Parable of the Rich Fool

Zach Fulginiti, Speaker

Luke 12:13-21 | February 26 - Sunday Evening,

Sunday Evening,
February 26
Parable of the Rich Fool | Luke 12:13-21
Zach Fulginiti, Speaker

Hallelujah. All I have is Christ. Hallelujah. Jesus is my life. Lord, we pray that those words would be true of us here tonight and they would not only be true of here tonight, but for the rest of our life as we thank You once again for the opportunity to come before You and Your Word. We pray that Your Word would shape us, would mold us, would change us and would convict us, that as we behold Your Word we would become more like Christ, for as Christians He is all that we have. It is in His name we pray. Amen.

Well, good evening again, everyone. So glad you are here. We are continuing our series through the parables. Tonight we are going to be in Luke chapter 12, verse 13 through 21. So if you have your Bible you can flip there. As you’re flipping there, I have to warn you. We are going to talk about money. Yes, we’re talking about money.

Everyone knows in social contexts there are a couple of things that you don’t talk about. Mainly, you don’t talk about religion and politics. If you came here tonight thinking that with wouldn’t talk about religion, I’m very sorry. We are going to talk about religion. But in the church, often it’s not religion and politics, it’s money and politics.

Maybe some of you might even be uncomfortable just thinking about that, and it’s normally because when the preacher starts talking about money, that’s because there’s an ask that’s coming after it. We’re going to look at our Bibles here tonight because we need more money from you.

No, that’s not the case here tonight. There’s no specific ask that comes with this passage. We’re not talking about a new campaign and we’re not talking about our church budget. No, we’re talking about money because Jesus talked about money and Jesus talked about money often. He talked about money a lot.

So tonight we’re going to be looking at the parable of the rich fool. With that warning in mind, let’s look at verse 13. Luke chapter 12, beginning in verse 13.

“Now someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But He,” that is Jesus, “said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And He said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 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, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.””

Our passage in Luke 12 actually begins not with the parable, but with the real world context that Jesus finds Himself in. Luke chapter 12, verse 1 tells us that there were thousands of people, a large crowd gathered around Jesus. There was a frenzy around this man. It’s hard for us to imagine a setting like this, so much that we consume is on our screens. But here there were no screens. Thousands of people were gathering to Jesus.

There was only thing that I could think to compare this to, and that was the time that I visited Augusta National in 2008. A friend of mine had gotten me tickets to a Wednesday practice round at the Masters, and leading up to the tournament there was only person that everyone was there to see, and that was Tiger Woods. We got there early in the morning. The dew was set on the ground and we walked and we saw the field, but the entire day, everyone was wondering, “Is Tiger going to be out here today?”

Sure enough, in the late afternoon, people began to rumble by the putting green and Tiger had made an appearance. Grown men were beginning to push over old ladies and young children just to get a glimpse of Tiger putting the ball a few times. It was incredible. I have to imagine it was mesmerizing to watch him that week, or just that day, to watch him walk and putt and hit the golf ball. You couldn’t take your eyes off the man.

Now that’s a bit ridiculous. Now I feel a bit silly even now, just feeling mesmerized watching him. But that maybe gives us a bit of a sense of what it was like to follow Jesus in this day. Here’s this man and He’s saying things that no one has ever said before and He’s helping people in ways in which people have never been helped, and He’s healing people and people are walking and the blind are seeing. It’s incredible. I just have to get a glimpse of this man who’s doing these things in this time.

In the midst of that crowd, someone yells out. It’s kind of odd, it’s kind of interesting. Someone yells out, “Hey, Teacher. I need a little help. My brother’s not listening to me. Can You help me out a little bit? Jesus, I need a little help over here with a legal matter.” And shockingly, Jesus actually responds to the man.

You know, when I yelled out at Tiger Woods, “Let’s go, Tiger!” Tiger didn’t respond back to me.

So how odd is that Jesus pauses and looks at this man, and says, “Man, who made Me to be a judge or an arbitrator over you?”

But Jesus doesn’t leave it there. You see, the man in the crowd wanted to use Jesus for his own purposes. He wanted to use Jesus as a judge or an arbitrator. While we don’t admit it, that’s a danger for you and I as well, to use Jesus for our own purposes, especially when it comes to finances. He wanted Jesus to agree with him, but Jesus didn’t want to get involved in a legal dispute. He took the opportunity to teach a spiritual reality. He wanted this man’s heart to change. He wanted the people that were following Him, their hearts to change.

So He told them a parable about a rich man who made a lot of money and in the end it didn’t matter at all.

Tonight we’re going to look at the danger of wealth and this man’s missed blessing. We’ll look at the danger of wealth and the missed blessing that the rich fool had.

So first we’ll look at the danger of wealth. Jesus gets to the point right away when He says, “Take care and be on guard against all covetousness for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” He says be careful with coveting. Be on guard against greed.

Indeed, the Greek word used here for covetousness means avarice. It means greed. Avarice is just a sophisticated word for greed.

Rebecca K. DeYoung, no relationship to Kevin, says that avarice, or greed, is being too attached to money and possessions. It’s caring too much about them. It’s craving them.

Kent Hughes says that the word for covetousness here means the lust, to have more than one’s fair share. Indeed, it’s a boundless, grasping after more.

This greediness, this covetousness, is something that the Scriptures speak often to. Think of what the wisdom literature has to say to us in Proverbs 21, verse 26: All day long he craves and craves but the righteous gives and does not hold back.

Or in Ecclesiastes 5:10. Pastor Derek just read it for us. He who loves money will not be satisfied.

The New Testament writers give us a similar warning. 1 Timothy 6;10 – For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

Hebrews 13:5 – Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have.

The Bible speaks often and consistently about the dangers of wealth. Here Jesus says that we should take care, we should be on guard against all forms of greed, of avarice, of covetousness in our lives. Take care, literally to stare at, to discern clearly.

Have you ever been to a museum? I’ve been to a couple, not many. I’m not a big museum goer, but I have been on a few field trips to museums. Normally when I go on field trips to museums I look at the painting and I walk on by. But if you notice carefully there are some people who are just sitting there and they are just looking at that painting. Now what, I don’t know, I don’t understand, the painting has not changed, but they are looking at that painting. They are discerning clearly. They may be staring at it for minutes, even hours . They’re looking at it from every angle. They’re studying it. They want to examine it thoroughly. Me? I’m the kind of person that just walks on by.

But Jesus tells us that when it comes to greed, we should not just walk on by when it comes to examining our own life. We should be on guard. We should be watchful. It’s such a vice that we should literally be staring at it in our own lives, staring at our lives, saying, “Is there any greed in my life? Is there any covetousness? Is there any desire in me for more?” In order to discern clearly if it has any grip our soul.

But notice what Jesus isn’t saying in this passage. He doesn’t tell us to take care or to be on guard about wealth itself. You even look at the parable and there’s no condemnation of money, of industry, of success. Jesus doesn’t warn us about possessions in this passage, but rather the what? The abundance of possessions. The main issue that Jesus is addressing here isn’t wealth itself, but rather how we view wealth, how we seek to acquire wealth, what we do with our wealth, and maybe most importantly, the role of wealth and possessions in our hearts.

Think back to 1 Timothy 6 and Hebrews 13. What is that we are to be wary of? The love of money. There’s a danger that wealth presents us. In and of itself it is not inherently a good thing or bad thing, but there is a danger, and I want to point out three dangers for us here tonight that this rich man fell into. Three temptations, three dangers.

First. Wealth tempts us to believe that I live for myself. Wealth tempts us to believe that I live for myself.

Look back at verse 16 where Jesus began the parable. “And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and I will store my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ ”

Here we have a farmer whose land is producing crops. The harvest was so great that for a certain period of time he had dilemma on his hands. What do I do with all my crops? I got a lot of them. This is great. What do I do with them?

On the surface, this seems like a very reasonable question. It seems like a question of strategy or maybe logistics, but did you notice the language that’s used in verse 17 through 19? “And he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul.”

One he, one him, six I’s, and five my’s. Until verse 20 where God interjects Himself there are no other characters in this little parable. It’s the rich man and it’s the rich man alone. He’s an industrious farmer, a successful businessman. He’s had a good year. Nothing wrong with that, Jesus says. He even asks himself a very reasonable question: What do I do with my success? What do I do with all these crops? He’s right to ask the question but he’s wrong in who he asks the question to – and he thought to himself.

It’s striking how self-absorbed the rich man is. He doesn’t seek to involve others. He doesn’t find safety in the counsel of wise men. He answers the question on his own, and more importantly he doesn’t seek to include God in his decisions at all. The lack of prayerfulness is striking. He should have said, “God, what do I do? Thank You, but what do I do?” You see, prayerfulness and generosity often go together.

When we start by acknowledging that God is the one who’s provided us all things, it’s easier for us to acknowledge that this isn’t really mine at all. This is God’s. He’s given it to me, at best He’s loaned it to me. I didn’t create this wealth. I didn’t make these crops grow. I didn’t make it rain. I didn’t produce the soil. It’s all from God. And that acknowledgement, that dependency, leads us to prayer.

The rich man should have said, “God, you’ve blessed me with this. I have more than I need. What should I do with it? Who can I bless? Who’s in need? Who besides me should I be thinking for?”

But what do we see the rich man’s goal was? What was his stewardship aimed at? It was to relax, it was to eat, to drink, to be merry. He’s living for himself. Wealth tempts us to believe the lie that I’m only responsible for me.

Brothers and sisters, if the Lord has blessed you with a sharp mind, with industrious skills that lead to a great harvest in life, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. There’s no need to shun your success. But you should be wary that wealth tempts us to live for ourselves. An abundance of possessions should lead to having an abundance of caution.

Have you acknowledged God as the One who gives and takes away? Not you. Have you given Him thanks for the bountiful harvest? Have you surrounded yourself with wise counselors who can help provide accountability for that stewardship of the wealth? Are you generous, giving back to God what He has first given you? Are you seeking to meet the needs of others around you? Wealth tempts us to live for ourselves and ourselves alone.

Second. Wealth tempts us to live only for this world.

First wealth tempts us to live for ourselves, second wealth tempts us to live only for this world.

Look back at the text in verse 20. “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things that you have prepared, whose will they be?’”

There’s a problem when relaxation, when eating and drinking are the chief end in our life, and the problem is obvious – this life is going to end. When pleasure in this world is our main end, we forget that there is an end to this world. I’ll say that again – if pleasure is your chief end, you’ll quickly forget that there is an end to this world.

We need to be careful, because once again this isn’t a condemnation of appropriate levels of relaxation. This isn’t a condemnation of enjoying food and drink, having a good time with friends and family. But when that becomes what this life is for, Jesus says that’s a problem. God exposes this rich man’s single greatest flaw in his life’s philosophy, and that’s that his life is going to end

When we life to relax, eat, drink, and be merry, we testify that this is the only world that there is, so we better enjoy it now. We ought to live as if there’s another life, another world to come.

James chapter 4 – You do not know what tomorrow will bring; what is life? You are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

We have to believe that there’s something else out there beyond this world. There’s something beyond this life, and the realization that we have just a few short years in this life, but an eternity waiting for us should change everything for the Christian. It should change my priorities. It should change the way I spend my time. It should change the way I think about evangelism and sharing Christ with others, the fear of man that comes with that. It should change my relationships and how I treat people and how I engage with people. Jesus here reminds us that it should change the way we approach money and wealth and possessions as well.

It’s striking that this may be one of the only passages in the Bible that specifically talks about retirement. And it’s not favorable. Maybe that’s a big jump to go from this one passage to never retire; that’s not at all what I’m trying to say. I can’t wait to retire in two or three years; it’s going to be incredible. Got a long way ahead of me.

But Americans think of retirement as extended leisure, extended play. You work for 40 years or so and then you get to play until you go play in heaven. You know, I am so grateful and we are so blessed at this church to have an amazing community of men and women who are living their retired years for the glory of Christ. Friends, if that’s you and I can’t name everyone and list everyone here, you’re such an encouragement to me. You’re such an encouragement to our church. Thank you so much for that. I’m sure the other pastors would echo that. This church is full of men and women who aren’t living for pleasure in their retired years but who are living for the world to come. Who aren’t spending their retired years eating, drinking, and being merry but rather living for the glory of Christ. It’s incredible testimony. I’m so grateful to be a part of a church that has men and women like that.

Jesus isn’t condemning retirement. He isn’t condemning wealth. But He is reminding us, friends, He’s reminding that this world and all of its toys and all of its gadgets and all of its cars and its houses and its second houses, are not all that there is to life. It’s not all there is. It’s going to be gone like that.

Are we living for this world? Or for the world to come?

This life is going to end. There’s going to be a day where God is going to tell each of us, “This night your soul is required of you.” I so don’t want Jesus’ first question to me to be, “So what are you going to do with your stuff?” I don’t want it to be about my stuff. You don’t want it to be about your stuff. I want to hear, “Enter into the joy of your Master. You didn’t live for that world; you lived for this one.”

Wealth tempts us to believe that we only live for this world.

Third. Wealth tempts us to believe that I am what I own. I am what I own.

How easy it is to feel a sense of identity and security and belonging in the things that we own. How easy it is to be identified with your possessions. And we can have nice things and not be attached to them. That’s certainly possible. That’s between you and the Lord. But Jesus warns us that those things can get a grip on your soul.

Notice back at what the rich man says in verse 19. He’s talking about his plans, he’s talking about his possessions, and he says, “And I will say to my soul.” This man’s soul was wrapped up in what he owned, in what he possessed. He was what he owned. The external things became internal marks of his identity.

One commentator notices this, that he had a false estimate of blessing, for he assumed that his primary purpose in life was to collect. Second, he had a false estimate of time, for he assumed that he is fixed for many years. Third, he had a false sense of purpose. He could take it easy. Fourth, he had a false sense of control. Notice how he says, “You have many good things now.” Finally, fifth, he had a false sense of value, for his focus was wholly on the many good things with no apparent thought for his soul or his life.

This rich man’s identity was so distorted by his possessions that he had a false sense of blessing, of time, of purpose, of control, and of value.

Reminds me of a story I heard once. It’s kind of a fable. But it’s a story of John D. Rockefeller. Many of you know John D. Rockefeller. You might remember him from your history classes. John D. Rockefeller was maybe the richest man in the history of the modern world, net worth in the early 20th century was over $1 billion, adjusted for inflation today that represents a net worth of over $400 billion, the equivalent of the approximate wealth of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett combined.

Legend has it that late in his life Rockefeller had a conversation with a journalist names Charles Earl Funk. According to Funk, when he asked Rockefeller how much money was enough, Rockefeller simply replied, “Just a little bit more.”

Just a little bit more. Brothers and sisters, I know that everything around us tells us that we are what we own. That we just need a little bit more. Doesn’t matter if you’re making X amount or you’re making Y amount. We all feel that pull to make a little bit more. To have a little bit more than we have. Every advertisement we watch, every nicer house we drive by, every car we pull up beside, every Instagram post we see is telling us that your worth and your value is tied up in what you possess.

Brothers and sisters, if you are in Christ here tonight, that’s not true of you. Your identity is not found in your stuff. It’s found in your Savior. It’s not found in your 401k or your financial portfolio; it’s found in your God who has purchased and redeemed you.

Wealth tempts us to believe that I am what I own, and Jesus tells us to believe that I am His because He has made me His own.

Wealth tempts us to believe three things: That I live for myself, that I live only for this world, and I am what I own.

The summation is that Jesus says that this man is what? He’s a fool.

I can’t imagine the God of the universe looking at me and saying, “Fool.” I’m a fool if I only live for myself. I’m a fool if I only live for this world. And I’m a fool if I believe that I am what I own.

If we look closely, this man he got a lot of things wrong. But there’s something there for us. There was a missed blessing. There was a blessing he could have had and he missed. This parable majors on the dangers of wealth, the allure of avarice, to be on guard against greed, but if we look closely we can see there was an opportunity for this man, an opportunity that he lost but maybe you and I, maybe the crowds around Jesus, maybe there was an opportunity for us to gain. There was a chance that this man could have been rich towards God instead of being rich towards this world.

Three quick blessings that he missed.

One. The blessing of depending on God.

Two. The blessing of generosity.

Third. The blessing of eternal life.

First the blessing of depending on God. Think back to this rich man’s utter dependence on who? On himself. Six I’s and five my’s in verses 17 through 19. Christian, if you’re a Christian here tonight, if we are in Christ, that’s not how we ought to live. My life is not my own. Colossians 3 says that our life is what? Hidden with Christ, therefore we ought to be dependent upon Him.

It’s very easy for us to trust in our strength, to trust in our own ingenuity. That’s what this man did. He should have been dependent upon God.

Very practically, how do you and I demonstrate this type of dependence? There’s many ways. Maybe most obviously and most simply, we pray. We pray. We can think of many ways to describe prayer. But isn’t prayer, in its essence, just communicating to God that God, You are in control and I’m not. God, You are the one that I’m looking to. God, You are the one who I need to talk to. You are the one that I need to seek counsel from. God, You are the one who is over all and through all and in all. And I’m not.

You see, even if our particular vice isn’t greed, even if we aren’t tempted by the abundance of possessions in our life or around us, all of us may be tempted to live like the rich fool in other ways. All of us may have those moments where we say to ourselves, “I’ve got to make it happen myself.” And he said to himself, “What shall I do to have enough money saved up in my 401k? What shall I do to get into that college? What shall I do to win the approval of him or her? What shall I do to find someone who will love me?”

Even in ministry, your pastors can struggle with this. What shall I do to grow my ministry? To earn the respect and admiration of my peers? To be recognized and praised?

Friends, we are all tempted to live a life of self-dependence and Jesus warns us what an abundance of possession can tempt us with.

Maybe that’s your temptation. Maybe it’s not. But all of us are likely to struggle with the same sort of self-dependence that this man struggled with, and it’s prayer that saves us from this type of life.

Tim Keller reminds us when life is going smoothly and our truest hearts treasures seem safe, it does not occur to us to pray.

Prayer is an act of declaring that we are not in charge and that we are dependent upon God. The rich man needed wisdom and he should have looked to God.

Second. This man missed the blessing of generosity. It’s clear in that his abundance of possessions he gave no thought to giving back to those around him. He missed the blessing of being generous to others.

Wasn’t it the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who said, “It is more blessed to” what? To give rather than to receive.

So friends, thinking about Jesus’ words, it’s more blessed to give than to receive, how blessed are you? How generous are you? For those of us who have been successful or will be successful in the future, don’t miss the blessing of generosity, the blessing to bless others, to give to those with less. Don’t miss the blessing to declare all the things that this rich man missed. That I don’t live for myself but rather I live for others. I don’t live for this world, but rather I live for the world to come. No, I’m not what I own, rather I want to be known by the one who owns me, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The rich fool missed a chance to be generous. May that not be true of you and of me.

Finally, most importantly, the rich fool missed the blessing of eternal life.

I mentioned earlier that for all of those who are in Christ, that your identity does not have to be found in possessions. But the reality is that not all our in Christ. It’s likely here tonight, even, that there may be some of you who aren’t Christians. Maybe you’re here because mom or dad told you to come, or you had just some sense of guilt that maybe I should come and be here. But it’s very likely that not all here are in Christ. If you’re not a Christian, if you’re just here, just wandered in, we’re so glad that you’re here. What a great place this is to explore who God is, get to know who Jesus is more. We want you to feel warm. We want you to feel welcome here. We hope you find friends and community, but we would be remiss if we did not also let you know that more than anything we hope you find God here.

You see, Christians believe that the God of the Bible, this Jesus, He’s real. And He’s living. And He offers you a life with Him. A relationship. A way to be reconciled back to Him. That’s what Jesus means when He says that the rich man should have been rich towards God.

There are all kinds of ways to be rich in this world. You can be rich with possessions. You can be rich with fame. You can be rich with popularity. But there’s only one way to be rich towards God, and that’s to know Him. And to trust in Him. And to depend on Him. As one pastor puts it, being rich towards God is the heart of being drawn towards God as our greatest riches, rich towards God means moving towards God as our riches, rich towards God means counting God’s riches greater than anything else on this earth.

Friends, is Jesus Christ your greatest treasure? There’s nothing more important in your life than that you know Jesus. It’s not what you drive, it’s not where you live, it’s not where your kids go to school or how much is in your 401k. It’s none of that. It’s about knowing Christ.

Paul says it in Philippians 3 – Whatever gain I had, I count it as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of what? Knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord.

That’s what it means to be rich towards God. To count everything as loss. It means that my money, my wealth, my possessions, my prestige in life, my acceptance before the world, my dreams, my future, my ambitions, my own sense of identity and worth, everything is a loss because I know Him, and that makes everything else a gain.

You think back to John D. Rockefeller. All he wanted was a little bit more. And in some senses, Christians, we should be like that, too. But not towards money, not towards possessions, not towards the things of this world. No. We should want a little bit more of the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what it means to be rich towards God. Ultimately in life, we have two choices. We can be rich towards this world, or we can be rich towards God.

Where is your treasure? I hope and pray that it would be found in Christ alone.

I know that myself or any of the other pastors or elders or ministry elders, small group leaders, if you have questions about that, we would love to talk to you about what it means to be rich towards God, to know Him.

Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, how grateful we are that we can know You. You are not a God that is unknown. You are a God that is mysterious, yes, but yet known as we sang this morning. And You have made Yourself known by sending the Lord Jesus Christ as a man to live the life that we should have, to die the death that we deserve, and raised again to new life. So Lord, we pray that tonight above everything else that You would give us a heart to know Jesus Christ more, to be rich towards God. Help us to look carefully, to be on guard against covetousness, against greed in our own life, to examine that carefully, and then look to Jesus. We thank You so much for the Lord Jesus Christ and His ministry here to us tonight. It’s in His name we pray. Amen.