Luke Parables of Jesus: The Rich Fool
“Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Luke 12:13-34 NASB1995
When I first put together a list of these parables and the relevant verses, I planned to end this parable at Luke chapter 12 verse 21, which is the last part of the Bible excerpt above in bold type. But it seemed to me that the follow-on words are relevant to the parable, so I expanded the excerpt. The follow-on words do echo some of the sayings from the Sermon on the Mount that we studied previously about worry and treasures in Heaven. Setting the context again, Jesus is the center of attention in a huge crowd and He was talking to them about being aware of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and being concerned for the one who can kill the soul. He also cautioned against the one unforgivable sin (blasphemy of the Holy Spirit), which can keep a believer up at night worrying about it, but if you worry about it, you probably haven’t committed that sin (perhaps I can study that passage in a future devotional). He also talks about confessing belief in Him before men and He will confess for you before God and the angels and will give you the words to say to those who persecute you; those that deny Him will be denied before our Father in heaven.
So, in spite of the things that Jesus has preached, someone in the crowd wasn’t listening and he speaks up and asks Jesus to interfere in a family dispute over an inheritance which he thinks is unfair. Jesus chastises him, then follows with this sobering parable about greed and materialism. Take a good look at the picture I chose for this parable. That scenario is what can be described as the “good life”, with a huge mansion and a fancy car (probably one of many). Our society thrives on greed and envy and “getting what’s mine” and coveting what our neighbor has. People are jealous of the rich and successful and try to find ways to knock them down (even going so far as to advocate killing the rich, if not just taxing them to death), yet they would be very happy to have the same material possessions if given a chance. TV shows like “The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” are extremely popular, even in re-runs, and feed on this materialistic drive.
In our parable, the rich man ponders a problem with an excess of grains and goods and decides that he will build new barns to store his treasure and “retire” to a life of ease to eat, drink and be merry. However, that very night he dies (his soul is required from him from God, an interesting way to state this), so where do his plans go? He cannot take one sip of fine wine or one material good with him into eternal life. Jesus continues after the parable to tell his disciples that they are to FIRST seek the kingdom of God and those worries about food and clothing will be for naught. Give our devotion and worries to God, sell our goods and give to the needy and we will set up eternal treasures in Heaven.
Am I greedy? I most certainly am, although the Holy Spirit is convicting me in greater and greater measure to examine what I treasure in this life. I LIKE our travels and our photos and our art collection and our house and our vehicles (especially our RV), but I am struggling more and more with how much we focus on those things. Am I excluding God? That’s another good question. I often wonder how I would respond to Jesus if He asked me to sell everything I have and follow Him (see Luke 18:18-30). Think about your response, too. Here is a handy “greed” questionnaire from a Sermon by Pastor Steven Cole that was also found in the resources on Precept Austin for Luke 12 and this parable:
(1) DO MY THOUGHTS MORE OFTEN RUN AFTER MATERIAL THINGS THAN AFTER GOD HIMSELF?
If I am often thinking about that new car or that nicer house or that better computer, and I seldom think about how I can know God better, I am tainted by greed.
(2) DO I EVER COMPROMISE GODLY CHARACTER IN THE PURSUIT OF MATERIAL GAIN?
If I sometimes cheat or lie or steal to get ahead financially or to avoid loss, I am being greedy. If I am willing to shred relationships or to take advantage of another person for financial gain, I am being greedy. If I care more about making money than about being a witness for Jesus Christ, I am being greedy.
(3) DO I ENJOY MATERIAL THINGS MORE THAN I ENJOY KNOWING GOD?
If my happiness soars when I get a new car, but I am bored by the things of God, I am greedy. If I rejoice when I win a raffle or door prize, but I yawn when I hear about a soul being saved, I am greedy.
(4) HOW DO I RESPOND WHEN I LOSE MATERIAL THINGS?
When the stock market drops, do I fall apart emotionally? If I get robbed or lose some or all of my things in a fire, does it devastate me? I’m not saying that we must be stoical about such losses. We will always feel some sadness when we lose things. But if it wipes us out, then we’re probably too attached to this world and its goods.
(5) WHAT WOULD I DO IF I SUDDENLY CAME INTO A FORTUNE?
I presume that none of you play the lottery, but what if you won the Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes? What if a distant relative died and left you a large inheritance? Would your first thought be, “Now I can get that better house or car or boat”? “Now I can take that trip around the world I’ve always wanted to take.” Or, would you think, “Now I can support dozens of missionaries”? “Thousands of people can hear about Christ because He has given me funds to invest in the spread of His kingdom!”
Food for thought!! Why is greed such a concern for the believer? Cole’s sermon goes on to say that greed, an all-American pursuit in our individualist culture, ignores three things: The lordship of Christ over everything, the priority of relationships over riches, and the shortness of life and the question of eternity.
My next devotional will examine a short parable in Luke 13:6-9, The Barren Fig.
Sermons by Steven Cole are found at Bible.Org and are copyrighted 1999-2012.