Evangelist and Bible teacher in the Eastern Cape. B.A. and H.E.D from University of South Africa and M.A. Abilene Christian University
Parables of Jesus: The Rich Fool
While Psalms often warn that it is foolish to believe that there is no God (Psalm 10:4; 14:1,etc.), it is only in the parable recorded in Luke 12:16-21 that God calls any individual a fool. This dubious honour goes to a very successful farmer who was blessed with great prosperity but failed miserably in his life and death. Many in today’s world fall into this category. Not because they have committed any of the sins that are found in the Ten Commandments or the lists in the New Testament such as Galatians 5:19-21 – as two examples. It is rather because they simply did not put what is really important into their lives. It is not because of the evil than this sad man did that would cause him to be spending eternity without God, but rather because of what he forgot to do. It has been suggested that there were at least five things that he forgot to realize.
When interpreting the parables, and in fact any part of the Bible, it is important to look carefully at the context. Here Jesus was confronted by a man who requested/demanded that Jesus tell the man’s brother to share his inheritance with him. The Jewish law on inheritance was clearly laid out in the Old Testament and everyone in the time of Jesus was aware of it. The oldest son received two thirds and the other sons one third (Deuteronomy 21:15-17). Why the man was unhappy is not stated, but probably he was a younger brother and was not happy with what he was receiving.
So Jesus followed this request with an important lesson on covetousness and stated clearly: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15 –NIV – used with permission). Greed is an all pervasive sin that destroys a person when it is allowed to take over a life. It comes in many different forms and seems to threaten so many lives. It can be money but can also be for power, food, possessions, and so the list can go on and on.
This parable by Jesus dealing with this problem hits close to home in so many lives. The rich fool stands out as a warning to be careful because greed can and often does infiltrate a life and so destroys a person. When Satan approached Jesus in the wilderness he offered Jesus the option of choosing this life style, something Jesus rejected completely.
When taking a look at the rich fool we see that on a worldly basis he was successful and prosperous, enjoying the kind of life that all of us would love to have. But in this graphic little parable is clear that he had forgotten some important things in his life. It is sometimes the facts that are left out in a parable that shed light on the message.
The first thing that the rich fool forgot was other people. The “I” word predominates and is accompanied with the “myself’ word. No mention of any concern for his workers, the poor in the community of anyone else but self. Here is greed, apparent in that this man was looking out only for himself, an attitude that is prevalent in countries, leaders and even individual ordinary folk. Jesus introduced a movement where his followers are to care for others. This was an Old Testament teaching that had got lost over time and certainly is missing in society today.
The second thing that this rich fool forgot was that life does not consist of the physical only but also needs to take note of the spiritual. This man forgot that God is real and that he was blessed by God in his situation. It is only when we look at the creation and see God’s hand in its beauty that we can live a life that takes care of the physical and spiritual needs of the individual. These two sides are closely interlinked and affect each other.
The third thing that this rich fool forgot was that death and judgement is always just a heartbeat away. When death comes, life and all its glory ends in the same way for both rich and poor. It is however, what you did while you had the opportunity on a day to day basis that remains behind and is important.
The fourth thing that the rich fool forgot was that true happiness comes not from what you own but rather from what you give. The picture of a hoarding miserable rich man counting his money has been immortalized by Disney in the picture of Scrooge. Possessions are something that we all dream about. If only I had .... (add your own dreams) then I would be happy! There is no value in poverty but what adds value to every life is the attitude of service that Jesus introduced in his teaching and example. Real happiness does not come for eating, drinking and taking life easy. It comes from the satisfaction of a life that has been useful and meaningful.
The firth thing that the rich fool forgot was that is important to invest in eternity. Jesus teaches this not only in this parable but also in the statement in Luke 12:33: “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourself that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted...”.
When last have you heard a sermon on that topic!? The answer is probably never. In our material world the challenge of the parable of the rich fool is too close to home to be taught and applied. Yet it is probably the most needed message in a world that has become totally selfish on so many levels.
Scriptures taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright 1973,1978,1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
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Lightfoot, N. - The Parables of Jesus.
Tamarajo on February 18, 2021:
A thought provoking, applicable, and timely lesson.