Fool is such a strong word. After all it’s defined as a silly or stupid person. The first part of the definition seems okay to use in characterizing someone as being silly. You know, “Quit fooling around” or “I was only fooling” or sometimes even “You fool” when we’re playing around with friends. But to use the second part of the definition (stupid) is often not acceptable because it sounds so harsh. To say it might hurt someone’s feelings, yet Jesus used this form of the definition often, as we will see in today’s parable about a Rich Fool in Luke 12.
But before we dive into the parable, let’s set the stage on why Jesus was teaching this one: A crowd was gathered around Jesus and someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Now, as a side note, inheritances still today destroy relationships between siblings quicker than anything. In fact the only way to counteract the selfish feelings that come through entitlement is to live according to God’s will – that we place others interests above our own. Yet that’s another topic for another time.
Getting back to the statement made by the brother (the younger brother), there are two things we can’t overlook when studying Jesus’ words:
Inheritances weren’t divided evenly.
The Jewish custom of that day was that the eldest brother received a double portion of the inheritance, and the daughters were lucky if they received anything.
The man’s command was totally selfish.
This man misinterpreted Jesus’ purpose. He misused Jesus’ authority by demanding that the inheritance be divided between him and his brother.
So Jesus let the man know how He felt about the command. He replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”
What Jesus was saying is this, “Don’t bother me with your petty, selfish requests! I’m not going to be your referee. I didn’t come to judge what you deem important. Let your own system take care of that. I’ve got more important things to do.”
Which leads us to Jesus’ first lesson: Jesus defends eternal matters only.
And I can never expect Jesus to arbitrate on my behalf if “self” is my number one priority. After all, if Jesus was about humility and selflessness, he expects the same characteristics out of you and me. And when we are truthful about ourselves before God, it’s then that Jesus becomes our lawyer.
But He didn’t stop there. He had one more thing to teach the brother.
He said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed: a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
So Jesus’ second lesson is this: Greed destroys
I clearly can see why Jesus warned of greed. Greed causes me to focus on myself. Greed is all about me and what I want. Greed makes me lust and desire for more – IT MAKES ME COVET. Greed can even consume me.
And greed is not merely limited to money or possessions – it can be expressed toward anything that causes me to focus on “me and what I want” rather than on God. So Jesus says to us, “Stay away from it.”
And so Jesus told a parable (Luke 12: 16-21) to prove His point.
So what was Jesus condemning in this parable? Was Jesus saying we’re not to prepare for our future? Was Jesus saying that we should not have saving accounts for the present and retirement accounts for the future?
No, Jesus was not condemning good planning. Jesus was not even condemning riches. In fact, He wanted us to see that riches are to be seen as a blessing from God and we are to be good stewards of the resources and things that He has loaned us.
What Jesus was condemning though was the man’s attitude in verse 19, “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.’”
What you see here in this story is that God had blessed this man with the ability to gain wealth…But this man chose to live as if God did not matter (that he had done all this himself).
And this leads us to Jesus’ third lesson: Attitude toward riches condemns. Jesus was saying, “Your riches will not condemn you, but your attitude toward them will.”
This lesson does not just apply to those who are monetarily rich. It applies to everyone who has possessions. Our attitude toward our possessions can condemn us if we hoard them for ourselves, especially when we see a need.
And finally Jesus shared in the story that this man’s life would be taken.
So why did God demand this man’s life? The reason was to prove to his listener’s two things:
- God controls life and can take it at any time. In 1985 I was the pallbearer for my cousin after she died in a car wreck.
- All possessions come from God. So if you store treasures up for yourself without being rich toward God (giving back and using these possessions for God’s purposes), God can and will take them back.
Is Jesus trying to teach us that if you’re selfish with God’s belongings, you will automatically die? No. Sometimes God permits a person’s life to be taken. Sometimes He permits a person’s wealth to be taken. Sometimes He permits a person’s spiritual blessing to be taken.
I mean, how many times have we heard of extremely wealthy people becoming bankrupt due to greed? Sometimes it happens gradually. Sometimes it happens overnight. How many times have we seen extremely famous people looking for something to fill the void for the lack of peace in their souls? The tabloids and news reports show that they often fill it with drugs, alcohol, and sexual relationships.
Jesus said, “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
Jesus wants his students to see that the man in his story was a fool because he was thinking solely of himself – HE WAS GREEDY – “I have done all this. Everything – the grain, the barns – it all belongs to me and I will use it for my pleasure. AND MINE ONLY.” But God said, “No!”
So the summary of Jesus’ teaching today can merely be summed up in these questions of reflection:
- Is self getting in the way of Jesus being your lawyer?
- Are you on guard against greed?
- Where is your attitude in relationship to the blessings you’ve been given?
- Are you rich toward God?
Today you have been given some more seed that God wants to take root in your heart. And Jesus, the greatest teacher to ever live, says that those who don’t allow the seed to grow, and who live solely for themselves are mere FOOLS. Because …….
- His seed (His truth) has given mankind all the answers to obtaining eternal life.
- His seed has given mankind the answers to living life to its fullest while here on this earth.
- His seed has given mankind the answers on how to treat others and how to find a peace that passes all understanding.
But all this means is you must be willing to allow God to change your heart – to allow God to till your soil.
Hear me out: Don’t let Jesus call you a Fool because you don’t want to live by His teachings. Invite Him in to till your heart so that His seed may take deep root in your soul.