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Are Psalm 37 and Luke 16 Contradictory?

By November 1, 1992July 16th, 2014No Comments


Isn’t there a contradiction between Psalm 37:25 and the account of Lazarus in Luke 16:19–31?

In Psalm 37:25, David observed, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” In contrast, we read of Lazarus in Luke 16, obviously a believer because he went to “Abraham’s bosom.” Yet in this life he was a beggar in rags, with only the dogs to comfort him.

Do the passages contradict each other? Is there no such thing as a destitute believer? Or was David wrong? No, an understanding of the context in which David wrote will provide the answer. There is no contradiction.

David was comparing in his mind the nations around him with his own nation of Israel. In Israel, conditions were far better than in the heathen nations. Though some in his own nation might be considered poor, they had provisions that heathen nations did not know about. So, by comparison, they were taken care of. Israel’s law required the prosperous to give and lend to those less fortunate. They could not collect interest on these loans. In the Year of Jubilee, all debts were forgiven. Such policies made begging and poverty quite scarce. This situation contrasted with the heathen nations, whose evil ways brought suffering and poverty in a large scale. (Please read Deuteronomy chapter 30 carefully.)

Many of us have seen believers who had or have deep needs. Perhaps they do not sit in the streets and beg, but they are relatively in want, nevertheless. David was not saying that these people are unbelievers or that believers would never have to face hunger and lack materially. He observed, rather, that the God of Israel is a good God, ready and able to supply His children’s needs. We as believers have confidence in God. He will take care of us. And even though someone like Lazarus fell upon great misfortune, he was incredibly rich because his ultimate destination was Heaven, the place of eternal bliss and riches. Ironside pointed out, “Had conditions been right in Israel no son of Abraham would have been found in such a plight, but Lazarus was suffering because he was part of a nation that had drifted far from God.”

Incidentally, I believe that the account of the rich man and Lazarus really happened. Some have speculated that it was merely a parable. However, Jesus didn’t call it a parable. Abraham was a historical character. It is probable that there was beggar named Lazarus and a rich man whose name Jesus did not give possibly to avoid offending loved ones and friends who heard the story recounted. (Although some people refer to the rich man as Dives, that wasn’t his name. Dives is a Latin word simply meaning “rich man.”) Parables do not generally give names of particular people, as did this account.

I might also point out that the name Lazarus means “helped of God.” Certainly he was helped of God in the end and has for almost 2,000 years enjoyed complete contrast to the sufferings of this earth!

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (November 1992).
© 1992 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.

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