The Parable Of The Rich Fool


“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; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:13-15

Have you ever been having a conversation with someone when someone else jumps in and totally changes the subject? That’s what this guy does.

Jesus had been speaking about vital truths, of divine providence. He had been speaking about vital truths of confession. He had been speaking about the Holy Spirit and while Jesus was talking with His disciples this man speaks up and jumps in with a question.

Now, what does this tell us about the man? Well, this tells us that he wasn’t interested in spiritual things, his whole heart and life were absorbed in his present life.

And so Jesus said to this individual, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Jesus bluntly refused to answer this man’s blunt question. Jesus didn’t want anything to do with a quarrel over family property.

The Jewish Law was specific enough about this kind of thing, Deuteronomy 21:15-21. The Law said that the firstborn son was to receive a double portion, two-thirds. of the inheritance and the remainder was to be divided among the other sons, this Law left no room for debate.

Now this man who spoke to Jesus obviously must have been the younger brother. And so he comes along and speaks to Jesus to try and get Him to go on his side in order to get an equal share of the inheritance. In other words, he knew the Law but he wanted more than his rightful share.

And what follows is one of the most severe warnings in the Bible against covetousness, Luke 12:15. And this warning covers any and all forms of covetousness. But what is covetousness? It’s not simply a desire for property.

For example, a person can have an excessive and unrestrained desire for food, someone might say that they are hungry for food. Just as some people are hungry for food some other people may be hungry for gain.

In other words, some people have a selfish ambition to want more and more. And that’s because there are people who will never be satisfied with what they have. And anyone who desires anything in that way is a perfect example of what covetousness is, it’s an excessive desire for gain.

And so after warning against covetousness, Jesus states the reason for the warning, Luke 12:15. The NEB version says, “Even when a man has more than enough, his wealth does not give him life.”

What’s Jesus saying? He’s saying that life is more than things. He’s saying that the success of a person’s work cannot be measured in terms of what he has been able to accumulate.

And if you are still confused about what Jesus means, it’s now that He shares ‘The parable of the rich fool’ to illustrate the meaning.

“The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 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 all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things 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 anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:16-21

Every day of our lives we see evidence of covetousness all around us. And while adultery, drunkenness and dishonesty are still frowned upon, covetousness rides right through society and is pretty much ignored. Even among self-professed Christians, it is so widespread that it is scarcely recognised for what it is.

And what is it? It’s a deadly sin. A worldly atmosphere so threatens the church that its very life is threatened. Individual members are in such hot pursuit of their own interests that they have found very little time and energy left for the Lord. We really need to listen to what Jesus is teaching us here today.

Here was a man who in the world’s eyes was a great success, yet God called him a fool. But why? What was wrong with his life? How did he miss the way? How did he act like a fool? Well, this man was a fool because of the important things he forgot, he forgot 5 things.

1. He forgot other people.

He thought of no one except himself. This is the first thing that leaps out at you when you read the parable. 6 times he uses the word “I” in the parable, and 5 times he uses the word “My” in the parable. This man was all about self, everything he did, he did for himself.

And other people never even entered his mind, not once did he remember those people who worked for him, Luke 13:17. Think about it, maybe the farmer across the field was saying to himself, “What can I do, for I don’t have any bread to feed my children.” And if he didn’t have enough barns, there were other places he could have put it.

You might ask where, where could he have put it? He could have placed it in the hands of orphans and widows, Luke 12:33-34 / James 1:27. That’s where he could have put his crops.

He could have put it at the feet of the homeless, he could have put it in the houses of the widows, or he could have put it in the mouths of the orphans and infants.

But Oh no this rich fool didn’t think about those barns, all he could think about was his own little world where there was no room for no one except himself.

2. He forgot that man is more than what he owns.

He looked at life in terms of the physical things only. And it’s here that he makes a tragic mistake like much of the world makes today. He didn’t distinguish between what a man has and what a man is.

It’s not always easy to make a definite distinction because many of you who have been brought up in the church still counts a person fortunate if he enjoys a long run of prosperity, Mark 10:23 / 1 Timothy 6:9-10.

In other words, a person’s life is not the same as his business. You see it’s more important to be rich in good deeds than it is to just to be rich in goods, 1 Timothy 6:17-19.

3. He forgot the source of real happiness.

He had a false conception of life and so because of that, he had a false conception of happiness. He thought he could be happy by indulging himself, Ecclesiastes 2:3-10.

Happiness is not found in things, money can buy a lot of things but it can’t buy a sense of usefulness. It can’t buy a clear conscience, it can’t buy a mind content with God and man, Ecclesiastes 2:11. These are the real riches and without them, no one can be really happy.

4. His biggest blunder was, that he forgot God.

He didn’t take God into account at all. There was nothing wrong with him wanting to tear down his barns and build bigger ones because as we know a good farmer must have foresight.

But his fatal mistake was that in all of his well-laid plans, he didn’t spare one thought for God. And this is a common downfall for many Christians.

Whatever our long-range plans may be, we need to remember that our biggest factor of all is God, James 4:13-15. And if we ever leave God out of our plans then you can be sure that our plans will end in ruin.

5. He forgot about death.

He thought he was going to live a long life, Luke 12:19, and yet God says to him “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.” Luke 12:20.

He only had one more day left to live and in so many ways we deceive ourselves constantly by thinking that we too have got plenty of time to live.

We put off until tomorrow and the truth of the matter is that we don’t even know if there will be a tomorrow. Satan doesn’t say to us, ‘you will not die’ but he does say to us is, ‘you will not die soon,’ Psalm 90:9-10. At the height of this man’s prosperity and self-satisfaction, God appeared to the rich man and required his life.

How much did he leave? He left it all. No wonder he’s a fool. He spent his whole life striving for the things he had to leave behind. He neglected the true values of life that he could have taken with him, Matthew 6:19-21.

Many people may have a good title while they are here on earth, whether it be the Queen, the Prime Minister, whether it is Lord such and such or the Mayor of London. But when they get to heaven, they have no permanent lease or title.

We know the story about the rich man and Lazarus. The story is about a rich guy who lived in a great big mansion and outside near the gate was a beggar named Lazarus.

And for years he begged at his gates but the rich man did nothing about it. Now he wasn’t unkind to the guy, he never had him thrown in prison or moved away. But one night his soul slipped out from him and all his wealth, all his ease and all his self-indulgences were gone.

Why was the rich man condemned?

The rich man lost his chance, Lazarus was right there in front of him and yet he did nothing about it, Matthew 25:41-46.

The rich fool in the parable forgot about many things and Satan whispered in his ear, ‘these are not important’.