Right, first of I’m going to apologise in advance for the following sentence: a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Urgh, talk about a cheesy definition but I mention it because I can’t really come up with a better one. When Jesus was around he often spoke in parables so I figured it would be worthwhile to go through a few of them and see what heavenly meaning can be drawn out.
I decided to start with the Parable of the Rich Fool told in Luke 12 to a large crowd of people gathered to listen to Jesus teach. So without further ado here it is:
“Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
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.”
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 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 will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
Luke 12 v 13 – 21
‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me’
This particular parable stems from one man’s demand of Jesus. It is not exactly the most polite of demands, indeed, it is forthright and rude. The man treats Jesus as no more than a means to get to an end. And for many people this is exactly what God is when they think about him. Most people will only turn to God when they want something, do this, they say to him, answer this prayer, meet my demand, do this for me. And these requests more often than not stem for wrong desires. As James writes:
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
James 4 v 3
All too often our prayers (when we bother to pray) are merely asking God for stuff to spend on our pleasures. Sure, don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with asking God to meet our needs but we need to do so with the correct attitude of the heart not with a sense that God is obliged to answer us or that he wrongs us if he doesn’t.
‘Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions’
We see that Jesus’ message is vastly different to the one our culture is constantly repeating. Buy this, you need that, this will make you happy, you need to have the latest thing, now buy this as well, build up your possessions, etc, etc. We live in a consumerist society that tells us that life does consist of an abundance of possessions.
But as people can’t help but discover having more stuff does not equal happiness or contentment. As Solomon, the richest man of his time wrote:
“Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.”
Ecclesiastes 5 v 10
Rather than just leaving it there Jesus tells a parable to illustrate his point.
‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest’
It is interesting to note the response of the rich man. Does he thank God for the abundant harvest? Does he seek to put his greater wealth to greater wealth and use it to help the poor as God commands? He gets a big harvest that he didn’t ask for or deserve and rather than thanking the God who blesses he instead thinks only of himself.
This is man in all his egotism. God pours out his grace to all of us in the form of riches and we despise him. Consider western culture which is one of such wealth and prosperity and then consider how many people in the West thank God for his goodness to us. Rather than praising God all riches have done is turn people aside to the love of money.
‘And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry’
I would say that there was nothing wrong per ce with the rich man’s actions. Saving money up for a rainy day is prudent, storing up wealth is not wrong as such but the crux of the matter lies in the attitude of the rich man. Notice how he defines his security of his soul in his abundant possessions. This is a dead giveaway that he has turned his wealth into an idol for whatever we define our security by is what we often worship. Or conversely what we feel insecure about and fear is often too an idol.
So this rich man defines his life based around his wealth. He can relax and be merry (i.e happy) because he is rich. It is challenging at this point to think of what we define our security by along with our happiness. It may or may not be wealth. What would make you say to your soul: relax, eat, drink and be merry? What do you define your security by? What is the idol that you worship?
‘But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
And then God comes to this rich man and his folly becomes evident for all to see. Death has a way of showing us the foolishness of our idols for what can a man bring with him through the veil of death? Can a dead man rely on his wealth? Can a dead man take his good personality with him? Can he take his achievements or career or family or friends or political ideal or charitable cause or hobby or attractiveness with him? I think not.
The foolishness of defining the security of our soul by things other than God is that after death there is only our soul and God left. A man cannot take anything created with him all he has is his soul and it is the state of his soul that will determine his eternal destiny.
Idolatry is foolishness for:
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles… They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”
Romans 1 v 21 – 23, 25
And this is what all men do – exchange the glory of God for created things. Yet death reveals this to be folly indeed for nothing created can possibly be taken into the life beyond death.
‘This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.’
I don’t know what you define your life by or on what security you rest your soul on but I know this: unless it is on God then you are a fool for when you die you will find that there is naught but your soul and God and then you will see what stupidity it was to base your life on other things and place the security of your soul in wealth or your career or in pleasures or drink or family or other people’s opinion or in beauty or in a thousand and one other idols.
So as Jesus warns you: be rich to God. Seek him out while he still may be found. For you’re not going to manage to evade death! And the only way to be rich to God is to look to Jesus and find in him salvation and security of soul.
“That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
Romans 10 v 9 – 11
“They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”
1 Thessalonians 1 v 9 – 10
As Jesus’ parable warns you: do not put your trust in idols. Instead turn from them and turn to Jesus who by his resurrection rescues us from the wrath to come and brings us into the service of the living God. Are you going to spend your life building up riches for yourself or riches for God? When death comes, as it must, will you be like the rich fool or will you have that security of soul that rests wholly on Jesus Christ and nothing else?