THE RICH FOOL
Revernend Dr. Michel J. Faulker
Pastoral Ambassador, CE National
Jesus’ parable of the Rich Fool appears only in Luke’s Gospel and occurs early (within the first year) in Jesus’ ministry. It is one of only a handful of parables for which the meaning is given before the parable is shared as an illustration. Jesus used this approach with less hostile or less religious
audiences. These facts speak to Jesus’ desire to impart truth to all people.
Jesus’ gentle interaction with the man from the crowd serves as an introduction to this teaching moment. The man who is not named or identified specifically questions Jesus, but not to trick him. His question seems to be a legitimate attempt to have Jesus (an itinerant rabbi or teacher) rule in a family dispute. His question is an attempt to have Jesus render an opinion of justice in his favor. Matters of distribution for inheritance were clearly spelled out in the Law of Moses. This man might not have known, or ekse wanted Jesus to clarify it publicly for his brother to hear.
However, Jesus refuses to intervene. He asks the man, “Who appointed me a judge or an arbiter?” (Luke 12:14 NIV). Before the man can answer, Jesus deals with his motivation for asking the question; he was chasing things. Jesus gives a warning and notes the central idea of this parable: we must guard against greed because life (zoe in Greek) is more than our possessions. Jesus directs his response to the entire crowd, not just the man. He wants everyone to understand that greed is sin and it will separate us from God and each other.
Once the problem is explained, Jesus uses the parable to illustrate this foundational truth. He tells the story of a rich farmer whose abundant harvest exceeded his storage. Faced with this dilemma, he decides to build bigger barns to store grain—for himself. The farmer speaks to his own soul in a manner that reveals his self-centered motivation. God then speaks directly to the farmer, another unique feature of this parable. God addresses the man and his foolish greed, saying, “You fool! This
very night your life will be demanded from you” (Luke 12:20).
The farmer was guilty of self-worship and was controlled by greed. He had not prepared himself for God’s demand. Like him, those who are controlled by greed waste time and resources in pursuit of things that will not last and which they do not own. The parable concludes with a final warning. The same will happen to anyone who worships self, serving the kingdom of this world rather than the kingdom of God. Our key take-away is that God owns everything, including our lives, and everything will be returned to him, at a time of his choosing. Our acceptance of God as creator, provider and protector is foundational to all conversations about or with God. Without clarity on God’s identity as the almighty creator and provider, we will all become fools.
Jesus’ warning starkly contrasts the prevailing mindset of those in the crowd, and it is as poignant and relevant to us as it was to the man from the crowd. Those who hoard earthly wealth to satisfy their selfish ambitions and take no thought to be “rich toward God” will share in the farmer’s fate (Luke 12:21). Matthew’s Gospel reminds us: “Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (6:20–21 NLT).
• Do you have a possession more valuable to you than your relationship with God?
• Have you previously or are you now struggling with the sin of greed?
• What can we learn from this parable about the consequences of greed?