What Are We to Make of the Details in Parables?
This is the gist of a host of questions I was asked recently regarding the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16.
Some of the particulars were:
- “Why did the rich man go to Hades?”
- “Does ignoring the poor send you to Hades?”
- “Where/How do we conclude the man didn’t trust in Jesus?”
- “Was it really a parable since Jesus called him Lazarus – a proper name?”
- “Does this parable teach that people in hell can see up into heaven?”
- “If we are spiritual beings, how can we be recognized?”
For the purpose of this post, I have decided to bunch the questions together. Why? Because understanding the purpose of parables will answer and/or eliminate some of the questions posed above.
Whenever you and I read/study the parables of Jesus, we must keep in mind 2 things:
#1. Look for the POINT.
#2. Don’t haggle over the DETAILS.
Parables are intended by Jesus to make a POINT. Always ask, when reading the parables: “What’s the POINT?” That’s the purpose of parables. Jesus never intends to teach doctrines when giving a parable. Jesus intends to make a POINT. That being that case – it is POINT-LESS to spend tons of time trying to interpret the details. This isn’t to say the details of Jesus’ parables are pointless. But it is to say that if we look for the primary POINT – then we see the details don’t always intend to have deep, theological significance. Rather, the details serve to make the POINT.
For instance, read the parable in Luke 16 several times.
If you will notice, the parable ends with Abraham telling the rich man that his family has the Bible – probably sitting on the coffee table at home. The rich man doesn’t want his family joining him in Hades. Abraham tries to comfort the man by reminding him that they have a copy of the Scriptures. The man knows better. He knows that his family is doing the same things he did – IGNORE THE BIBLE. He looked for something more. He looked for something ‘dramatic.’ He ignored the Bible that he had constant access to. When the man begs Abraham to send someone to them who has risen from the dead – he thinks they will then believe. Abraham declares that if they don’t read their Bible – it wouldn’t matter if someone did rise from the dead – they won’t change.
If you ignore your Bible, you won’t know what God says. If you don’t know what God says, you won’t do what He says do. If you don’t do what He says do – you spend eternity in Hades.
The POINT? Give heed to the Word of God!!!!!
If you’ll notice, the verses leading up to this deal with the religious leaders refusal to submit to God’s Word. In dealing with the Pharisees, Jesus makes a POINT by telling a parable. The POINT is very, very strong – Don’t ignore the Bible.
Is it okay to ask questions of the details in parables? Sure. But be careful. The purpose of parables is to make a POINT, not define doctrines with ‘made up’ details.
Remember, when it comes to parables – always ask, “What’s the POINT?”
Now THAT’s a Good Question! 🙂