“The land of a certain rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear 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 many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry,”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:16-21
Opening Points to Ponder:
Is there something wrong with being organized about the way we steward our goods? Why wouldn’t it be a good and practical idea to build more storage if current capacity is too small?
Do you have something in your life right now that needs bigger barns?
Deuteronomy 28 cites the material blessings of God as a benefit for those who “will diligently obey the Lord our God.” Part of the promise says, “And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and in the produce of your ground, in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you.” Therefore, does material prosperity signal God’s favor? How does this square with what Jesus is saying in the parable of the rich fool?
God's Blessings Up Side Down
The parable popularly known as The Rich Fool must have presented quite a dilemma for the crowds listening to it. They had been hearing all of their lives that prosperity indicated God’s stamp of approval. The Pharisees taught them to look back to the great Patriarchs like Abraham. God increased and blessed Abraham in everything he did and he was exceedingly rich.
Before God’s people crossed over into the Promised Land they were told how things were going to be: “And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you will obey the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 28:2) When it was originally told them, it was an IF/THEN clause. IF you will obey God THEN his blessings will assuredly follow.
Over time God’s promise got turned upside-down. Rather than serve the Lord with a whole heart and consequently reap his blessings it was easier to acquire riches and possessions and then point to them as evidence of God’s favor. How convenient. You could bypass the “IF” and skip straight down to the “THEN.”
What did the Pharisees forget about when they taught the people about abundance and prosperity? While it’s not possible to serve God without receiving blessings it is possible to possess material blessings without serving God. Jesus came along and corrected their presumptions first. The fact that he called the rich man a “fool” must have been quite a shock. Weren’t ALL rich men on an inside track with God? In fact, isn’t that how you can tell whom God favored? According to Jesus, apparently not.
Every Form of Greed
Once he had their attention he proceeded to give them a new take on greed. Greed was the problem with the Rich Fool. Jesus sets the parable up by saying this first; “’Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.’” (Luke 12:15)
We think of greed as the desire to have more, to never be satisfied. My dictionary says it is “excessive or insatiable desire for wealth or gain.” But that’s only one form of greed. The Rich Fool wasn’t particularly grasping for more but he was about not letting any of what he had go. That’s why his bright idea was to build bigger barns. THEN he could take his ease. Why so? Presumably because now he was secure.
Therefore, he took security in his material possessions but real security comes from knowing God. If we know God we are secure. Period. What if that truth is securely tucked inside a man’s heart? A man like that might be able to give his overflow away. Such a man would be grateful to God for his abundance. That man might think about how to bless others instead of how to build bigger barns.
How is it that greed robs a person of the freedom to do all those things? Greed assumes that you have to look out for “Numero Uno” because no one else is going to. Greed trusts in self - not in God. Greed hoards whatever abundance is there in case there’s a “rainy day.”
When Jesus said, “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you’” (Verse 20) he went to the heart of the security issue. What good was the “stuff” going to be if you were in the grave? He pressed the point that the grave could come at any time.
The parable of the Rich Fool was not just for those listening to Jesus back then but for all generations down to our own and down to you and me. Do you identify with greed in any form? I hate to admit it but I’ve certainly struggled with it at certain times. There is always a pull to live out of the flesh instead of out of the spirit. The uncertainties of life draw us to self-interest rather than “others” interest.
Rich Toward God
In the end of the parable Jesus makes a statement that provides a solution to any who are like the Rich Fool. “So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Verse 21) That’s the kicker. How can you be rich toward God when he owns it all?
Maybe the first thing is to admit that very fact. Once we truthfully acknowledge that we really own nothing we can be better stewards of HIS riches. We can direct the resources he has placed in our hands to things that matter to him. Being rich toward people is being rich toward God.
Treasure is a blessing to us only if we treasure God first. His favor does follow those who follow him with a whole heart. We are still eligible for the blessings in Deuteronomy IF we set ourselves on obeying God. When those blessings come to us we must guard against every kind of greed. That will take us out of danger of ever being called a Rich Fool.
Closing Challenge Points
How do you judge God’s favor on others? Have you ever assumed his blessing on someone based on what they did or did not have?
If greed gripped your heart, what form would it likely take?
Do you have opening in your life right now to be rich toward God?