Dives and Lazarus or Lazarus and Dives is a narrative attributed to Jesus that is reported only in the Gospel of Luke (). It is also known as "The Rich Man and the Beggar Lazarus." Unlike Lazarus, the wealthy man is not named, so traditionally took as his name "Dives", the Latin word for "rich man", the term used to refer to him in the Vulgate Biblical text. The story has been a favourite for artists and theologians, as it is the most vivid account of an afterlife to be found in the New Testament.
It was often shown in art, especially carved at the portals of churches, at the foot of which beggars would sit (for example at Moissac and Saint-Sernin, Toulouse), promoting their cause. There is a surviving stained-glass window at Bourges Cathedral.
The story appeared as an English folk song (oldest written documentation from 1557), with the depiction of the afterlife altered to fit Christian tradition. The song was also published as the Child ballad Dives and Lazarus in the 19th century. North American slaves sang a spiritual about Lazarus and Dives.
Both names appear in Edith Sitwell's poem "Still falls the Rain" from "The Canticle of the Rose", first published in 1941. It was written after the raids on London in 1940. The poem is dark, full of the disillusions of World War II. It speaks of the failure of man, and of the yet unconditional love of God.
Benjamin Britten set Sitwell's text to music in his third Canticle in a series of five. The names appear in Verse IV: "Still falls the Rain At the feet of the Starved Man hung upon the Cross. Christ that each day, each night, nails there, have mercy on us. On Dives and on Lazarus: Under the Rain the sore and the gold are as one." The setting clearly depicts the common suffering of both sinner and saint, especially during a time of war.
What makes this parable even more poignant is that the author of the Gospel is apparently also the author of the Acts of the Apostles, which relates the events after the Resurrection (or at very least, is aware of the resurrection). The readers are aware that not only do they have the words of Moses and the Prophets but that someone returned from death, too. Further, for early Christians, the parable answers the question of why, after the resurrection, Jesus did not preach and give new warnings to the living.
The parable is unique in that, unlike others where Jesus referred to the characters as "a certain man", "a sower", etc., one of the characters was referred to by name. There is a minority view which holds that, because of this, the story isn't a parable, but a reference to a real beggar named Lazarus and a real wealthy individual.
Instead of particular judgment, some Christians believe in soul sleep and general judgment only. Proponents of general judgment, for example Seventh-day Adventists and Christian Universalists, argue that this is a parable referring to Jewish and Gentile views of the Messiah. Other advocates of general judgment simply say that it is a parable that is devoted to morality, not the afterlife.
In the secular view, the story represents the 1st-century Jewish belief in Sheol ("Hades" in Greek, as in this passage, meaning simply the grave). Sheol is where all the dead go. In Sheol, the dead are unaware of their situation. Some among the Jews believed in the hope of the resurrection from the dead, others believed death was final. In sheol there is no pleasure or pain as the dead can experience neither ["For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten" (ECC 9:5) and "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest" ECC 9-10]
The Christian metal band Whitecross performed a song called "No Second Chances" telling the story of Lazarus the beggar.
O. Sellers holds this account as a satirical parable which represents a masterful expose of the Pharisees. Through satire, Jesus effectively strips the Pharisees of any pretense of righteousness and thoroughly discredits their justification for ignoring the poor in Israel. The thought here is that when examining Luke 16:19-31 in the light of history, we note a rather suspicious resemblance between Jesus’ story of The Rich Man and Lazarus, and the traditional teachings of the Pharisees. Sellers' concludes that Jesus was not setting out to confirm Pharisaic beliefs about the afterlife. True, he told their story; the same story they had told a thousand times before, but with one important difference; a rather ironic twist you might say, that sees the Rich Man waking up in torment in Hades and being denied the slightest assistance by application of the same logic whereby he had regularly denied the poor and destitute while on earth. It would not take much imagination to visualize the headlines in the Jerusalem Gazette the morning after Jesus told His version of their story, humorously conveying how the Lord had turned the tables on the Pharisees in the afterlife.