The Rich Man and Lazarus
- The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is
acted out in 3 scenes, with teaching in between the scenes.
- Adult(s) to lead the service and the
- 3 competent readers plus 3 non-speakers
for the drama.
- Scripts for
- Any appropriate dressing-up clothes for
the rich man, Lazarus, the angels and Abraham.
- A toy dog to lie with Lazarus in Scene
- Select readers either at the start of the
service or beforehand, depending on your usual practice.
Before the Drama:
- Today's reading is from the second half of
chapter 16 in the Gospel of Luke. The first half of this chapter contains
a cluster of teachings about the use and abuse of money. Jesus teaches
his disciples that they need to be generous and trustworthy in their
handling of money, but always put God before money in their
- The Pharisees overheard this teaching and
sneered at Jesus. He saw how they loved money and warned them: "the
things that most people think are important are worthless as far as God
is concerned." Then he told them this parable.
After Scene 1:
- Here we have a description that we all
recognise: very wealthy people coexist with very poor people in our
world. It is a very short, simple description. We're not told that the
rich man has earned his money by dishonest means. We are simply told that
he lives in the lap of luxury, while at his gate lies a sore-ridden
beggar whose greatest ambition is to receive the scraps from the rich
- How many of us in the West feel, at times,
like the rich man with Lazarus at our gate, when we contemplate the lives
of millions of our brothers and sisters in developing countries? This
story is as relevant to us today as ever it was in Jesus' time.
After Scene 2:
- So the rich man and Lazarus have both
died. We're not even sure that poor Lazarus was buried, but we can
imagine the sort of funeral that such a rich man would have had.
- It's important to realise that this is not
a parable about what happens after death. Jesus simply sets the story in
an afterlife that fit with the understanding of most Jewish people at
that time. Everyone was believed to go to Hades after death: it had two
parts, within sight and sound of each other, one of which was Paradise
and the other a place of suffering.
- Here the positions of the rich man and the
beggar are reversed. Now it is Lazarus who lives a wonderful life,
sharing a place with the father of the Jewish people, Abraham himself.
Just as there was a gulf between the rich man and the beggar on earth, so
Abraham explains that there is an impassable gulf between them here -
it's just that they're now on different sides of it.
After Scene 3:
- The rich man seems to have accepted that
he is stuck where he is, but he decides to make a plea for his 5
brothers. Surely if they saw Lazarus risen from the dead, they would
change their lives so that they didn't suffer the same fate as their
- Abraham is unmoved by the rich man's
pleas. He says that the rich man's brothers, like the rich man himself,
have had plenty of chance to see the error of their ways. If they can
ignore the teaching in the Bible and Lazarus at their gate, then nothing
will convince them. Later, St Paul would make a similar comment (Romans
1.19-21): "They know everything that can be known about God, because God
has shown it all to them. God's eternal power and character cannot be
seen. But from the beginning of creation, God has shown what these are
like by all he has made. That's why those people don't have any excuse.
They know about God, but they don't honour him or even thank him."
- We use a similar principle in everyday
life. If you break a rule when you visit another country, or on the
football pitch, you wouldn't be let off because you claimed that nobody
had ever told you about that rule. The rules are clearly written down for
you, and you can also find them out by copying or asking other people.
It's up to you to find out what the rules are and abide by them.
"Ignorance of the law is no defence."
- It's important to realise that this
parable is not a simplistic attack on the rich. If it were, then wealthy
Abraham would not be presiding in Paradise. What is clear from the
parable is that Jesus sees selfish wealth as an evil that denies the
innate brotherhood of all humans. How can the rich man sit in his
mansion, enjoying his feast, while a beggar lies sore-ridden at his
- It is all too easy for us to do the same:
to take the existing social order for granted. Jesus urges us in this
parable to open our eyes to Lazarus at our gate, and try to narrow the
gulf between us. This is not a one-off task: it demands a lifetime of
prayer, charitable giving, voluntary service, careful voting, campaigning
and speaking out for change.
- At the very least, we can start by
responding in prayer whenever we see a news item about others' needs.
Through prayer, God will begin to direct us to what else we can do in His
service. So long as we are putting His kingdom before our own finances,
we can trust Him to supply everything that we need - and more.