The Parable of the Rich Fool
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’18 Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
A good friend of mine, Andy Matheson, used to be the international director for Oasis. Before that he was the national director for Oasis in India, and has now gone back to India with a different role with Oasis India.
He’s an amazing friend. Really believes in folks, builds great relationships. He’s also written a couple of books on God’s measurement of prosperity. In God’s economy, one’s wealth is not measured by what you have in material possessions, but God measures wealth by relationship, by friendship. And, it’s not just the quantity of those relationships, but the quality of those relationships.
As we come to this past Sunday’s text, it’s good to keep in mind how God measures wealth. The passages before this are about faithfulness to God’s message of how we honor others, is how we honor God.
Jesus talks in the previous verses about the yeast of God and the yeast of the Pharisees. The yeast of the Pharisees is pretty selfish and it not only infects and kills the Pharisees joy in life, it also works its ways through the followers of the Pharisees. However, God’s yeast moves and grows within us towards a sense of love and respect for another. Do we hold malice in our hearts for others, or do we look to others with love? In our national and local dialogues and friendships, we have to recognize that God is not wanting us to be divisive or always looking for ways we can build walls around ourselves, but how can be a blessing and plant good yeast, God’s yeast, into the lives of others and the culture around us.
A friend of mine, Daniel Hughes is a Methodist pastor….we had a conversation a while back about yeast. He talked about seeking out persons of peace in my life. Persons of peace are usually fairly positive, open to relationship, and have meaningful impact on those they meet. The opposite are persons of discord, persons who can’t seem to be experience joy, have fear of losing control, and are more focused on holding on to something rather than trusting God’s work in their lives and the lives of others. Now, at times, one can be both…this isn’t about labelling someone a certain way.
After this discussion about the yeast of the Pharisees, a person approaches Jesus from the crowd and wants Jesus to tell his brother to divide his inheritance. Jesus responds to him with a question, as he often does, who made me the judge of your material possessions? As if to say, have you been listening? Have you not heard that our God is about something more than material possessions?
Jesus doesn’t condemn him, even calls him friend. He goes on to share a parable. Again, parables aren’t merely morality stories, they are meant to be simple stories that we listen to, chew on, and let them be like seeds planted in our lives to grow as God intends.
The story is about a rich man who has more grain than he can handle. His response is not one of gratitude or how can I bless others or contribute my excess to the benefit of my neighbors, but it is to tear down his silos and build larger ones…then to sit back and consume what he can never really consume, be safe…relax, eat, drink, be merry.
But God calls him a fool. Now, that’s a harsh word as I understand it growing up. My parents would never let me use that word. But, in this context, it means to rebel against the very person of God, to go against God’s principles of relationship. As we’ve said before, God’s nature is one of relationship…the trinity is a relationship, we are created in God’s image and therefore called to treat one another in loving, wholesome relationships…we are not to tear each down, we are not to be critical or full of complaints out of a sense of disrespect or contempt, but to build each other up, to live in loving accountability that frees us to be creative, redemptive, and sustaining….just as the father, son and holy spirit live and interact. To not do so leads to death and that is foolish.
This man, and really all of us, have been given much in life. Really, as one of my seminary professors, Joel B. Green says in one of his commentaries, all that we have is on loan to us from God. How we share it with others leads us towards making the world a better place for others, and along the way, we find ourselves growing in ways that we never thought possible.
Jesus goes on to say that this very night, this rich man’s life would be demanded of him. I wonder what others would say about him at that point? He didn’t share, he didn’t open the doors of his life in hospitality towards others, his grain, as much as he had, didn’t do any good for others and it simply rotted in the new grain silos he built.
I’d also say that this man was probably pretty poor in God’s economy. His life came and went and folks didn’t really notice.
Now, friends, there is much to glean if you will from this parable. But, I’d simply ask you how wealthy you’d like to be in God’s economy? How can we let go of what we hold on to so tightly in order to bless others and see others blessed?
My friend, Troy Bronsink, sings these lyrics from time to time:
Hold on to these things. But don’t hold them so tightly. ‘Cause what you hold so tightly you no longer hold for me, but for you.
Yes, make a living. But, along the way, don’t hold on to things too tightly. If what we practice in life isn’t hospitable towards others, then we are rebelling against God…and really causing us to live in places of fear and comfort, which is more dangerous to our souls than living in places of risk, love, and even some discomfort.
Friends, I would also add, that after the events of this past week and weekend, in the violence caused by hate, racism, and easy access to weapons of war, we need to be people who are willing to take risks in loving well, reaching out to those that are lonely, and calling out our national leaders to be people of peace, to build bridges and unity and not walls and hate.
May we bless one another and the world around us as move towards responding to God’s abundance that God shares with us freely…and in so doing, grow in our wealth in God’s economy.