Meditating on the Parables of Luke: 4. The Rich Fool
Luke 12:13-21 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
Purpose: The purpose of this parable is very straight forward: be careful to have right values in life and don’t trust in wealth, but in God.
Context: Our quote above starts with someone in the crowd calling out to Jesus to get his brother to share their inheritance. Jesus questions whether he is there to be an arbiter of such things, and then tells this parable to put desire, greed, life goals in perspective. It is then followed by extensive teaching about trusting God.
The Facts of the Parable:
- there was a rich man whose grounds produced a great harvest.
- he decided he needed more store-houses to cope with this abundance
- his goal became to just sit back and take life easy
- yet God said that he would lose his life that very night.
The Ordinariness of the Story: What initially strikes me is that what the rich man initially plans to do is wisdom – build more space to house the abundant grain. There is nothing wrong in that. The wrong has to be in what follows. His attitude is that by building bigger barns he can hold on to this abundant harvest and will not have to work for a long time. What is missing? Thanks to God for the abundance. No thought of giving to the poor out of his abundance. His response is entirely self-centred – note all the ‘I’s and ‘my’s and ‘myself’. He is entirely godless.
The Punchline: “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” How do you get rich towards God? By being God-centred, God-focused, God-thankful, God-praising and God-caring for others. Seeking God regularly in His word, seeking Him regularly in prayer, giving thanks to Him regularly, seeking His wisdom and direction regularly, these are all things that make a person ‘rich towards God’.
The Following Teaching: See what Jesus goes on to say: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes …..25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? …. 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well….. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Lk 12:22-34)
Setting your Heart: How can we do these things, how in this materialistic world can we counter the pressures of modern advertising creating false expectations? May I suggest just a few things
- First, work on your relationship with God. Put Him first, make time to spend with Him each day, determine to seek Him for decisions you need to make in life.
- Second, if God calls you to be a businessman, never step over the moral boundaries and never say or do anything that you would be ashamed about if it became public.
- Third, hold your money lightly and always be available to God to be a resource to the needy when He places them before you, be generous in the face of need.
- Fourth, limit the amount of borrowing you do to that which you know you can pay back without great effort and great risk, pay off your plastic each month, don’t let debt pile up, live within your means.
- Fifth, don’t let your life become imprisoned by the debts you have and the work hours you will have to put in to pay them off; make your family of greater priority – and your church.
- Sixth, maintain a thankful and grateful heart for all the good things in life that God has given you and let rejoicing in that be a measure of where you are with God.
Seventh, finally, consult Him for all financial decisions. Hold money lightly and don’t let it become the major issue in your life. Enough!