Today’s message is the 21st in our series titled “The Parables of Jesus”. Of the 40 parables we will study, there are 3 that deal primarily with the topic of stewardship and/or money. During His earthly ministry, Jesus spoke extensively about this issue. As a matter of fact, the Lord talked about money more than almost any other single topic. He explained that a Christian’s attitude toward money and their management of earthly wealth is highly indicative of their true loyalties. Is God the priority of their life, or is their bank account?
The first parable of this trio is “The Parable of the Talents” which we discussed 2 weeks ago. In it, God’s children are commanded to use the blessings and riches that they've received for His glory and benefit. Last week we discussed the second of these stories, which is called “The Parable of the Unjust Steward”. In it, Jesus contrasted the dishonest and self-serving money management of the world with the righteous stewardship that He desires.
This morning we will consider the last of these 3 stewardship/money parables. It is known as “The Parable of the Rich Fool”. This story is recorded only once in the synoptic gospels, specifically in Luke chapter 12. Jesus tells this parable to emphasize the utter folly of pursuing and accumulating earthly wealth.
King Solomon was one of the wealthiest men who ever lived. He was also the wisest. Over the course of his life, Solomon discovered that earthly riches could never satisfy his soul. In his Old Testament book Ecclesiastes, Solomon describes the inability of money to bring true contentment within a person’s life. Furthermore, he points out that earthy wealth does not carry over into eternity. Jesus echoes this sentiment as He tells “The Parable of the Rich Fool”.
I. BICKERING BROTHERS - Luke 12:13-15
While the specific time and place is not given, it is clear that Jesus is teaching a large crowd of people. As He is speaking, a man in the crowd cries out to Him. This man has an issue with his brother regarding the family inheritance. Apparently, he believes that the inheritance is not being divided fairly or correctly. It has been suggested by some theologians that perhaps this man was a younger brother, and did not think it right that his older brother should receive a double portion under Mosaic Law.
Whatever the case, Jesus chooses not in involve Himself in this dispute. He makes it clear by His response that He will not serve as an arbitrator. Instead, Jesus recognizes and speaks to the true hidden motivation behind the man’s request. The man in the crowd is not really concerned about the issue of fairness, but rather he simply wants to receive more money for himself. Have you ever noticed that most people will complain when they get less than someone else, yet keep silent when they receive more?
Jesus cuts through the smokescreen and goes straight to the point. He tells the entire crowd, in particular this man, to guard themselves against every form of greed. Greed is an intense, selfish desire for something - in this case money. It is one of the “Seven Deadly Sins”, a list which originated in the Catholic church but is commonly referred to among all Christian denominations. Jesus goes on to say that, no matter how wealthy a person becomes, their life does not consist of the abundance of their possessions. Then he follows up with a parable.
II. BIGGER BARNS - Luke 12:16-19
The main character of the parable is a rich man who owns much property. His land is extremely fruitful and productive, to the point that he runs out of room to store all of his surplus. The rich man considers what he should do with all of this abundance. He decides to tear down his existing barns and build even bigger ones in their place in order to store all of his grains and goods. The rich man delights that with such a great amassed fortune he will never have to work again and can spend the rest of his days seeking pleasure and self-gratification.
The man in this parable seems to have realized what we call today “The American Dream”. While all people should have the ability to pursue happiness and economic prosperity, Scripture strongly warns people about “the love of money”. Greed is never satisfied and the more someone has, the more they tend to want. Chasing the dollar draws people away from chasing God, who is the One we should be pursuing wholeheartedly. “The American Dream” often becomes “The American Nightmare” for those who find financial success.
The rich man already has large barns filled with wealth, but these are not enough. Like a addict he needs even more, and tight-fistedly clings to every penny. He saves it all for himself, above and beyond what he truly needs, without any thought for how his abundance could help others. The man is captivated by the Devil and consumed by greed.
III. BRIEF BENEFITS - Luke 12:20-21
The story ends with an ironic twist. As this man envisions a future prosperity filled with ease and comfort, God suddenly appears to him saying that he will die that very night. The LORD also calls the wealthy man a fool due to his greedy accumulation of worldly wealth. This does not mean that all affluent people are fools. Job, Abraham, King David, and many other prominent Biblical characters were wealthy during parts of their lives. But these righteous men used their wealth to serve and honor God, rather than hoarding it for themselves.
Lastly, God asks the rich fool, “Who will take ownership of your wealth now?” This question highlights the fact that we can’t take our money with us when we die, and that ultimately everything we have gained and saved will someday pass on to someone else. Why spend your life amassing and saving something that you can’t keep? Why not use your fortune for the good of others while you are still living, while it is still under your control? There is no telling how it might be used (or misused) after your death!
While we might consider it honorable to leave a large inheritance and/or estate to our children and grandchildren, often times it creates conflict and division. I have seen families torn apart fighting over money that was intended for their benefit. This was plight of the man in the crowd who’d originally approached Jesus, remember? Selfishness and greed can so easily poison the hearts of good people. Money is a dangerous commodity.
After teaching this parable, Jesus continues by urging the crowd not to worry about material possessions. God knows our needs even better than we do ourselves. We can trust Him to provide for and take care of His children. We should learn to be thankful for and content with what we have. While we are all called to work, to earn a living, and to provide for our ourselves and families, we are never to rely on our money but instead to lean on God alone.
Perhaps you exhibit more faith in your retirement nest-egg than you do in God himself. Perhaps you have trusted in your weekly paycheck more than God’s daily favor. Perhaps the false security of your earthly wealth has replaced your reliance on Jesus Christ. True, money is often the means of God’s provision in our lives - but don’t exchange the Provider for the provision. Has your love of money tainted your love for God? Let me be blunt… don’t be a rich fool.