Chapters 16 and 17 in Luke are loaded with difficult and sometimes controversial passages. The commendation of a dishonest manager, the coming of the kingdom of God, the issue of remarriage after divorce, and the description of heaven and hell are potentially confusing or sensitive topics, but a very simple ideal runs through each one.
Selfishness or servitude? That question rests at the heart of these two chapters. The dishonest manager redeemed himself not by trickery but by generosity (16:8). Men and women were forsaking their vows to God to pursue their own lustful urges (16:18). The Twelve wanted greater faith when they should have gratefully recognized what they had (17:6, 10). The thankless lepers and the fools who ignored the coming judgment all served their own desires. But the most shocking selfishness comes in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man.
When the rich man glimpsed Abraham in paradise, he didn’t ask to be let out or to be carried to Abraham’s side. He only asked that Lazarus would come to him or that he would go to the man’s family. The rich man didn’t consider repenting himself, not that it would have mattered after he died.
As for his family, Abraham predicted judgment against them as well because they had already rejected the word of Moses and the Prophets. God had already spoken to them, and no miracle would have been enough to redirect their hearts.
The parable also confirms the concept of eternal judgment. The contrast in the descriptions of the deaths of Lazarus (who was carried away by angels) and the rich man (who was simply buried) effectively illustrates the chasm between eternal life and damnation.