Jesus' parable of the rich fool reveals why the Christian life is deep and challenging. Our lives are judged based on the spiritual first, and the physical, second.
Please read Luke 12:13-21 ESV before beginning free Bible study lessons, #4.10.
Previous Lesson: Parable Of The Good Samaritan #4.09.
Preliminary Bible Study Questions:
1. Why should a Christian work hard?
2. Why should a Christian save money?
3. Is the American Dream a wise choice to pursue?
Jesus taught in a way that left us room for expanding his lessons. That's why I love writing these lessons for you! Jesus gives Christian teachers ample opportunity to take his truths and apply it to his followers' lives. This ensures a fresh message to all people of all cultures for all the ages.
Wow, Jesus always is ahead of us in his work and planning. Jesus says, "Let's reason together, shall we?" (Isaiah 1:17-18 NIV).
Jesus' parable of the rich fool is the pinnacle of a number of teachings in his message to literally thousands of listeners (Luke 12:1). They were scurrying and squeezing to get within hearing distance of Jesus. Jesus was covering a number of topics in succession, including these lessons [note the flow of topics]:
After completing the parable of the rich fool he covered these topics:
After the first set of topics were covered, Jesus took a moment's break after informing his followers that they'll be persecuted.
A young man from the crowd took advantage, shouting, "Teacher, please tell my brother here to divide our father's estate with me."
Jesus politely declined, "My friend, who made me judge over you to decide such things as that?"
But wait! Not so fast... Jesus DID offer a judgment.
Listen closely to his next statement, "Beware! Guard yourselves against every kind of greed. Life will not be measured by how much you possess."
That is a terrific judgment by the supreme Judge of the universe. Then, in order to graphically portray the judgment, Jesus created the rich fool parable.
The meaning of the parable of the rich fool, like many other parables, wasn't meant to be hidden from the Pharisees, so it is fairly easy to grasp.
There is little representation involved. The central figure in the parable, i.e. the rich man, speaks for himself and actually to himself. One could say that he represents people who are caught up in the world, desiring pleasure and ease of life, while forgetting others.
God, portraying himself in this parable, then intervenes with some surprising news for the man.
Jesus began with an introduction of the main character in the parable of the rich fool, "A certain man had a fertile farm that produced an abundance of crops."
This farmer was enjoying success. He had worked hard and now the fruits of his labors were pouring into his storehouses. He found himself in a dilemma, though. He had such a large harvest that his bins and silos and barns couldn't possibly contain all his harvested grains and fruits.
The farmer held a planning meeting with himself (seriously, he did).
Listen to Jesus explain the man's dialogue with himself, "What shall I do, for I have no space where I can store all my crops?' Then he said, 'This is what I'll do: I'll tear down my barns and storehouses and I'll build larger ones, so that I can store all my grains and possessions.'"
"Then I'll say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years. Take life easy: eat, drink, and be merry.'"
On the surface, after a quick read of the parable of the rich fool, most people would think this man is perfectly fine with what he has done. The things he is planning to do sounds perfectly reasonable, as well. He's building a solid agricultural business and his personal wealth is consequently accumulating.
He has worked hard throughout his life, and now he's planning to grow further before retiring and living off his amassed wealth. Isn't that what we're supposed to be doing?! What is wrong with what he has done? Why is he a fool?!
The parable of the rich fool now finds the man's planning meeting interrupted by God himself. God shocks the rich man, "You fool! Tonight your soul returns to me. Now, who shall I choose to inherit your estate?"
Jesus explains God's thinking in verse 21, "So it goes with one who hoards up riches for himself but is not rich in God's sight." There you have the clear meaning of the parable of the rich fool.
This man was monetarily rich but spiritually bankrupt. The parable of the rich fool exposes the misuse of God's gifts.
A person who ignores the Creator, the owner of his soul, by placing material items and pleasure before him becomes a fool.
This parable, as you will discover, places the spiritual life over the physical life. One's spiritual life must control one's physical life. Motivations of the heart and mind must rule over the doings and workings of the hands and plans of man.
The parable of the rich fool is meant to inform the listeners how a normal man becomes rich, but later becomes a fool. First of all, the man acquired fertile ground. He inherited or bought this fine farming ground.
He also invested monies, time, efforts, and energies in order to raise the crops. He did well for himself. That's fine, and here are the reasons why.
The Bible tells us to physically work hard (Proverbs 10:5; 15:19). The Bible tells us to plan (Proverbs 21:5; Luke 14:28-30). And the Bible advises us to save our money (Proverbs 13:11; 21:20). The ways of the man, i.e. working, planning, and saving, is much better than laziness, lack of planning, and squandering wealth.
This man was a good earthly steward of the material gifts with which he was blessed. Because of all these factors he became worldly rich. He had his physical life in order. This was fine in God's eyes.
The parable of the rich fool will now be studied for the reasons why the rich man became a rich, but foolish man. The parable gives us no indication whatsoever that the man gained ownership of the ground through deceitful practices, so as far as we know, no problem with how he acquired the fertile ground.
The man worked hard, but, why should a God-fearing person work hard? What is the motivation for working hard? The parable of the rich fool teaches us to know our motivations for our actions.
Titus 3:14 informs us to work in order to provide for our daily needs. 1 Timothy 5:8 tells us to work in order to provide for the needs of our immediate families. Ephesians 4:28 tells us to work hard in order to possess money to help others. Finally, we are to work hard so that our lives earn the respect of others and become a witness for God's glory (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).
In evaluating the rich man's motivations for working hard we notice he fell woefully short of God's mark.
He worked hard in order to amass storehouses full of commodities, not for daily needs, but for years in advance. The rich man makes no mention of providing for his family. Nor does he mention working hard so that he can help support the needy. Finally, he doesn't mention the Bible's command to work hard and earn the respect and admiration of others who may then want to ask him about his God.
There was no spiritual element to this man's hard work, making him a fool.
The Bible tells us to plan like the rich man demonstrated for us. However, if a man plans without God's biblical guidance and without prayer, the plans will eventually fail. Proverbs 16:9 says, "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."
A man failing to acknowledge and seek the Lord's ways in his planning aggravates his providential, sovereign Creator. The rich man drew God's ire because he didn't seek God's wisdom in planning for the future.
The rich man's planning was intended for saving more wealth so he could basically retire. He was seeking to live up the rest of his life by eating, drinking, and living the good life. He sought ease and comfort for his life. 1 Corinthians 10:31 warns, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
There was no spiritual element to this man's future planning, making him a fool.
The parable of the rich fool invites us to examine the motives behind why we should save our wealth. The rich man became a fool because he saved in order to party and enjoy work-free retirement. We aren't called to save for indulgence and extravagance in our post-working years.
Christians aren't even called to retire from work, at least not altogether. Sure, you can "retire" from a certain job, but to become a useless sluggard is a godless plan if ever there was one.
How shameful to waste a mature mind and physical abilities on golf, fishing, TV viewing, and reading newspapers for a living. Really, what do those worthless endeavors accomplish?
Allow these verses of wisdom to absorb into your heart's walls, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21, NIV). "Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!" (Luke 12:24, NIV).
Are you able to see God's point of view now? Here are two more verses for the rich fool, "A good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children, but a sinner's wealth is stored up for the righteous" (Proverbs 13:22 NIV). Psalm 146:4 also informs, "When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing." Proverbs 16:1 adds, "To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue."
And the Lord replied to the rich man, "Fool! Tonight, your soul will be required of you."
The parable of the rich fool graphically informs us that we should not find our identity in those things we acquire, such as our possessions, status, wealth, and achievements.
The "American Dream" so many people have striven for over the past six or seven decades is a lie.
How so many people, including many otherwise wonderful Christians, fell for the lie is hard to imagine.
This parable of the rich fool directly teaches against it.
The parable of the rich fool gives us many lessons about God's demands on our valuable personal lives. The first lesson calls us to always place our physical lives in subjection to our spiritual lives. In other words, God must be our first love, the One we admire, acknowledge, and approach for daily guidance.
Our spiritual life must be our highest concern. We prove our love towards God by committing to follow Jesus Christ and his teachings. We then submit our physical lives to our growing spiritual lives.
After our spiritual life is made our highest priority, then we work on the motivations which drive our actions. This parable of the rich fool teaches us several keys to correct motivation.
The first is that we should work hard because we need to provide the daily needs for ourselves and our families. Next, we should work hard to offer support of the needy; and finally, work hard in order to be a Christian witness.
Also, we should plan our future knowing that God is in control, and we may not receive the blessing of one more breath.
Finally, we should be good stewards of the wealth with which God has blessed us. The savings aren't intended for wasteful indulgence and supporting slothfulness. These things are detestable to God, and will not be tolerated by our ultimate Judge.
Jesus' parable of the rich fool teaches us that normal people become fools when they fail to place their physical lives in submission to their spiritual lives. This fact is what makes Christianity so deep and challenging. Actions are judged by motivations. The rich man had proper physical activities, however, his motivations were wrong, which made him a rich fool.
To the average person he was an impressive businessman. To God he was a greedy, selfish hedonist bent on personal destruction. He was an idolater.
The rich man became nothing but a rich fool because he loved the world. God lost patience with him and called for his soul. The rich fool's eternal life was sealed at that moment. His destiny is outer darkness, where all his working, planning, and saving are burned and forgotten. For eternity the rich fool will beg for a sip of water (Luke 16:24-25). He will weep and gnash his teeth in agony.
God loves you. He blesses you with a valuable life full of gifts, talents, and material blessings. He expects you to use them to your highest potential.
God gives you the resources to become wise, and holds you accountable for your use of these resources. Wisdom begins by bending your knee and bowing before the King (Psalm 111:10). Repent of your sinful lifestyle and commit yourself to becoming Jesus' disciple. Study God's word, pray always, love your neighbor, and worship with like-minded believers. Sinners Prayer.
Next Lesson: Pharisee and Publican Parable #4.11
Bible Study Questions:
1. How would you explain to a student the critical difference between man's perspective and God's perspective upon a person's life?
2. The parable of the rich fool teaches about the sins of greed, selfishness and hedonism. At what point in a person's life do proper actions become sinful foolishness?
3. Break down the elements of the American Dream and explain why it has its roots in hell's deep soil.
Inspirational Bible Verses:
So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:31-35
Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. James 4:13-16
O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!
And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.
Deliver me from all my transgressions. Do not make me the scorn of the fool! Psalm 39:4-8
Prayers Of Thanksgiving:
Dear Father, the parable of the rich fool awakens me to the fact that you want to be included in my entire life. You want me to seek your guidance and stamp of approval on my work, plans, and investments of my time, talents, and possessions. I trust that you always have my best interests in mind, and know that I can seek and rely on you for the wisdom needed to succeed in life. Your perspective on my life is now the most important thing to me. Help me to work, plan, and invest with you and your kingdom as my highest priority. In Christ's name, Amen.
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