This parable is entitled in my Bible, “The Parable of the Rich Fool.” Fool is a powerful word and it is a word that Jesus cautions us against using, but He Himself uses it on two other occasions in parables; the parable of the foolish virgins and the parable of the foolish man who built his house on sand.
Jesus never called a person a fool – what He did do was tell parables about fools and, as always in a parable, it’s up to us to recognize who we identify with. That’s the power of the parable, but it's also its weakness – it only tells us what we will allow it to tell us. Jesus says if we have eyes that want to see and ears that want to hear, then He can lead us into all truth – about Himself and about ourselves. May He lead us into truth today.
So, in this case it’s about a rich fool – you can of course get a poor fool, a stupid fool, a clever fool, a young fool, an old fool. This parable is about a rich fool. I think this parable teaches us what a fool is, so let’s work briefly through it and see what we can learn, because one thing I think we probably all agree on, is that we don't want to be......foolish.
“A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide with me the property our father left us.’ ”
Notice the crowd: so this is a teaching for the multitude – ie: for you and for me.
“Jesus answered him, ‘My friend, who gave Me the right to judge or to divide the property between you two?’ ”
These words may surprise us but friends, there is a sense in which Jesus didn’t come to earth to solve family disputes. Jesus is saying here, “I am not a judge of worldly things” and later He will say His Kingdom is not of this world. He is a judge in the Kingdom of God.
“Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘There was once a rich man who had land which bore good crops. He began to think to himself, “I haven’t anywhere to keep all my crops. What can I do?”’ ”
Now we’re getting to the crux of the matter:What can I do? The advice he gets is: Invest in property and develop that property. Tear down and build up. How often do we ask: What can I do?
What should I desire? What is the right answer? Jesus' answer is: Build up treasure in Heaven.
But the man in our story doesn’t, and God says to him and to anyone who fails to build up treasure in Heaven…
Why fool?......because to try and satisfy your soul with earthly goods and to depend on living many years is foolish. Notice (please) the problem is not riches; the problem is not being rich in God’s sight.
“And Jesus concluded, ‘This is how it is with those who pile up riches for themselves but are not rich in God’s sight.’ ”
What does it mean to be rich in God’s sight..........we've looked at this recently so I'll just summarise: To be rich in God's sight is to be rich in love, in faith and in good works.
The rich man was concerned for no-one else, and he had no care for God. With no eternal perspective, the man’s life was completely focused on the temporal, the now. His goal to take it easy and to eat, drink and be merry reveals his desire for mere self-indulgence. He thought that, with his barns storing up mountains of wealth for the future, he had everything completely under control. The rich man had a fatal flaw: he had forgotten to put God at the centre of his life......that makes him ....a fool. That's what makes you and me fools as well!
The moral of the story: fools spend all their time storing up earthly wealth but neglect to have a rich relationship with God.
How is your relationship with God?
We are foolish to neglect it. We make a mistake if we only consider this story in the light of material possessions – too many cars, too many TV’s, too many clothes, too big a house, too much in the bank – since that was certainly the rich man’s problem. But Jesus’ comment at the end does not specify money or possessions:
“So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich in God’s sight.”
Are you rich in God’s sight? Satan tempts us to build up treasure in many ways. We might consider friendships or children or physical health to be our greatest possessions. We might even store up spiritual treasure after spiritual treasure, taking in as many as possible (Alpha Courses, Bible Studies, quiet time.....etc) , living for the sense of God’s presence to the exclusion of all else. Without realising it we sometimes are tempted to think: “Soul, you have had ample religious experiences and picked up spiritual insights and wisdom to last a lifetime. Relax.” And God could just as easily respond, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the spirituality you have hidden for yourself alone, who will benefit from it now?” We can make a god or a treasure out of prayer, Bible studies, Church, W.A., giving. We can live for our experiences rather than the God who is the source of them. We can hoard what we have learned and never share with others who are struggling. Richness should be in God Himself, not in anything else.
Who or what do you live for?
Who or what is at the centre of your life?
That’s really what this parable is about. Regardless of whether you are rich or poor, clever or not so clever, young or old, healthy or sick – the answer to the above questions need to be: God......who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Only He can really guide you regarding what to do with your riches, your money, your possessions;
Only He can really guide you regarding how to live if you are poverty stricken;
Only He can really guide you regarding how to use your brain to its full ability.
When God is at the centre of your existence, then being rich or poor, employed or unemployed, healthy or sick, being happy or sad or depressed..... when God is at the centre of our existence these things don’t disappear, .................but they are put into their proper place which always will be somewhere other than the centre of your existence. When God is at the centre of our existence these things lose their power to define who you are and what you do.
Is God at the centre of your life?