In October of 2004, during a sermon series entitled “The Teachings of Jesus” I used the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31) to teach about hell. Why not? Everybody does it, right?
But over the past nine years, and after quite a lot more training in biblical interpretation, I am convinced that this was a mistake. None of this is to say that the parable doesn’t contain hell imagery (just as the parable of the soil, seeds, and sower contains farming imagery). So, I don’t need to be told that there is that imagery in the parable. It’s obvious. But if the parable of the lost coin is not about lost coins, and the parable of the sower/seeds/soil is not about Jesus’ insights into “Farming the Jesus Way” – then the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is also not primarily (or even secondarily) a lesson about what hell is like. Rather, it is about something else, and the various references to the grave, the after life, death, torment, etc. illustrate other important ideas (let the reader understand, and let him who has ears to hear, hear…).
In this audio teaching from July of 2012, I attempted a careful de-construction (and re-construction) of the parable, along with a revision and a fresh interpretation. In it I suggest some interpretive conclusions that I believe fit better within the intermediate context of Luke’s narrative aims covering several chapters in Luke’s Gospel.
I invite you all to listen (it’s 48 minutes long, but moves fast), and to consider:
(1) My stated interpretive lenses,
(2) My hermeneutical methodology,
(3) My resulting interpretive conclusions, and
(4) My practical/homiletical applications as I believe the original audience would have heard them, and how present-day listeners to the parable can be impacted by it (beyond scaring the hell out of them with threats of eternal conscious torment – which I no longer believe the parable is trying to teach).
I am not afraid of or averse to push-back if you feel that I went off the rails, and I invite us all to “Think Theology” in the comment section below.
I look forward to rigorous dialogue with you about this.
Okay – go ahead and click the orange circle with the white arrow below, and listen away…