Four Mistakes of the Rich Fool


(Luke 12:13-21)

by Wayne S. Walker

     In Luke 12:13-21, Jesus relates the story of the rich fool. This man had gained his wealth in a legitimate manner. He was not a thief or a swindler, but an honest farmer. Still, he was called by God a fool, because he made four serious mistakes.

     Number one, he failed to recognize the true gauge of life’s worth. He was concerned only with his fruits and goods, thinking his physical prosperity was the measure of his value. But Jesus teaches that, "A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" and, "The life is more than meat and the body more than raiment" (verses 15 and 23). Rather, He exhorted His disciples to "seek ye the kingdom of God" (verse 31). As this rich man pondered over his wealth, he forgot that God created hman life and it is He who determines the measure of its worth, not man. We need to remember that God has not made material success the measure of a man’s real worth, but has given him a higher yardstick, the perfect law of liberty, His divinely inspired word.

     Second, he failed to see the true and good use of his surplus. His only worry was where to lay up his goods for himself. There are very few of us who do not keep a savings account of some kind. Why? Most would say to provide for the needs of our families, to have some of the finer things of life, or to prepare for an emergency or old age; and these reasons are all fine. But the Bible gives another one. "Let him that stole steal no more, but let him labor, working with his hands that which is good that he might have to give to those in need" (Ephesians 4.28). The Bible teaches that there are a number of ways a Christian can use his prosperity in the service of God to further the cause of the Lord. While the rich farmer was trying to decide to do with his surplus, he forgot that God is the giver of every good gift, and that man is only a steward of these blessings. We ought not to be selfish like this fool, but as Christians use that which we have to help others and do good.

     Again, he failed to understand the nature of true joy. He said, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." It was his belief that joy stemmed merely from enjoying physical goods, but the Bible teaches differently. Truly, Christians are to rejoice. There is no picture in the scriptures of the Christian as a long-faced, downward-looking individual who views life as a deprivation, but rather as a vibrant, enthusiastic person who looks at life as a means of praising God. "Rejoice always in the Lord: and again, I say, rejoice" (Philippians 4:4). Christians rejoice in spiritual things rather than in material things. When one who makes his material goods his sole source of joy must leave them, or they leave him, his joy disappears because heno longer has his source of joy. This fool forgot that God is the source of all true joy. Let us rejoice in the Lord and not only in the things of this life for they are fleeting and cannot give the everlasting joy God offers through Jesus Christ.

     Last, he failed to recognize the limited tenure of human life. It is possible that he had dismissed the thought of death from his mind entirely and tried to pretend his days were unnumbered. However, the Bible teaches that "it is appointed to a man to die once" (Hebrews 9:27). Each one shall come to the end of his earthly life someday. Even if this ifellow had given consideration to death, he evidently put it far in the future and felt assured of a long life to enjoy the fruits of his labor. But he was wrong, for God told him, "This night thy soul shall be required of thee." No one has the right to count on future life, since James says our lives are like a vapor which appears for a little while then vanishes away (James 4:14). The subject of this story forgot that God gave life, and He alone has power over it, even to take it away at any time. We ought not to make this same mistake by counting on length of days, or even tomorrow, for such may never come. Rather, let us realize the brevity of life and the necessity of working the works of him who sent us while it is yet day, for the night cometh when no man can work.

     The parables of Jesus are rich in wonderful teachings on how to live life and serve our Maker to please Him. The parable of the rich fool is a lesson aimed at keeping us from trusting in this life, its affairs, and possessions. It is a lesson we need to learn so badly in this present, materialistic age. (—taken from The Sower; Nov., 1976; Vol. 21, No. 11; p. 4)


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