Lazarus, the Rich Man, and the Prodigal Son

Here’s a modern conflation of two parables: “Lazarus and the Rich Man” and “The Prodigal Son”. I mean to evoke the sense of surprise that I think Jesus’ audiences would have experienced when they first heard these stories. I think we have lost that sense of surprise because we’ve heard them so many times that we don’t get the punch line as they did.

Once upon a time there was a job-creating millionaire who only used legal tax loopholes and went to a church that really preached the Bible and had great worship music. Down the road from him lived a gay social worker named Lazarus who was raised Catholic but hadn’t been to church in years. The social worker’s heart went out to his clients because he never had enough resources to help them – but times were tough and the job-creating Bible-believer didn’t want his taxes being given to food stamp recipients by gay bureaucrats.

The time came when the lapsed Catholic died and was carried off to heaven. The job-creator also died and was buried. When the millionaire saw that Lazarus had been welcomed into the celebration of heaven, with a ring on his finger and a robe around his shoulders, he became angry and refused to go in. He found himself outside the party, so angry and resentful that he felt like he was burning alive.

So Jesus came to him, in the Father’s name and the power of the Holy Spirit, to plead with him to be reconciled, but he answered “all my life I followed all the rules in the Bible that I agreed with and never once did you give me a yacht so that I could party with my friends – but when this lazy, sinful, thief shows up you tell me I have to share heaven with him.”

Jesus replied, “you are both the beloved children of my Father, reconciled in my life, death, resurrection, and ascension – and all the life of heaven belongs to you and him together.”

To which the millionaire replied, “Forget you! and forget him too! I don’t have to share anything with anyone – but if he’s so wonderful and righteous, tell him to share a bit of heaven with me and bring me some bottled water.”

“Sorry,” Jesus said, “but you need to spend some time experiencing the pain that comes from kicking against the life of the Trinity. Remember, in your lifetime you were an insider, who thought God loved you more than Lazarus, and you had everything your way. But Lazarus always felt excluded and he was forced to throw his lot in with all the other “losers” that you thought were cursed by my Father. As a result you have grown up to be a self-centered jackass but Lazarus has grown up to understand the true meaning of gracious acceptance and the communion of the Holy Spirit.”

“Great Scott!” the millionaire exclaimed, “everything about God seems to be the exact opposite of what I thought. You know, I’ve got a lot of friends and family who don’t have a clue about this stuff – maybe you could send Lazarus to warn them.”

“Brother, please,” Jesus laughed, “if they haven’t been convinced by the Son of God returning from the dead then they sure won’t be convinced by the resurrection of a gay social worker.”

~ Jonathan Stepp

19 comments so far

  1. Boyd Merriman on

    Interesting perspective. First time I heard the two stories combined, but combining them does help get the message across a lot better.

  2. Micah Royal on

    What a moving presentation of this old Gospel story. Thank you Jonathan!

  3. Jowancka on

    What an interesting way to tell these stories. I love it.

  4. Fred Kohn on

    I am not a Christian but I’m sharing this story wherever I can!

  5. Rev. David Gray on

    Love this and will probably be inspired by it in future sermon construction. Thank you, Jonathan.

  6. Pastor Jonathan on

    Thanks, everyone, for the positive feedback – glad you liked it.

  7. tjbrassell on


    Now THIS is the way that Jesus’ parables were heard and meant to be experienced, I believe! HaHa! Gospel Provoking!

    Do your job and keep making Jesus’ parables more clear for us today! We’ll have more please! 🙂

    Peace, Love and Blessings!

  8. Jane Hinrichs on

    I agree with tjbrassell — keep sharing the parables with a modern-day twist. Makes them even more relevant than they already are.

  9. Jerome Ellard on

    Good stuff, Pastor Jonathan. The acceptance found in Jesus does blow my mind. We so easily get it backwards, don’t we? Thinking we have to change in order to be accepted, when really, our acceptance is what changes us, transforms us, into the likeness of Christ. I’m reminded of some clever (and I think inspired!) movie-making by the makers of the “Matthew” video with Bruce Marchiano (we are showing them to our 4th-6th grade Wednesday night bible study class, a chapter a week) – two scenes come to mind: one where Jesus is calling Matthew, the tax-collector. The other new disciples are watching Jesus as he stops to speak to Matthew. They want to keep on walking past this despised Jewish traitor. You can see it in their faces: “What? HIM???” Yep, him. Then, the scene where the Roman Centurion rides up to ask Jesus to heal his ailing servant. As the soldier approaches the group, the disciples eyes narrow with suspicion, watching him approach – you can tell they despise and distrust the hated occupier. But the Roman is drawn by the aroma of Christ’s grace. In contrast, Jesus’ eyes are open and receptive, not condemning. I think the eyes were enough: the Centurion senses Jesus acceptance in the accustomed sea of disapproval, and it motivates him to step out in faith that even surprised himself! (I think he originally came to ask Jesus to come back with him to heal the servent!) He finds himself saying “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Jesus loves it, loves him! Yep, him.

    • Pastor Jonathan on

      Yes, Jerome, thank you for reminding me of those scenes. That version of the gospel of Matthew has been one of my favorites for many years.

  10. ninure on

    OOOO brother! that was terrific!!

    I think Jesus smiled as you wrote that 🙂

  11. Pastor Jonathan on


  12. Oh, this was GREAT fun! I start to understand the people who kept picking up rocks to stone him!!

  13. Pastor Jonathan on

    Thanks, John!

  14. CJ on

    From Johnathan’s Blog: Jesus replied, “you are both the beloved children of my Father, reconciled in my life, death, resurrection, and ascension – and all the life of heaven belongs to you and him together.”
    So much in this world and even in Christendom is backwards and twisted, isn’t it? We compare, we judge in the sense of thinking we know what is “worthy” of acceptance by God, and we sure get it messed up. To think that all of us are reconciled, and God gives His life to all of us together – Lazarus, the Rich Man, the Older Brother…and us, and I believe all of us will get to the place where we see that “everything about God seems to be the exact opposite of what I thought” and will let God untwist our minds in areas where we are thinking the opposite of what God is really like and and let Him show us His true nature and ways of loving and accepting us.

  15. Gillian Valentine on

    Ha, ha! Love it! What a great perspective and fresh approach to an old story!

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