 16:20-21, the rich man at least allowed the unsightly beggar Lazarus to remain at his gate and receive food from his table. How would you react if such a man lay at your front door, or by your church gates, every day? Are we even more hard-hearted than the rich man?

Read Luke 16:31 again. Do we really believe in the sufficiency of Scripture to save and warn today?