THE RICH FOOL
The title seems all wrong. The world considers a rich man as smarter, more hardworking, and more lucky than the rest. Rich people are not often thought of as fools, except perhaps by those envious of their riches. God, however, has a way of turning our thoughts and assumptions upside down.
While many things of this world are not wrong or sinful in themselves. It is our attitude toward these things that becomes the problem.
We realize that following Jesus is a matter of attitude. In his explanation of the first commandment, Luther teaches the essence of the Law as attitudinal: “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus urges believers to “seek first the kingdom of God . . . ” (Mt. 6:33). Jesus also said: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Mt. 10:37).
What about the attitude that sees religion and Jesus in terms of a monetary advantage? Televangelists promote a prosperity theology: “If you follow Jesus and send in your contributions, you will be blessed with riches and prosperity.” Their mantra is: God wants you to be rich. They capitalize on humans being more concerned with this world than with the world to come.
Here’s the way Jesus confronted a man who wanted Jesus to mediate his inheritance with his brother: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” This simple and yet profound truth is illustrated by the parable.
Like the rich man who was a fool because he thought he was in charge of building his wealth, one who has achieved wealth and power may think, “Look what I have achieved.” The parable is an echo of Moses’ warning the children of Israel to beware of this attitude especially when God blessed them and gave them “houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant; when you have eaten and are full, then beware lest you forget the LORD” (Deut. 6:11-12). The human is a fool if he thinks his riches are due to his efforts and intelligence, and when he comforts his heart with the abundance of the things he possesses.
Where Is Your Treasure?
This rich man was a fool because he thought that since he had achieved all these things, he was therefore in control of his future. When God blessed him, this man decided to secure his future by laying up treasures in his barns and granaries. The world would consider this to be smart and forward-looking.
Isn’t it so today? Our prosperous generation seems overly concerned with providing for every exigency the future might hold–witness the concern about retirement plans, 401-K plans, IRA’s. Many regularly check the stock market in concern over their possessions. In time of prosperity, the danger is that we will lose our spiritual direction and dependence upon God.
The fool thinks that when his wealth reaches critical mass, he can sit back and enjoy life. Thus the rich man in the parable said: “Soul, you have many good things laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink and be merry” (Lk. 12:19).
The folly of this kind of attitude is that–as Jesus teaches–a person’s life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions. The great possessions’ equalizer is death. There is a saying in the South: “I have never ever seen a hearse pulling a U-haul.” The Pharaohs of Egypt tried to take their wealth with them by having it buried with them, which only enriched later graverobbers.
Solomon, who had it all, spoke sadly of the vanity of such an attitude toward the things of this world. A man works a lifetime only to have his children dissipate his wealth. As our parable puts it: “Fool, this night your soul (life) will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?”
The person who lays up such treasure for himself is a fool. The Bible reminds us that where one’s treasure is, there his heart is centered. What is your treasure?
Jesus is the only treasure that lasts and has any real meaning. In this assurance we acknowledge that everything we have comes from God; we trust that God alone is able to provide for our future. We seek to get the priorities right in our own lives.
Jesus promises everlasting life to those who believe in Him and count all earthly things as loss, that they might be found in Him.
–Pastor John Schierenbeck