Now the Pharisees who were lovers of money were listening to all these things, and they were scoffing at Him." ~ Luke 16:14
Jesus spoke this parable while on His last journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. At that time great crowds were following Jesus (Luke 14:25, 15:21).
Identifying who Jesus directed His messages toward can help us better understand His teachings.
Luke 15:1 through 17:10 contains several blocks of Jesus' teachings. Each section is directed toward a specific audience:
|Luke 15:1-32||Pharisees and Scribes|
|Luke 16:1-13||Disciples of Jesus|
|Luke 17:1-4||Disciples of Jesus|
|Luke 17:5-10||The 12 Apostles|
The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus was intended to warn the Pharisees. The Pharisees were religious leaders who wielded great influence over the Jews.
Serving God and Money?
Jesus taught His disciples about the proper stewardship of money in the first half of Luke 16. He concluded these teachings by saying "You cannot serve God and Mammon" (Luke 16:13).
Now Mammon was a "name given to an idol worshipped as the god of riches."1 Listeners understood that Jesus meant a person could not serve both God and money.
Lovers of Money
The Pharisees found this saying repulsive. The words translated as "scoffing" or "sneering" literally meant "to turn one's nose up at" as if in revulsion.2 Luke explained their reaction by writing that the Pharisees were "lovers of money". (Luke 16:14)
Hearing their reaction, Jesus responded by first indentifying some of their shortcomings (Luke 16:15ff). He then presented the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.