Luke 12 – The Parable of the Rich Fool

Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Luke recorded a time when “someone in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’

“But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?'”

Jesus then turned to the whole crowd and said, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12.13-15).

Materialism and the Bible

Solomon was one of the wealthiest men in his era. He shared his wisdom in the Book of Ecclesiastes and wrote:

“The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 5.10).

Jesus warned us about possessions in his Sermon on the Mount.

He said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6.19-21).

The Parable of the Rich Fool

“Fool” is a strong word. Jesus admonished people to not use it.

He said, “If you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5.22).

Never-the-less, he made an exception with the behavior of a rich man.

He said, “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’

“Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull 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 ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’

“So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God” (Luke 12.16-21).

Characteristics of a “Fool”

What qualifies someone to be called a “fool” by God? A contrast of two Bible passages will be helpful.

Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is no one who does good.
(Psalm 14.1)

The “fools” in this passage don’t deny the existence of God. They profess to believe in God. However, they act as if there is no God.

The behavior of these fools is connected with their desire for material things at the expense of the people who work for them. They treat their labor as if they were commodities to be consumed.

Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
who eat up my people as they eat bread,
and do not call upon the Lord?
(Psalm 14.4)

The wisdom of Jesus confronts the self-centered striving of those who acquire wealth so they can “relax, eat, drink, and be merry.”

He said, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

“For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” (Matthew 16.25-26).

The “fool” strives to save his or her own life and ends up losing it. The wise person gives up their life, follows Jesus, and discovers real fulfillment in life.

The Challenge of the Parable

The parable of the Rich Fool is framed by two of Jesus’ sayings:

“Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12.15).

“So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” (Luke 12.21).

The message is quite clear. Wise people make the choice to be rich in their relationship with God. They don’t allow anything to stand in the way of being a friend and follower of Jesus.

True Riches

The contrast between the “fool” who loses it all because he or she wants to have it all and the “wise” person who finds a rich life because she or he gives it all to Jesus reminded me of John Wesley.

At his death, Wesley had traveled over 250,000 miles and had preached 40,000 sermons across the country, trying to reach out to the poor and downtrodden. He also kept on working on social issues such as prison reform and universal education until his death.

He was 87 when he died. It is reported that this was how we left earth to meet his Savior: Wesley grasped their hands and said repeatedly, “Farewell, farewell.”

At the end, he said, “The best of all is, God is with us”, lifted his arms and raised his feeble voice again, repeating the words, “The best of all is, God is with us.”

What a contrast between the rich “fool” and the wise “follower.” Let’s make the right choice.

About This Blog

Klyne Snodgrass has devoted 12 years of study to produce the book, Stories With Intent. His book is recognized as the best book on the parables in print. I am indebted to Dr. Snodrass’ work that helps shape my articles.

If you have a prayer request, please email me at bsprad49@gmail.com or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and so will the prayer team at Maywood Baptist Church.

2 Comments

  1. Reading this parable and associated passages makes me wonder if being American puts us at a bit of disadvantage here. Even many of the poor among us have more than other cultures – who do more with much less. We are raised to “live the American dream” and buy into the idea that we have a “right” to own a house, have more than one car, wear fashionable clothes, own the latest electronics. So many things we simply take for granted – and yet, even as we gather possessions that make us feel accomplished, secure and elevate our self-image, God is looking down and calling us “fool.” Having things is not the problem, of course. Only when having the things becomes more important than the primary reason we are here….to give glory to God.

    As with each of the parables we have studied, our reaction should be “God, what do I do about this?” It doesn’t mean we should start packing all of our belongings and get rid of our possessions, although it could! But we should allow the Holy Spirit to pinpoint where our attention has drifted and where the treasure of our heart lies.

    I have so much to be grateful for this Sunday morning! The questions I ask myself: “What am I willing to give up if He asks me to? What is the state of my relationship with Him this day?”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Denise. As usual, you are right on target with your thoughts. If we can live with “open hands,” God can put anything he wants in them, and can take anything out of them. I heard that thought many years ago, I think it is an excellent way to approach things.

    I am thankful for many people associated with Maywood who serve the poor, often at the expense of their own comfort. Praise God for all of you who do this.

    Like

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