What precisely was the sin of the Rich Fool?

October 8, 2016 Randy Bushey

grain-crops-2-1323161by Randy Bushey, October 8, 2016
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ (Luke 12:20).

The Lord Jesus was not afraid to talk about money.

In fact the late Bible teacher David McClurkin – an accountant by training and practice – said that Christ referenced money and wealth in the Gospels more often than He talked about hell.

And as I read through the gospels, I’ve observed Jesus spoke of money more often than He mentioned prayer, worship, obedience, and mercy.

Why did He, who in His human life had so little by way of monetary wealth, speak so frequently about it in His teaching, and particularly in His parables?

Probably, the answer can be found in wealth’s great power to seduce, to tempt, to motivate to hate, murder, and steal. To produce greed and pride and the lust for power – and everything that God hates.

And so the Lord Jesus recognized money for what it is, and for its economic muscle –what it can do – but warned against it having an improper place in one’s priorities, affections, and the sense of one’s value and purpose.

So where did the Rich Fool go wrong?

Many readers of the gospels think his errant turn was, after his fields had yielded a bumper crop, deciding to go bigger: I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods (v.18).

But every person running a business would love to have that problem! He was simply devising a strategic solution to the challenge brought about by a bumper yield – he needed more warehouse space to store crops thereby preventing destruction due to mould and rot.

Furthermore, his great yield accelerated the timing of his plan to go into retirement mode. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry” (v.19).

Is that evil? Don’t lots of folks in our culture, when the retirement party is over and the guests have gone home, say much the same thing, albeit in a more muted, Canadian-understated way?

Here’s where he went wrong: he was a fool because of what he didn’t say; what he had refused to acknowledge.

He was rich, but biblically wealth is morally neutral, neither evil or righteous.

He was a fool, but his failing was not an intellectual deficiency.

The Lord called him a fool, because of moral deficiency – his lack of recognition and thankfulness in a world where God is sovereign.

The Old Testament saints recognized that God sovereignly distributes wealth according to His purposes.

King David reminded his people of this in his public prayer when he said to the Lord: Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all…But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand (1 Chronicles 29:12,14).

That for me, was the failing of the Rich Fool.

He failed to understand God’s over-arching role and control as King of the cosmos. We are His creatures, His vassals, made simply for the purpose of reflecting His glory.

And in that role, this man failed miserably. He was selfish and arrogant and unthankful; therefore, he was deluded and foolish. So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God (v.21).

Takeaway: God’s sovereign pleasure determines how He distributes blessing, health, grace, and wealth and it has nothing to do with our merit or what we have earned.

Those of us who are rich – and that encompasses most all of us in the western world when compared to the rest of the globe – would do well to be reminded of that every day.

Additionally, this parable teaches us at the outset, that the fullness and success of a life is not measured by net worth: for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses (v.15).

True wealth is to know the Lord. Authentic riches is to know His sovereign care. Genuine contentment is to anticipate eternity in the presence of the Lord Jesus, knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

~photo credit: agzu