When you study the parables of Jesus, you’ll notice that many times Jesus told the stories in response to a question or statement someone was making to him. After all, parables are simply earthly stories with heavenly meanings. The same is true of the parable of the rich fool. Here it is in 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.”
When I read this, the first thought that popped into my head was “Ouch!” These were some harsh words. What is important however is to look at this in context. With that in mind, I want to divide this parable into 2 thought groups. What Jesus is not saying, and what Jesus is saying.
What Jesus Is Not Saying
1. There is nothing sinful about acquiring wealth.
Money or wealth alone is not sinful. In fact, there is nothing wrong if you have money. Money or wealth does not determine how holy you are, neither is it a sign that God is with you or for you. The amount of money or possessions you have is not an indicator of whether God is pleased with you or not. After all, the sun rises on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45).
2. There is nothing wrong with saving for your future.
We live in a day and age where in order to retire from working, you have to save and plan for your future. You work today and save some of what you earn so that one day you can retire from work. This is perfectly ok and Jesus is not saying don’t do that.
3. You must work until you die and can never stop to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
This man had clearly done well for himself. He had an abundant crop which means he had to work hard to produce that crop. It is very rare to get great results from sloppy or lazy work. This man was probably diligent and disciplined and put in the time and effort required to get a harvest of that size.
In fact, if I was an employer, I might want this type of worker. When you work hard God has no problem with you enjoying the fruits of your labor. Luke 10:7 reminds us that the worker deserves his wages. This man had every right to benefit from the work he had done. So do you. If you work hard there is nothing wrong with taking some time to enjoy the results of your hard work. Take a vacation. Enjoy a good meal. Go to a Broadway show. Do something fun. It’s ok and God is perfectly fine with that.
With that being said, let’s now turn our attention to what Jesus is saying in this parable to bring some more truths to light.
What Jesus Is Saying
1. Be careful about greed.
As we stated earlier, Jesus had no problem with the man’s abundance. He had a problem with the man’s greed. Greed is one of those deceptive things because the man who has thinks he never has enough. Notice these two Scriptures:
“Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).
The problem this man faced was one of idolatry. His greed led him to put his trust and his worship into the amount or abundance of his possessions. He worshipped his wealth and that was one of his problems. So be careful about greed.
2. Money is deceptive.
One of the challenging things about having lots of money is that your wealth can create a false sense of security. It can blur the lines, giving you either a sense of entitlement or causing you not to recognize your need of God.
This man thought he had everything he needed in this life. However, in his thinking he forgot that what we see is temporary, what is unseen is eternal. His money blinded him to the reality of preparing for eternity. In other words, don’t just plan for life on this earth, make sure you are planning for your eternity.
3. Don’t be a hoarder.
Part of this man’s problem was that he had more than enough. He had so much that he ran out of room to store all that he had. At this point you might think he would say, I have more than I will ever need, who can I help with my abundance. Nope that’s not what he said. His answer was to build bigger barns.
His answer showed the selfish nature of his heart. He was only interested in his own blessing. It is important to recognize that when God blesses you, it’s not so you can keep it all to yourself. He blesses you so you can bless others. This man clearly forgot that.
4. Recognize your source.
This man thought that his abundance was simply a result of the work of his hands. He was blessed because he did the work. While the truth of him doing the work may be evident, he forgot that the one who gave him the ability to do the work was God.
Remember, no matter how great you become at doing anything, your ability to accomplish did not come from you, it came from your creator. Your wisdom, talents, abilities and everything comes from him. He is your source.
5. There’s more to life.
The fascinating words of Jesus reminds us that there is more to this life than how much we have. In this season of life we are in, we are constantly reminded of this. Possessions can be gone in an instant.
The tragedy of this man’s life was that he spent it acquiring possessions. He never got to fully enjoy those possessions because his life ended before he could enjoy them. As you consider life, recognize that how much you have does not determine the quality or enjoyment you will experience in this life.
I remember hearing this quote: A man was praying and asked God to give him all things so he could enjoy life. God said I will give you life so you can enjoy all things. Understand there is more to this life.
To sum up this parable I think it is fitting to use Jesus’ own words from Matthew 6:19-21:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
I pray today that we would all be rich towards God and store up much treasure in heaven – treasure that you will be able to enjoy for all eternity.