Question: What are the principles we can learn from the Parable of the rich man and Lazarus?
Answer: One principle we can learn from this parable is that if we are covetous and do not use our earthly riches righteously, we will eventually experience suffering and regret.
17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.
18 Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment.
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19 There was a certain rich man (remember that the Savior is comparing the Pharisees with this rich man), which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously (lived in luxury) every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of (covered with) sores,
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. (Symbolizing that dogs take better care of beggars and people in need than the Pharisees do.)
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom (was taken to paradise): the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom (with Abraham in paradise).
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame (it is miserable here in hell).
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Note: This “gulf” or barrier between spirit prison and paradise was bridged by the Savior during the time that his body lay in the tomb and his spirit visited the righteous in paradise. In paradise, he set up missionary work and authorized the righteous spirits in paradise to go to spirit prison and teach the gospel there.
27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father (Abraham), that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house (to warn them about what has happened to me):
28 For I have five brethren (brothers); that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment (hell, spirit prison).
29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. (They have already been given that message through the writings of the prophets in the scriptures.)
Note: By mentioning “Moses and the prophets,” the Savior was again referencing the scriptures that the Pharisees claimed to believe in and live by, but in reality rejected.
30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham (they don’t pay much attention to the scriptures or the prophets): but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. (That would scare them enough to repent.)
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not (pay no attention to) Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead (even if one came back from the dead to them).
It may help to know that “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22) represents paradise in the spirit world and that “hell” (Luke 16:23) refers to the spirit prison (see Bible Dictionary, “Abraham’s Bosom,” “Hell”).
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President Gordon B. Hinckley:
My brethren and sisters, I sense the awesome burden of speaking to you in this great conference. Tens of thousands of you are listening with great expectation here in the Tabernacle, or in your homes, or in more than two thousand Church buildings. May I say at the outset that I love you as my brethren and sisters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I love you for your faith and faithfulness. I love you for the integrity of your lives. I love you for your desire to live as the Lord would have you live and for the effort you are making to do so.
I know that many of you carry very heavy burdens. I know that many of you live under extreme stress. I know that you are anxious to do the right thing and that you are prayerfully trying to do so. I know also that none of us has reached that perfection we have been admonished to seek, and therefore, with only a desire to give encouragement, I take the liberty of using a text that I feel has application for each of us. It is from the sermon which Jesus gave to the multitude who gathered on the mount: “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matt. 5:7.)
We live in a world where there is so much of harshness. We live in a world filled with hostility and meanness. By reason of our human natures, so many seem prone to act with unmitigated selfishness regardless of injury to others...
How godlike a quality is mercy. It cannot be legislated. It must come from the heart. It must be stirred up from within. It is part of the endowment each of us receives as a son or daughter of God and partaker of a divine birthright. I plead for an effort among all of us to give greater expression and wider latitude to this instinct which lies within us. I am convinced that there comes a time, possibly many times, within our lives when we might cry out for mercy on the part of others. How can we expect it unless we have been merciful ourselves?
A parable of the Master comes to mind:
“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
“And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
“And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: …
“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
“And in hell he lift[ed] up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
“And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
“But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
“And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot.” (Luke 16:19–26.)
I plead for a stronger spirit of compassion in all of our relationships, a stronger element of mercy, for the promise is sure that if we are merciful we shall obtain mercy...Mercy is of the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The degree to which each of us is able to extend it becomes an expression of the reality of our discipleship under Him who is our Lord and Master...It was He who, while hanging on the cross in dreadful agony, cried out, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34.)
He, the Son of the everlasting Father, was the epitome of mercy. His ministry was one of compassion toward the poor, the sick, the oppressed, the victims of injustice and man’s inhumanity to man. His sacrifice on the cross was an unparalleled act of mercy in behalf of all humanity.
How great a thing is mercy. Most often it is quiet and unassuming. It receives few headlines. It is the antithesis of vengeance and hatred, of greed and offensive egotism...
Of all the wars that have afflicted the United States, none was so costly in suffering and death, none so filled with venom and hatred as was the American Civil War. There are few more touching scenes in history than that of April 9, 1865, at Appomattox, Virginia, when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant. General Grant wrote a brief statement of terms under which the soldiers of the South were free to return to their homes with their personal sidearms, their private horses, and baggage. There was no recrimination, no demand for reparations, no apologies required or punishment given. This has gone down in the chronicles of war as a great and magnificent act of mercy.
In the story of our own people there stands out the example of Brigham Young’s attitude toward the Indians. His declaration that it was “better to feed them than to fight them” evidenced not only the innate mercy of his nature, but the greater wisdom inherent in a compassionate attitude toward the less fortunate.
If I may be pardoned a personal indulgence, I find expression of this attitude in the chronicles of my own family. My grandfather, Ira Nathaniel Hinckley, was called in 1867 by Brigham Young to build a fort at Cove Creek on the road to southern Utah so that travelers might be afforded protection from the Indians. But there was never Indian trouble of any consequence because of the policy of merciful treatment toward them which was followed during the years by my grandfather when he operated that lonely outpost.
There is so much of civil strife and conflict in our society that could be ameliorated by a small touch of mercy. Much of it has reached a point where the Mosaic law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth has been enlarged to require three eyes for one eye and three teeth for one tooth. Many victims, badgered and broken, cry in vain for a touch of kindness...
Our generation is afflicted with critics in the media who think they do a great and clever thing in mercilessly attacking men and women in public office and in other positions of leadership. They are prone to take a line or a paragraph out of context and pursue their prey like a swarm of killer bees...
The plight of the homeless is a repudiation of the greatness of our nation. I commend most warmly those who with a compelling spirit of kindness reach out to those in distress, regardless of whom they might be, to help and assist, to feed and provide for, to nurture and to bless...
And this brings me to another area where there is so great a need for that mercy which speaks of forbearance, kindness, clemency, compassion. I speak of the homes of the people. Every child, with few possible exceptions, is the product of a home, be it good, bad, or indifferent. As children grow through the years, their lives, in large measure, become an extension and a reflection of family teaching. If there is harshness, abuse, uncontrolled anger, disloyalty, the fruits will be certain and discernible, and in all likelihood they will be repeated in the generation that follows.
If, on the other hand, there is forbearance, forgiveness, respect, consideration, kindness, mercy, and compassion, the fruits again will be discernible, and they will be eternally rewarding. They will be positive and sweet and wonderful. And as mercy is given and taught by parents, it will be repeated in the lives and actions of the next generation.
I speak to fathers and mothers everywhere with a plea to put harshness behind us, to bridle our anger, to lower our voices, and to deal with mercy and love and respect one toward another in our homes...
In that same vein the Lord in modern revelation has enjoined us: “Succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” (D&C 81:5.)
And again: “Therefore, strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings.” (D&C 108:7)...
Let us be more merciful. Let us get the arrogance out of our lives, the conceit, the egotism. Let us be more compassionate, gentler, filled with forbearance and patience and a greater measure of respect one for another. In so doing, our very example will cause others to be more merciful, and we shall have greater claim upon the mercy of God who in His love will be generous toward us...
I am confident that a time will come for each of us when, whether because of sickness or infirmity, of poverty or distress, of oppressive measures against us by man or nature, we shall wish for mercy. And if, through our lives, we have granted mercy to others, we shall obtain it for ourselves.
“For thus saith the Lord, I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear [honor] me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end.
“Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory.” (D&C 76:5–6)
Of these things I bear witness as I testify that God our Eternal Father lives, that He is a God of mercy, that His Son gave His life in a great merciful atonement for each of us, and that we shall be the beneficiaries of that mercy as we extend it to others, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Source: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 71; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 1, Volume 2, by David J. Ridges, 220-221; Excerpts from General Conference, April 1990, “Blessed Are the Merciful,” by President Gordon B. Hinckley.