The Parable of The Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21)

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The Parable of the Rich Fool

Luke 12:13-21

KV 12:21 “This is how it will be with those who store up things for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

This week I looked really hard for a joke about fools for my introduction. However, everyone I found was so foolish that they either didn’t make any sense to me.  In English we say a fool is a silly or stupid person who lacks judgment or sense.  In America we have a day devoted to fools called April Fools ’ Day where we trick someone into falling for something to make them appear to be a fool.  Have you ever been tricked into being a fool?

In today’s passage we will study about the King of all fools. He is the king of all fools because King Jesus has called this man a fool.  Psalm 14:1 says “The fool says in his heart there is no God.”  The fool in the parable was deceived into thinking and living like there was no God.  God blessed him with an abundant harvest but he failed to give thanks to God.  His life became self-centered and based on his things and his pleasure.   He thought his struggle in this life was only over material things.  I pray through today’s message we may not be a fool struggling only over material things but learn to struggle with God.  That we learn to bring our heart to God and offer up the things God gave us to him so we can be rich toward God.

Part 1 (Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance v13-15)

This week’s passage picks up where we left off last week. A large crowd of many thousands had gathered so much so that they were trampling on one another.  Jesus was busy teaching his disciples about the yeast of hypocrisy and fearing God instead of man when a man seems to bust out of nowhere with an imperative command for Jesus. Let’s read verse 13.  Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”  During those days it was customary that the older brother received double the inheritance and the rest divided between the other siblings.  However, this man seems to have received nothing.  Perhaps it was this sense of unfairness or injustice that prompts this man to come to Jesus.  Struggling with this sense of injustice must have so consumed this man that first is able to get the attention of Jesus and 2nd that he dares ask such a personal question in the midst of many thousands of people.

When we look at this man’s plea to Jesus it reminds us of children coming to their parents seeking one to take their side in the dispute and put it to rest. Fortunately my kids haven’t come to me yet asking for their inheritance, but they do come with pleas such as “Dad, tell my brother it is his turn to take a shower first.  Or Dad, my brother played two games and I only played one”.  When they do this it can make a parent go insane.

Let’s take a look at verses 14-15 to see how Jesus replied to this man. Let’s read together: 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; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

Jesus’ response is surely not the response the man expected. The man probably expected to say to his brother “Ha, I’m right and you’re wrong!  Now give me my fair share!”.  However, Jesus immediately turns to this man’s own heart problem.  Proverbs 4:23 states “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  Life is not fair but we must know and live by spiritual truth.  By not fixing his heart problem his entire life will be affected.  When people place material things, justice and other matters over the matter of their own heart they are doing a foolish thing.  People affected by similar experiences often play the role of victim their entire life, holding on tightly to whatever they have and living in self pity.  Though life is not fair, Jesus is fair.  Romans 10:11-13 states “As Scripture says, anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is the Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  In Jesus the weak will be made strong, the poor will be made rich.  Whatever injustice or pain you are suffering from the hurt of others bring it to Jesus and he will heal you and make you a new creation.

What was the man’s heart problem?  The verse says be on guard and watch out for all kinds of greed.  Google says the meaning of greed is an intense and selfish desire for something.  Another definition I found was that greed is thinking that everyone and everything exists for you.   The common theme in everyone’s definition of greed is “self”.

Last week I was told by a colleague that there may be a faster way to go home.  Thus, I decided to try the new way.  But on the way I was so tempted by all the scenery to the left and to the right.  Huge, modern 3 story houses with yards more than 20 times the size of College Park Woods, green grass, fancy looking gates.  Suddenly I couldn’t take my eyes off the houses as the thought of even pitching a tent here just crossed my mind.  I had such a selfish and intense desire that I forgot my purpose in taking this route was to join the bible study earlier.  So it is when we let those greedy thoughts rule over us and consume us we lose the purpose to which God called us.  I lived in China for more than 8 years seeing the effect of the 1 child policy, I realized how precious it is to have a sibling.  My kids were so happy to play with each other, to talk to each other, to teach each other, encourage each other, care for each other and help each other.  What a great gift from God to whoever has one for all their lifetime, Bible says a brother is born for adversity.   The greed blinded these two men to argue over the material possessions their father left them but in fact the most valuable thing their father left them was each other.  Jesus Christ did not die for their things but Jesus Christ did die for my brother.  When believe this God will grant us the richest life we can ever imagine.  May God bless you to repent of your greed and be the brother or sister God called you to be.  Amen!

Not only can greed destroy our relationships but it can also leave us wanting more and more. One man said that if he could grant any curse upon his enemy he would curse them with the curse of greed.  When we are greedy we are never satisfied or content.  In the Bible greed is referred to as idolatry, which happens when we substitute and worship something else instead of the true God (the spring of living water).  Jeremiah 2:13 says “My people have committed two sins; they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”  May God bless you to find the true source of living water and cling to it firmly all the days of your life.

Part 2 (The parable of the rich fool 16-21)

Jesus then goes on to tell the man a parable. Let’s read verse 16 together.  “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.”  This verse which is written in passive verse suggests to us that it is God who blessed this man with the ground that yielded this abundant harvest.  Though I’m sure the man had to work hard and use his agricultural knowledge (his skilled method of pulling weeds, careful usage of water and proper placement of seeds) the verse seems to give him no credit for the abundant harvest.  Though we also must work hard in our life we must realize and acknowledge that God has blessed us to live in this rich nation, with health to be able to work, with family and friends and church members who support us and pray for us and teachers who patiently teach us.   

The man was already rich but got even richer due this great blessing bestowed upon him. What did he do?  My son, Nathan, always wants to help me so he drew this picture for us.  It shows a vast variety of rich crops that this man harvested.  Let’s read verse 17-19.  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 my surplus grain.  And I’ll say to myself, You have plenty of grain laid up for many years.  Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”

Jesus then calls him a fool in verse 20. Why?  When we look at the man’s reaction to his newfound blessing we can find out a lot about this man.  First and foremost, he doesn’t acknowledge God. Psalm 14:1 says “the fool in his heart says there is no God”. He even talks to himself and not his wife or mother. In his monologue with himself notice the frequency of the possessive pronoun in his thoughts—my crops, my barns, my surplus grain. His plans involve nobody except himself. Without God in his life the only purpose he can find for himself is “eat, drink and be merry”.

2nd, this man thinks his wealth can buy him security for the rest of his life.  However, he is extremely short sighted.  Jesus says in verse 20b “This very night your life will be demanded from you.  Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”.  A few years ago in China there was a billionaire who worked hard all day and night accumulating his vast amount of wealth.  Then one day in his late 30s the man suddenly dropped dead of a heart attack.  Soon after, his wife re-married to his driver.  The driver had one word to say to everyone “All of these years I thought I was working for my boss, it turns out he was working for me.”  Neither the fool in this passage nor the Chinese billionaire ever received their reward neither in this age nor the age to come.  The fool in the passage thought the money would help him be in control of his life.  However, he found out he was not.  Job 1:21 says “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart.  The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.  Only the name of the Lord be praised”.

Lets read our key verse, verse 21. “This is how it will be with those who store up things for themselves but are not rich toward God.” Here we find the solution to avoid the calamity of the foolishness displayed in this parable. Be rich toward God. What does it mean to be rich toward God?

First, we must know that God is the source of all riches. The man who came to Jesus and the fool in this parable were at fault from the beginning as their focus was on themselves and not God. They wanted to keep things for themselves. 1 Corinthians 8:6 says “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” This morning we sang the hymn “This is my father’s world”. This was not by coincidence. Only through him we find our life’s purpose and our eternal reward. In my life I’ve been very blessed to have known and been served by many servants of God. They did the good works God prepared for them in advance when they acknowledged that this is their father’s world. That through Lord Jesus, all things came and through him we live. I remember as a freshman college student years ago one young man who invited me to group bible studies at his church. He used his car to drive me to those studies and told me this car is not for my own personal use but that the Lord provided this car for me. I want to use it to serve him. Though it has been 20 years since then, I still didn’t forget and God surely will never forget. Jesus said “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water in my name, he will certainly be rewarded.” Msn Esther and other senior msn ladies used their hard earned money years ago to buy this suit that I am still wearing today so that I too can serve the Lord. Years ago I had a very severe stuttering problem, I could not control my tongue as such I lived in fatalism and lived in fear of speaking but one missionary challenged me to believe that the Lord is Lord of all, even over your tongue. He challenged me to offer your tongue to God. Since then I became richly blessed to serve the word of God through the message. May God bless you to be rich toward God by offering what you have to Him.

In our church, Pastor Jacob is a man who is rich toward God. At an age where most people wish to take life easy and enjoy grandchildren he recently took on the new job as chair of the world mission department and international coordinator.  I was touched by his email a few weeks ago when he said he was thankful to God for extending his life and that he wanted to be faithful to God until his death, fully giving himself to the work of God.  He believes his life belongs to God and wants to serve him to the end.  As a result he will be blessed and will store up many treasures in heaven.

This year I reached the age of 40. It is the age when most people become much more conservative in their life choices.  The world says the finish line is retirement on a sunny island sipping margaritas with a big balance in the bank account.  They say we should fix our eyes on that magic number and toil away so we can get there.  Though it is wise to save we must fix our eyes on Jesus as our priority yet we lose all sense of life direction.  Be rich toward God, give thanks to God for his abundance in your life, acknowledge him as Lord and offer what you have to him.  Then you’ll be blessed for all eternity and nobody can take that away from you.  1 Timothy 6:17-19 says “Command those who are rich in this present world not to arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”  Take hold of life that is truly life today.  Let’s pray.  Heavenly father “We thank you for your word today through this passage.  Help each and every one of us to acknowledge that the Lord is the lord of our lives, to hold firmly to him and be rich toward God all the days of our lives.  We pray in Jesus name, Amen.”