Greed – The Parable of the Rich Fool

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In Luke 12:13-21, Jesus was giving a great advice to all of us, along with a great parable: The Parable of the Rich Fool. The story reminds us of our main priority in life – it’s not all about being successful or being rich. It’s all about Jesus, it’s all about His Glory, it’s all about becoming “rich” towards God.

Greed makes us deviate from this true goal of life and most of us may not be aware that we have fallen into it (and greed is not just about money). Let’s try to take a closer look at this parable and the story in Luke 12:13-21.

The Parable of the Rich Fool (ESV)

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 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.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 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. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Notice that in the previous verses, Jesus was teaching the crowd about who He is, the Son of Man. Yet, all this “someone” cared about was about the inheritance (most likely his brother was with him when he asked Jesus). Jesus was disturbed because of the motivation of this man, of his heart. He gave a really good advice in verse 15:

15 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.”

Covetousness (or Greed [NET Bible]) is an “intense and selfish desire for something” or in another definition, “want more than we need”.

Now this reminds me at times of people (and myself) who often ask whether they should buy a certain item, tablet, or phone. Often we have this desire of owning something, though deep down in our heart, we know that we don’t really need it. We then try to find “excuses” to defend our own desire, our want (“Oh, I don’t really really need it – BUT if I have it, I’ll use it for X and Y”). Whether you agree with me or not, “want more than we need” is already considered a greed, according to the definition.

Now, Jesus was teaching us to always be on our guard against greed. It’s a present, imperative sentence; meaning it must be done continuously and it’s a “must-do” as a Christian. We may never know when it comes or when we have already succumbed to greed.

Now of course, the magic question is how much is enough? Is it really wrong to buy something that we don’t really need? If there is a clear definite answer to this, then we can safely throw away all our “excessive” shoes, clothes, shirts, and gadgets. How about being rich, piling our savings, and investing? Is that considered a greed? What is the fine line?

Note that Jesus didn’t say that it’s wrong or non-biblical to be rich and live in abundance, don’t get me wrong here. If it is, then we may have to erase the book of Job (because God returned his riches and even in double!) and all books about Abraham, for he was really rich.

The main problem of this man in the story is clear – he thinks that riches and materialism are everything. The root of the problem is his heart. He even put this above the relationship with his brother – I’m sure you’ve often heard that brothers (or even life partners) are fighting with one another when it concerns money. Life is not about possessions (as Jesus stated in verse 15b)!

Why the parable is titled “The Parable of the Rich Fool”?

Simple answer: because the man in this story is a fool. But why?

[1] The source of his blessings

He was never aware that God was the One who gave all the blessings to him. Jesus cleverly pointed this as “The land of a rich man produced plentifully”. Note that it’s the land who produced plentifully. Yet the man wasn’t aware of this. You can also count how many times the word “I”, mentioned in this story. Aren’t we like this sometimes? “I’m rich because I work hard”. “I earn that salary”, etc.

[2] The ownership of his blessings

Notice how many times he said “my”, “my”, “my” – my goods, my grain, my crops, etc. This is related to the first point above. He forgot that he didn’t really own these things. Neither do we. We don’t own our money, we don’t own everything in this world. We are His steward. We will be held responsible with what we do with our blessings. Don’t forget that.

[3] The goal of his blessings

And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.

To enjoy life was his goal. To have fun while he still could. He was a fool because he thought that’s what being rich is all about. He never gave it back to God, he never asked what God wanted him to do with his blessings.  In fact, he didn’t include God at all in this planning and life.

Our blessings do not come for free. Have you ever thought what God wants you to do with all the money or talents that He has given you? Or you are too busy being happy and have fun with all the things you have/like at the moment?

[4] Richness as his sense of security

To him, richness gave him a sense of security in this life. “If I’m rich, I can do anything. I’m safe for many years to come.” Unfortunately, he is a fool to think this way because he thinks he can control life. All he thinks about is what he’s going to do with this richness for himself. Yet in the end, it was all be taken from him.

In the next hour, we may lose our job, we may lose our savings, and everything that we’ve built in decades can be gone in a matter of minutes. Which is why we need to lay up our treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20).

The problem with greediness is that when greed has overtaken us (whether we realise it or not), it shifts our focus on God to the thing that we greed about. Whether it’s money, hobby, or something else, it doesn’t matter. When we want something really bad (or when we solely focus on it), all we want is to get more and more and we put God aside. We will never be satisfied with what we have and I’m sure you know this already.

1Timotius 6:10
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Here are some questions to ponder about even when you think that you are not a greedy person:

  • Have you ever cheated or lied to get something for free or cheaper?
    When a friend works in a place (restaurant, cafe, etc), often we are offered a free drink or a free food. Did you accept this happily? Can’t you afford it? Will the owner be happy about this? If you are the owner and your staffs give free food and drinks to their friends, will you be happy about it?
  • Have you downloaded pirated software/games, music, or movies?
    Again, can’t you afford it? We may put up an excuse “If only it’s cheaper, I’ll buy it”. Really?
  • Are you happier to buy new stuffs than seeing someone new in the church or giving himself/herself to Jesus?
  • How many times do you think about money, your future, or hobby compared to thinking about God?
  • Have you ever wanted something so much that you know it’s not right (or it’s not necessary), yet you finally bought it? It can be as simple as buying a drink, a cake, or an ice cream!

Take these questions seriously. Greediness is not all about money. When you greed, your heart becomes corrupted and at the end, all you care about is “worshiping” the item or things you care about. Even more than God.

Giving offering, tithing, or sponsoring a child is one of the examples to guard you against greed (in terms of money). Be on guard always and fight it!

Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions!

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Michael Aulia is a Christian blogger who lives in Australia. He is the owner of WriteForGod.com and also CravingTech.com