In Luke’s gospel has a series of stories about rich men and their concern for money (among other key topics): the parable of the Prodigal Son (15:11-32) followed by the story of the Dishonest Steward (16:1-13) and the story of the rich man and the poor Lazarus (16:19-31). The in-between verses, vv.14-18, begin with the phrase, “The Pharisees, who loved money.” Jesus describes these people as an “abomination” (bdelygma) before God (v.15). In the biblical tradition the term is used to speak of idolatry and in condemning financial misdealing (Dt 25:16). Idolatry and money, twins as abomination.
Perhaps our parable in today’s gospel is better titled “Rich Men and Lovers of Money” in order to convey its thematic unity and serve as an apocalyptic warning to those who pursue the treasures of earth; they are “an abomination in the sight of God” (v.15). Certainly that is the fate of the rich man in our parable and the fate that awaits his five brothers. Tempting as the title is, the title then also runs the risk of losing sight of Lazarus, the parable’s protagonist who never speaks a word. While such an emphasis points to the rich man’s torment as a fulfillment of the earlier warning: “His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (3:17) one may lose sight of the fulfillment that the kingdom of God belongs to the poor and the hungry (6:20-26).
One may not think of oneself as rich, but that assessment is generally made while considering someone with more wealth than you. Imagine what you look like in the eyes of Lazarus.