Let's Talk About the Upside-Down Kingdom

by Samantha Tidball

Luke 16:14-30

The Pharisees, who were money-lovers, heard all this and sneered at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves before other people, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued by people is deeply offensive to God. 16 Until John, there was only the Law and the Prophets. Since then, the good news of God’s kingdom is preached, and everyone is urged to enter it. 17 It’s easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the smallest stroke of a pen in the Law to drop out. 18 Any man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and a man who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

19 “There was a certain rich man who clothed himself in purple and fine linen, and who feasted luxuriously every day. 20 At his gate lay a certain poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21 Lazarus longed to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Instead, dogs would come and lick his sores.

22 “The poor man died and was carried by angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 While being tormented in the place of the dead, he looked up and saw Abraham at a distance with Lazarus at his side. 24 He shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I’m suffering in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received good things, whereas Lazarus received terrible things. Now Lazarus is being comforted and you are in great pain. 26 Moreover, a great crevasse has been fixed between us and you. Those who wish to cross over from here to you cannot. Neither can anyone cross from there to us.’

27 “The rich man said, ‘Then I beg you, Father, send Lazarus to my father’s house. 28 I have five brothers. He needs to warn them so that they don’t come to this place of agony.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets. They must listen to them.’ 30 The rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will change their hearts and lives.’


Key Verse:

“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received good things whereas Lazarus received terrible things. Now Lazarus is being comforted and you are in great pain.’”—Luke 16:25



Jesus frequently connected eternal punishment with how we treat those around us who are less fortunate (Matthew 19:16-30; 25:14-36). Jesus warned that wealth often leads to destruction, and our lack of generosity will reap eternal consequences.

In this odd story, Jesus spoke directly to the Pharisees, warning them that nothing is the way they think it will be in the afterlife. During biblical times, the wealthy were thought to be favored by God, and the poor were considered cursed. Jesus flipped this narrative upside down by pointing out that Lazarus, the poor man, would be fully embraced in the afterlife, while the rich man would go to Hades, the place of the dead. The rich man learned that his selfishness and lack of generosity on earth had eternal consequences for him in the afterlife.


Questions to think about:

If we are wealthy on earth, does this mean we are destined to suffer after we die?

How is Hades (the place of the dead) different from hell?

What role does Jesus play when it comes to judgment?

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