The Foolish Rich Man

In Luke 12:13-21 we see a familiar and contemporary struggle – a family fighting over inheritance money. My extended family has had a drama like this. Maybe you can relate.

“Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he 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.” (Luke 12:13-21)

In this parable, Jesus describes a man who is living the American dream. He has had a windfall crop; so much grain that he doesn’t know what to do with it all. In our world, our company is bought out and we get a windfall. A stock we own goes through the roof. The point is that here is a man who suddenly is rich toward earth. Notice what he’s thinking and what he’s not thinking. He’s not thinking, What good can I do with this? Who can I help? How can I give back to God? His only thoughts are for himself. Eat, drink, be merry. Relax. Retire. Just sit back and count my money. He’s living the American dream.

But wait – there’s something he doesn’t see. He doesn’t realize that that very night is his last. Now what happens to all that money? Does he take it with him? What is it worth now?

Jesus calls him a fool, but realize why. It’s not because he was rich. The Bible never condemns the accumulation of wealth or financial success. It does condemn living for it and being foolish with it, which in this parable, is his failure to understand what real worth is. Death reveals the stupidity of his life.

Is anyone out there being stupid? Is there anyone out there who Jesus would point to and call a fool? Is anyone out there assessing things like the rich man, living so foolishly merely for the here and now? “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20)

The answer to that question is, NOT his. It seems about every week there is some successful person in our culture who dies. This week it’s Hall of Famer Gary Carter. Last week it was Whitney Houston. Steve Appleton of Micron Tech died in a plane crash…Etta James…Joe Paterno. Every week someone rich and famous dies. Remember I said that for whomever it is this week.

What do you think about when you hear it? I often think about what the death moment is like for someone who has lived in luxury and fame. What is it like to go from that to being face to face with God? To be suddenly ushered into an eternal destiny? Eternal life or death? Heaven or hell? To look at your life from the perspective of eternity and what could have been. As Ryle said, “Hell is truth discovered too late.” How many millions must there be in eternity thinking, “What a fool I was!”?

May I ask you, are you laying up treasure in heaven? Are you rich toward God?

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address ( on the copied resource.

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