This passage is called a parable (one manuscript specifically names it a parable but a later manuscript) or example story and is found only in Luke. We can make several observations about these parts but in some ways they are disconnected, that is not depending on each other. In the end they work together to draw our attention to the central issue, “How are we going to live?”
The two main parts are: Luke 16:19-26 and Luke 16:27-31. When you compare the parts you will see that the first one focuses on the comparison of the rich man and Lazarus. The point seemingly is the reversal of fortunes between Lazarus and the rich man. Actually Lazarus does not even speak. In the second part the discussion is between the rich man and Abraham with Lazarus in the background and the five brothers more the focus.
This is the only parable in all of the gospels that finds the specific name of a person in the parable. Of course given the naming of Lazarus one immediately thinks of the Gospel of John and Jesus friend named Lazarus (John 11:1-44). In John’s Gospel Jesus raises that Lazarus from the dead. But the final line in Luke’s parable (Luke 16:31) Abraham says that people did not listen to Moses and the prophets and therefore are not likely to be convinced even if “someone rises from the dead.” Regarding the relationship of Lazarus in Luke and in John it is agreed by virtually all interpreters that there is no reason to think of them as the same Lazarus. It is appropriate, however for the parable that Lazarus’s name means, “God has
The Luke story is told to the Pharisees. Jesus speaking to the Pharisees in this fashion should come as no surprise. The Pharisees frequently complained about Jesus hospitality to social outcasts and the poor as represented by Lazarus. Jesus indicts the Pharisees for having neglected the poor and so disregarded God’s concern for them. These words reverberate over and over again in the Old and New Testaments.
There is no instruction or focus in this text about the next life. Our attention is drawn to living in this world responsibly, charitably, and intelligently. We are to listen because faith does indeed come from hearing God’s hope that we will live for others and not ourselves.