So what did the man in Jesus’ story do wrong that led God to pronounce him a ‘fool’?
In the Bible the term ‘fool’ usually suggests someone who is morally corrupt but there’s nothing in the story about illegal or immoral activity. This farmer prospers, expands his operation and enjoys the benefits.
So is it a sin to do well in our career? To prosper financially? To enjoy some of what we have earned? Surely not.
Elsewhere in the Bible material prosperity is seen as evidence of God’s favour and blessing. He gave people like Abraham, Jacob, Job and Solomon great wealth in this life. So the man in Jesus’ parable is not at fault just for being wealthy or successful.
The clues are at the beginning and end. What prompts the parable is a request for Jesus to adjudicate in the case of a will. Someone has said ‘where there’s a will there are relatives’ and it’s often true. Where there is property to be divided there is the potential for jealous competition and sadly people falling out.
So one application of Jesus’ teaching is very practical for families – what good is it if you inherit the house but lose your brother or sister? What good is added wealth if we forfeit family unity and harmony?
An even more serious application comes with Jesus’ rather savage ending and the punchline. The rich man dies suddenly and will very quickly cease caring who gets what of his earthly estate. ‘This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God.’ Jesus concludes. Life is not about money and stuff in the end. It’s not necessarily an issue whether we have a little or a lot. What matters is our attitude.
Elsewhere Jesus asks, ‘What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?’ (Mark 8 v 36) What good is worldly wealth and pleasure if we don’t know peace with God? If we are not living obediently in His will? If we are not finding our joy in His service? This verse comes as Jesus is teaching about the cross and the call to identify with and follow Him even should it require sacrifice.
Here in Luke 12 Jesus gives His listeners first of all a serious warning. Don’t be taken up with money and pleasure. Don’t let such things govern you. Don’t be self centred. Remember we aren’t created to please ourselves but to glorify God and enjoy a relationship with Him forever. This is what the man in the story neglected , and he paid for it heavily!
Of course many of Jesus’ listeners were not well off, quite the opposite. Some of His audience had little or no income and were naturally worried as to how they might get by. So the next thing He gives us here is wonderful reassurance. Our heavenly Father knows what we need and will take good care of us.
‘Feast or famine!’ Isn’t this what we often say? Too much or too little, either seems to be a problem. We’re either obsessed trying to get more of what we don’t really need or we’re anxious about not having enough at all. For many the prospect of increasing debt is a much more frightening monster than the false faces of Halloween!
Don’t be greedy, says our Master, but don’t worry either. God feeds the wild birds and clothes the flower of the field. He sees and cares when the tiniest sparrow falls and we are much more precious again. He’ll look after us.
With these words of reassurance comes an important principle. (Attitude again!) Jesus instructs His followers to ‘seek God’s kingdom’ as our first priority and the material things we need will be ‘given to us as well’. He urges us to invest in spiritual, heavenly things, things that please God. We do this when we sit loose to material wealth and possessions. When we share generously what we’ve been given to enjoy. When we show compassion and kindness to all in need. When we do these things because we realise God has generously given us the riches of His kingdom in Jesus!
God has poured out His grace and His love in the One Who was divine but came into this world to feed the hungry, heal the sick, preach good news of redeeming love and demonstrate this love by dying on the cross for our sins that we might become children of God! Our Father in heaven has been pleased to give us this kingdom so we can trust Him to provide all we need through the various seasons and challenges of this life, and in the life which is still to come!
As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8: ‘He Who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?’
All things needful in this life, and as if that were not enough, Jesus promises an inheritance in the security of heaven that cannot be damaged or stolen.
The first job God gave to human beings was when He gave Adam and Eve care of the garden of Eden. The Lord gives us many good things to enjoy in this life. We are to use them gratefully and wisely, tending whatever ‘garden’ He has entrusted to us responsibly, always giving Him the glory. But we are not to be overly focussed on the things themselves as much as on the One Who generously provides them.
The lovely thing is this. When we centre our lives spiritually on Jesus, ‘the Author and Perfecter of our faith’, we will be enabled, when the time comes, to leave the ‘things’ behind for that greater treasure that is waiting in heaven, the privilege of meeting our Saviour and Master face to face and receiving from Him the gift of everlasting life.