Bible Study 2021
The Parable of the Rich Fool
We come today to Luke 12:13-21, “And someone in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But He said to him, ‘Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbiter over you?’ And He said to them, ‘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.’
And Jesus told them a parable, saying, ‘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’ll do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and all my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come.”
Take it easy, 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.” This text of Scripture has been called, “The Rich Fool.” It could be called, “The Doom of the Materialist.” It is a lesson for all of us.
As we have learned through Luke, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah and the Savior, came to give sinners the mercy and grace of forgiveness and eternal life. And Jesus, of course, attracted people in huge crowds with His message and His miracles. But as the three years of His ministry progressed, it became apparent that the people were rejecting Him and His message.
But inside this increasingly hostile crowd of tens of thousands, there are still some who haven’t made up their mind. There are some still studying Jesus, still trying to come to a conclusion; and it is to them that Jesus directs this long sermon and discourse, heard by all, but directed at those still trying to decide concerning Jesus. Their souls were still in the balance. They were not yet confirmed.
And if they are to believe the truth, and receive the gospel, salvation and eternal life, there are things at the very outset that they have to avoid. Verse 15; “He said to them, ‘Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed.’” If they want to receive salvation, forgiveness, eternal life in heaven, there are forces to avoid. Beware of hypocrisy and beware of greed.
There are only two realms which exist: one is the material realm, and the other is the immaterial; one is the spiritual, the other is the physical; one is the natural, the other is the supernatural. There are only those two realms. Hypocrisy relates to the spiritual realm, and greed relates to the material world. Both the material and the immaterial world threaten to damn eternal souls.
And though they can be separately described and separately defined, they don’t exist separately. They are blended together in the lives of the unbeliever. And that is true even of those who are most involved in the religious world. Religious hypocrites, the perpetrators of false religions are invariably motivated by money. False teachers do what they do for the love of money. That’s always been true.
It’s important to acknowledge that all the things we have in this world come from God, in this sense, that God created a planet which has this capability to produce these material things. God does give us richly all things to enjoy. The issue is not possessions, the issue is attitude toward them. What you have in this life is only in this life. If it is material, it belongs only to this life; it has no enduring value.
The rich man had more than he needed. 1 Timothy 6:9 -10 says, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
Let’s turn to verse 13, “Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’” Jesus is teaching about false religions. And He has been warning hypocrites that whatever they’re hiding will be revealed, whatever they’re covering will be uncovered. And He’s warned the people not to worry about what men say when the worst they can do is kill your body.
But you better fear God who has the authority to cast people into hell, He’s the one you’d better honor instead of doing your hypocritical religion before men, that you may receive accolades from them. He’s been talking about honoring the Son of God in verse 8 and 9. Confess the Son of Man before men, rather than denying Him and being denied before the angels of God.” Realize God is Judge and Christ is Savior.”
He’s talking about the loftiest of all things, the most elevated truths of the Trinity, and some guy in the crowd blurts this out: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” And he can’t wait for the Lord to stop talking about heaven, salvation, forgiveness, revelation, and get to the good stuff. This is the materialist with no interest in the spiritual at all.
And it’s not a question, it’s a command: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” Well, he identifies Jesus as a rabbi. And rabbis did this as a routine in their villages. Rabbis were approached by people to bring the law to bear upon civil issues. And so his request is within the framework of cultural expectation: “Tell my brother to divide the family inheritance to me.”
He feels like he’s not getting what he deserves. Now it’s useless to speculate who’s the older brother, who’s the younger brother, and did he have a right to this. There were ancient laws in Israel about the inheritance in Deuteronomy 21. The estate was left to the oldest son. He cannot waste it on himself, he simply managed it for the next generation. This was just a manifestation of his greed.
Verse 14, “He said to him, ‘Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbiter over you?’” That is an unsympathetic response. “Man,” that is not an endearing expression. That’s a term of distance. That’s a title used for a stranger. “I don’t know you, and I don’t know anything about you, and I have no relationship to you. Who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?”
Now we know that God has appointed all judgment to Christ, but that’s a spiritual judgment. But when it comes to economic matters, family matters, social matters, the distribution of wealth, economics and earthly possessions, He renders no decisions. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” But He didn’t hesitate to render a decision on that man’s spiritual condition.
Verse 15, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Solomon says, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income.” People who love money and who love abundance and love possessions are never satisfied when they get it; it’s just like drinking salt water.
The sin is being discontent. It’s not the amount, it’s the attitude. Abraham was wealthy. Job was wealthy. Solomon was wealthy. In the New Testament, Joseph of Arimathea was wealthy. And there were wealthy people in the New Testament who had the church in their home because they had a large enough home to have a church. It’s about how you feel about what you have.
The word “life” in Greek can be one of two words: bios, which is simply biological life as opposed to being dead. Then the word for life which is used here, zōē, encompasses all that makes life worth living, satisfaction, fulfillment, enjoyment, meaning and purpose. And Jesus says, “Even when you have surplus, that doesn’t take care of giving you real life.” The life He’s referring to here is eternal life.
That’s the only kind of life that is fulfilling, satisfying, producing peace and joy and hope and blessing. You’re never going to get that real life from the material world even if you have more than enough. So He’s saying to everybody who thinks that way, “You’re in the wrong path.” You’re never going to have your thirst quenched, because the only life that satisfies is the life of God in your soul.
Jesus told them a parable, it’s a story placed alongside a principle to illustrate the principle. Verse 16, “Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.” Now that’s good. No dishonesty here, no extortion, no crime, nothing; he just had a great crop. If you’re a farmer, you are most dependent upon circumstances that are outside your control, right?
You should thank God for a good crop, since providentially He controls all the elements in the factors. But in verse 17, “And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ There are a lot of options, except the one that he came up with in verse 18, “So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.”
All we hear in these two verses are eight “I’s” and four “my’s.” I. And here you get the insight into the materialist. This is an imaginary story. But what’s wrong with this picture? He’s a smart guy. He is crafty. So what do you do? You restrict supply. So you build bigger barns on the same pad, and you store it all, and then you let it out at whatever pace you want. You’re going to control the prices.
And he didn’t just store his grain there, he stored his goods there too. This guy has other stuff he’s storing up. He should have said, “You know, God, You’re the one that makes the rain fall. You’re the one that makes the seed to grow. I need to take some of this that You’ve given to me and give it back to You, because I know I’m to love You with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.
And then I know the second law is to love your neighbor as yourself. And because Your love abides in me, I love these people, and I want to share this with others.” Well, none of that is here. Verse 19, “And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” He lived alone, and when he had a conversation it was with himself.
You’re set for life of leisure, man. All you have to do is control the spout at the silo, and let out only as much as you want to control the price, and you will have it all. “Take it easy,” means “retire.” “Eat, drink and be merry,” is blatant hedonism. “You only go around once, so grab all the gusto you can get.” The problem with this man in the story is he forgot three things: God, others and his own mortality.
And then comes the surprise, verse 20, “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” Oh, the materialist’s worst nightmare; somebody else gets it all. The actual Greek says, “This night they demand your soul.” That’s an old rabbinic expression to refer to an act of God which is plural: Elohim. “They” God, the Trinity.
James 4:13-15 says, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”
And Jesus also quotes Ecclesiastes 2:18 - 20, “Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me. 19 And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will rule over all my labor in which I toiled and in which I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 Therefore I despaired of all the labor in which I had toiled under the sun.”
And the application of the story is in verse 21, “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” He is a fool, because he hasn’t given consideration to God; and he’s going to face God, and he hasn’t done anything to help others. He has no thought for his mortality, and here he is dead. Before he could ever realize any of his greedy plans, he was gone.
You can’t take it with you. If you haven’t used what God does give you for His glory and for the benefit of others, you’re a fool. Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-20, ““Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
Luke 12:30 - 33, “For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. 32 “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell what you have and give alms, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.”
The reality is, you probably aren’t going to live long enough to use it all; and if that’s the case, be rich toward God. That’s a synonym for “laying up treasure in heaven.” Thank God that we know the truth. Thank God that we see our possessions and the richness that God has provided for us as a gift from Him, to be given back, to be held as a stewardship, to be invested in His kingdom and for His glory. Let’s pray.