on Luke 16 :19
There was a certain rich man - In the Scholia of some MSS. the name of this person is said to be Ninive. This account of the rich man and Lazarus is either a parable or a real history. If it be a parable, it is what may be: if it be a history, it is that which has been. Either a man may live as is here described, and go to perdition when he dies; or, some have lived in this way, and are now suffering the torments of an eternal fire. The account is equally instructive in whichsoever of these lights it is viewed. Let us carefully observe all the circumstances offered hereto our notice, and we shall see - I. The Crime of this man; and II. His Punishment.
I. The Crime of this man.
1. There was a certain rich man in Jerusalem. Provided this be a real history, there is no doubt our Lord could have mentioned his name; but, as this might have given great offense, he chose to suppress it. His being rich is, in Christ's account, the first part of his sin. To this circumstance our Lord adds nothing: he does not say that he was born to a large estate; or that he acquired one by improper methods; or that he was haughty or insolent in the possession of it. Yet here is the first degree of his reprobation - he got all he could, and kept all to himself.
2. He was clothed with purple and fine linen. Purple was a very precious and costly stuff; but our Lord does not say that in the use of it he exceeded the bounds of his income, nor of his rank in life; nor is it said that he used his superb dress to be an agent to his crimes, by corrupting the hearts of others. Yet our Lord lays this down as a second cause of his perdition.
3. He fared sumptuously every day. Now let it be observed that the law of Moses, under which this man lived, forbade nothing on this point, but excess in eating and drinking; indeed, it seems as if a person was authorized to taste the sweets of an abundance, which that law promised as a reward of fidelity. Besides, this rich man is not accused of having eaten food which was prohibited by the law, or of having neglected the abstinences and fasts prescribed by it. It is true, he is said to have feasted sumptuously every day; but our Lord does not intimate that this was carried to excess, or that it ministered to debauch. He is not accused of licentious discourse, of gaming, of frequenting any thing like our modern plays, balls, masquerades, or other impure and unholy assemblies; of speaking an irreverent word against Divine revelation, or the ordinances of God. In a word, his probity is not attacked, nor is he accused of any of those crimes which pervert the soul or injure civil society. As Christ has described this man, does he appear culpable? What are his crimes? Why,
1. He was rich.
2. He was finely clothed. And
3. He feasted well.
No other evil is spoken of him. In comparison of thousands, he was not only blameless, but he was a virtuous man.
4. But it is intimated by many that "he was an uncharitable, hard-hearted, unfeeling wretch." Yet of this there is not a word spoken by Christ. Let us consider all the circumstances, and we shall see that our blessed Lord has not represented this man as a monster of inhumanity, but merely as an indolent man, who sought and had his portion in this life, and was not at all concerned about another.
Therefore we do not find that when Abraham addressed him on the cause of his reprobation, Luke 16:25, that he reproached him with hard-heartedness, saying, "Lazarus was hungry, and thou gavest him no meat; he was thirsty, and thou gavest him no drink, etc.;" but he said simply, Son, remember that thou didst receive thy good things in thy lifetime, Luke 16:25. "Thou hast sought thy consolation upon the earth, thou hast borne no cross, mortified no desire of the flesh, received not the salvation God had provided for thee; thou didst not belong to the people of God upon earth, and thou canst not dwell with them in glory."
There are few who consider that it is a crime for those called Christians to live without Christ, when their lives are not stained with transgression. If Christianity only required men to live without gross outward sin, paganism could furnish us with many bright examples of this sort. But the religion of Christ requires a conformity, not only in a man's conduct, to the principles of the Gospel; but also a conformity in his heart to the spirit and mind of Christ.
on Luke 16 :19
There was a certain rich man - Many have supposed that our Lord here refers to a "real history," and gives an account of some man who had lived in this manner; but of this there is no evidence. The probability is that this narrative is to be considered as a parable, referring not to any particular case which "had" actually happened, but teaching that such cases "might" happen. The "design" of the narrative is to be collected from the previous conversation. He had taught the danger of the love of money Luke 16:1-2; the deceitful and treacherous nature of riches Luke 16:9-11; that what was in high esteem on earth was hateful to God Luke 16:15; that people who did not use their property aright could not be received into heaven Luke 16:11-12; that they ought to listen to Moses and the prophets Luke 16:16-17; and that it was the duty of people to show kindness to the poor. The design of the parable was to impress all these truths more vividly on the mind, and to show the Pharisees that, with all their boasted righteousness and their external correctness of character, they might be lost. Accordingly he speaks of no great fault in the rich man - no external, degrading vice - no open breach of the law; and leaves us to infer that the "mere possession of wealth" may be dangerous to the soul, and that a man surrounded with every temporal blessing may perish forever. It is remarkable that he gave no "name" to this rich man, though the poor man is mentioned by name. If this was a parable, it shows us how unwilling he was to fix suspicion on anyone. If it was not a parable, it shows also that he would not drag out wicked people before the public, but would conceal as much as possible all that had any connection with them. The "good" he would speak well of by name; the evil he would not "injure" by exposing them to public view.
Clothed in purple - A purple robe or garment. This color was expensive as well as splendid, and was chiefly worn by princes, nobles, and those who were very wealthy. Compare Matthew 27:28. See the notes at Isaiah 1:18.
Fine linen - This linen was chiefly produced of the flax that grew on the banks of the Nile, in Egypt, Proverbs 7:16; Ezekiel 27:7. It was especially soft and white, and was, therefore, much sought as an article of luxury, and was so expensive that it could be worn only by princes, by priests, or by those who were very rich, Genesis 41:42; 1 Chronicles 15:27; Exodus 28:5.
Fared sumptuously - Feasted or lived in a splendid manner.
Every day - Not merely occasionally, but constantly. This was a mark of great wealth, and, in the view of the world, evidence of great happiness. It is worthy of remark that Jesus did not charge on him any crime. He did not say that he had acquired this property by dishonesty, or even that he was unkind or uncharitable; but simply that he "was a rich man," and that his riches did not secure him from death and perdition.
on Luke 16 :19
16:19 There was a certain rich man - Very probably a Pharisee, and one that justified himself before men; a very honest, as well as honourable gentleman: though it was not proper to mention his name on this occasion: who was clothed in purple and fine linen - and doubtless esteemed on this account, (perhaps not only by those who sold it, but by most that knew him,) as encouraging trade, and acting according to his quality: And feasted splendidly every day - And consequently was esteemed yet more, for his generosity and hospitality in keeping so good a table.