11. "The Rich Fool"

Luke 12:13–21

Be rish toward GodThe Rich Fool

This parable speaks loudly to our generation. It tells us "how to define life." Most people define life in terms of material possessions ("stuff"), physical fitness, or the future.
Have you been defining life in your house, your circle of friends, your stock portfolio, in terms of what you can do physically, or with the assumption that you will live much longer? What's going to happen when you lose one or more of those things? What happens when you become physically challenged? When the stock market crashes? When you find out you have six months to live? If you define life according to these things, you'll be devastated.
So the question is, what do you choose and what do you treasure?

The Rich Fool — Luke 12:13–21

(Excerpts from a Hampton Keathley IV commentary on Bible.org)
Because we cannot take our material possessions with us,
we should concentrate on storing up eternal treasures in heaven.

Why is Jesus telling this parable, about the rich man who had no greed, to a greedy man? Jesus builds up the rich man as a good guy, a contented man — something that's rare. This guy is just the opposite of the greedy man. What do we learn? Both thought that life consisted in possessing "stuff." Selfishness and self-satisfaction are two opposite pulls that are both out of balance to God. They are opposite sides of the same coin.

The man in the parable was already rich, having enough for himself. But this year, he had a bumper crop. (Isn't this the way it always is? The rich get richer and the poor get poorer?) One gets the impression that the rich man didn't really work very hard for this. Why might Jesus want us to get that impression? If you get something that you didn't work for, what is it? It is a gift. Who was this gift from? Yes, it was a gift from God.

So, what does he do with the surplus? Verse 17 says, “He (the rich man) thought to himself. . .” This is significant because in that culture everyone went to the city gates to discuss everything. This man doesn't do that. We get the impression that he has no friends, no relationship with anyone.

He says, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops? . . . This is what I'll do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.” Notice the emphasis on “I” and “my” as he reasons with himself. He did not understand that his prosperity was a gift from God. He forgot that he was a steward and thought that he owned it all.

In v. 19 he assumes that he'll live for a long time and enjoy his possessions. But in v. 20, God enters the scene and says, “You fool!” He is without life. He is stupid. God goes on to say, “This very night your life will be demanded from you.” The word “demanded” connotes paying back a loan. This emphasizes the idea that the rich man was only a steward of his stuff, not its owner.

Then God says, “Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” What's the connection between the greedy guy's question and the parable? His question was concerning his inheritance (because his father had died) and the parable ends with a question of inheritance (because the rich man died), “Who will own what you have prepared?” We know what will happen. We see it happening with the greedy man.

In v. 21, Jesus says, “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” There's a major reversal in the parable — the rich man ends up being "poor to God." Notice the poetic justice.

Why does Jesus tell a bunch of poor people about a rich man? How does a rich man's story go over? Poor people want bad things to happen to rich people, because they're jealous. The greedy man’s question fit right into the context of Jesus' lesson. It certainly shows that the greedy [foolish] man wasn't paying any attention to what was being said. Verses 15 and 21 introduce and conclude the parable with the same thought: Man’s life does not consist of "stuff." That is the answer to the materialism of our day.

2. The Principles of This Parable
Don't put your emphasis on material possessions because they don't last. Like the guy who was walking back from the funeral when someone asked him, “How much did the guy leave behind?” The man smartly replied, “Everything.”

Greed is wrong, but at the opposite pole, so is self-sufficiency or self-satisfaction.

If you define life in terms of money, you leave God out of the definition and you end up bankrupt. What counts only is your relationship with God. The rich man made at least four mistakes:

  • The rich man made the mistake of thinking he was the owner of his stuff when he was just a steward.
  • He was worried about the present; he forgot about eternity.
  • He was concerned only for the physical; he forgot about spiritual things.
  • He treasured "stuff" more than people; he lived an isolated life.

Having possessions isn't wrong. What's wrong is putting your security in them. The rich man isn't condemned for being rich. He's condemned for being self-centered, for not using his surplus to help others, and for leaving God out of his life.

So the question is, what do you choose and what do you treasure?

Take our Parables Quiz!

<<< Return to our Home page.