“A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
This profound statement made by Jesus was said when he taught about the Parable of the Rich Fool and can be read here Luke 12:13-21. This is not a story about whether having riches is good or bad, or if having them makes one a fool or not. Jesus wants us to understand what truly matters in life. Hoarding possessions and trying to find happiness and security in them is as futile as building your house without a foundation.
Let’s look at this passage and see what we can glean from the
- The man who posed the question to Jesus
- Jesus response
- The main character of the parable, the rich fool.
- The application of being Rich towards God
The Man who posed the question
While Jesus was teaching the crowd, someone interrupted asking for assistance in his own personal issue. Let’s look into this for a moment:
- Those who have ears let them hear – If you look at the previous verses of the chapter, you see that Jesus was teaching the crowd. But the man here does not seem to be paying any attention to what Jesus was teaching. He was right there in the crowd with the others but he seems only to be pre-occupied with matters of this world, especially how much wealth he could attain.
For us: How often are we so pre-occupied with things to do, that we do not listen to His voice? Gods words, reminders and warnings to us should not be just background noise but may we zero in on what he has to say and let all the rest only then take up our attention.
2. Tells Jesus how to solve the problem – The man says “Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” For us: How often do we desire something and proceed to go ahead and tell God exactly how we want a request to be fulfilled.
3. Is it right in God’s eyes – He is so caught up in his desire for more, that he does not pause to enquire from Jesus if what he desires is right in His eyes or not? He already decided what he wants and he is trying to use Jesus to achieve his end.
For us: Like the man who did not wait upon Jesus to know whether his desire sits right in the Lord’s eyes and what his next steps should be, how often do we behave in a similar manner. Not waiting to know from the Lord if what we have in mind is something that he approves of or not. But instead go ahead and lay out a plan and expect the Lord to answer our request and then wonder why our request seem to go unanswered.
Jesus says “Man, who appointed me a judge or arbiter between you.?
- Jesus does not directly solve the issue but uses this as a teachable moment.
- Jesus is not denying His role as judge of the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1), but he refuses to be drawn into a dispute knowing the man’s motives were not pure and just. Not making a legal judgement, he made a moral one.
- Jesus at that time was sharing some valuable teaching with the crowd. Although many times in scripture we read Jesus being interrupted and allowing the interruption and addressing the issue, over here we see Him staying focused on the task of continuing to teach and did not allow some petty dispute to allow Him to go off track.
For us: This reminds me that it is ok to be interrupted with our plans when the reason for the interruption is something that is from God and good for all involved. But we have to remember to check and see if the interruption is from the enemy, the sole purpose being to derail us from carrying on in the path the Lord has been leading and guiding us through.
4. Jesus cannot be deceived – In calling the person a Man, Jesus subtly is pointing out that the person is after all just a mere man and He is Lord. In so saying, although the man thinks that all he reveals is what was said in his words, Jesus sees what is in His heart -his motives.
Jesus recognises the greed within and then as such the motive behind the ask. Jesus then proceeds to the parable.
The Rich Fool
At first glance at the Rich man, he seemed to be one who worked towards getting a good harvest, invested his time, money and energy in his field and is reaping the benefits and is planning ahead on saving what he has earned. There is no mention of any deceit or wrongful measures carried out in getting an abundant harvest.
Scripture does not admonish working hard, planning or saving. But why then does God call him a fool and Jesus use this example to warn us about greed.
- Motive – what is the difference between just working hard and having the right perspective when it comes to working hard. Verses such as Titus 3:14, 1 Tim 5:8, 2 Thess 3:10, Eph 4:28, 1 Thess 4:11-12 teach us that it is good to work hard, to provide for your daily necessities, to provide for your family, to help those in need and to gain the respect of others and eventually use that platform to point to God. The difference is in your motive. His motives did not line up with God’s – The rich man did not seem to share any of the motives mentioned above other than hoarding up for himself.
- Isolation of the Soul – He seemed to live a very selfish life and as we read in the parable, he seems to be making all his plans by himself reflecting a very isolated and lonely life. He did not want to share what was in his barns or even what was in heart and soul. Reluctance to share time and resources with others does not contribute towards building up heavenly treasures but is also not very rewarding in the now.
For us: Isolation of the soul is destructive. We are designed for fellowship; it helps us stay accountable, grow in our faith and stirs us to love and do good to others. Be a person who invests in others, get some wisdom and insight as you engage with others and you will find that it is very rewarding to share yourself and what God has blessed you with.
3. I, me, myself and mine – When talking about His harvest and his plans he clearly does not acknowledge God’s hand in providing all that he has. He refers to all of it with either an ‘I’ or ‘my’. In verse 16, Jesus says, the ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. Notice how he did not say anything that it was because of the rich man. Psalm 24 tells us that “the earth is the Lords and everything in it”. Yes, the man worked towards it but without the Lords hand upon it all – fertile soil, the right amount of rain, the perfect amount of sunshine and no crop destroying insects making it all ideal for an abundant crop and thereby blessing the man’s efforts.
4. Wise – From the standards of this world his actions seemed wise but what is deemed wise in the worlds eyes is not necessarily deemed wise in God’s eyes. Here we are talking about spiritual foolishness.
Rich towards God
Jesus ends this parable with this application. What does it mean to be rich toward God?
We should not limit our understanding of being rich only in a monetary sense but we can also be rich in our time, in our various skills and talents that are given by God. Whatever God has blessed and equipped us with, we are to use it for His kingdom purposes. To not layup earthly treasures for ourselves and that is being rich toward God.
May we remember to not let not stuff take precedence over our soul. Let our physical life be in submission to our spiritual life and let our life be a force for who God is and His kingdom purposes.