The Parable of the Rich Fool - A Lesson on Greed | Bible Study #7

Parables Bible Study #7 – The Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21)

Pastor Duke Taber

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Introduction

The Parable of the Rich Fool, found in the Gospel of Luke, is a story that Jesus told to warn against the dangers of greed and the foolishness of placing one’s trust in material possessions. This parable comes as a response to a man in the crowd who asks Jesus to settle a dispute over an inheritance, and it reveals important truths about the nature of true wealth and the importance of being rich towards God.

Through this parable, Jesus challenges our natural inclination to find security and satisfaction in the accumulation of wealth and possessions. He shows us that a life centered on material gain is ultimately futile and that true abundance is found in a rich relationship with God.

As we study this parable, may we be challenged to examine our own hearts and priorities. May we be warned against the subtle dangers of greed and materialism, and may we be inspired to pursue true riches by investing in our relationship with God and using our resources for His purposes. And may we learn to hold loosely to the things of this world, recognizing that our lives are ultimately in God’s hands and that He alone is the source of true security and satisfaction.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What comes to mind when you think of the Parable of the Rich Fool?
  2. Have you ever struggled with the temptation to find security or satisfaction in material possessions? What was that experience like?
Parables Bible Study #7 - The Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21)

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The Context

The Parable of the Rich Fool is preceded by a brief exchange between Jesus and a man in the crowd. The man says to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me” (Luke 12:13, ESV). Jesus responds by warning the man, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15, ESV).

This exchange provides the immediate context for the parable that follows. The man’s request reveals a preoccupation with material wealth and a desire to secure his share of the family inheritance. His focus is on his own financial gain, and he seems to view Jesus as someone who can help him achieve this goal.

Jesus’ response to the man is a warning against covetousness, or the greedy desire for more possessions. He suggests that the man’s request reflects a misplaced understanding of what constitutes a meaningful and abundant life. True life, Jesus asserts, is not found in the accumulation of possessions but in a right relationship with God.

To illustrate this point, Jesus then tells the Parable of the Rich Fool. The parable is not a direct answer to the man’s request but a broader teaching on the dangers of greed and the nature of true wealth.

The wider context of this parable is Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of God and the values that are to characterize the lives of His followers. Throughout the Gospel of Luke, Jesus repeatedly warns against the dangers of wealth and the importance of using one’s resources for the sake of others and the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

For example, in the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus declares, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20, ESV), and “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation” (Luke 6:24, ESV). He teaches His disciples not to worry about material provisions but to seek first the Kingdom of God (Luke 12:22-31).

The Parable of the Rich Fool, then, is one of many teachings in which Jesus challenges the prevailing attitudes towards wealth and possessions. He confronts the assumption that a person’s worth and security are determined by what they own and calls His followers to a different set of values and priorities.

As we study this parable, it’s important to keep in mind this broader context of Jesus’ teaching on wealth and possessions. The parable is not just about one man’s foolishness but about the dangers that the pursuit of wealth poses to all of us. It challenges us to examine our own hearts and to ask ourselves where we are finding our security and satisfaction.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Why do you think the man in the crowd was so concerned about his inheritance? Can you relate to his perspective?
  2. How does Jesus’ warning against covetousness challenge the prevailing attitudes towards wealth and possessions in our own culture?

The Story

The parable itself is a simple story about a rich man whose land produced an abundantly good crop. The man, faced with this windfall, begins to reflect on what he should do with his surplus grain. He says to himself, “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?” (Luke 12:17, ESV).

The rich man then comes up with a plan. He decides to tear down his existing barns and build larger ones to store all his grain and goods. With his wealth securely stored away, he looks forward to a future of ease and self-indulgence. He says to his soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19, ESV).

However, the story takes an unexpected turn. That very night, God says to the man, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20, ESV). The man, who had been so focused on his own security and pleasure, suddenly faces the reality of his own mortality and the ultimate futility of his wealth.

Jesus concludes the parable with a sobering statement: “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21, ESV). The rich man’s foolishness lay in his preoccupation with his own material wealth and his failure to recognize his dependence on and accountability to God.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What details in the parable stand out to you, and why?
  2. How does the sudden turn in the story (God’s pronouncement of judgment on the rich man) challenge our assumptions about wealth and security?

The Characters

While the Parable of the Rich Fool features only two main characters—the rich man and God—it provides a vivid picture of the human condition and our relationship with material possessions.

The Rich Man

Parables Bible Study #7 - The Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21)

The central character in the parable is a rich man whose land has produced an abundant crop. The man’s wealth is not presented as inherently problematic; indeed, the abundance of his harvest could be seen as a blessing from God.

However, the rich man’s response to this abundance reveals the state of his heart. When faced with the question of what to do with his surplus, his thoughts immediately turn inward. He begins to plan how he can store up his wealth for his own future comfort and enjoyment.

The rich man’s soliloquy is revealing. He speaks to himself, saying “What shall I do?” (Luke 12:17). He goes on to use the first-person pronoun “I” six times in the space of three verses, revealing his self-absorption and his belief that his wealth is the result of his own efforts.

Moreover, the man’s plan for his wealth is entirely self-centered. He looks forward to a future of relaxation, eating, drinking, and merriment. There is no thought of using his abundance to help others, no recognition of his responsibility to steward his resources for the good of his community.

The rich man’s attitude reflects a worldview that was common in the ancient world and remains prevalent today. It is a perspective that sees wealth as a means of selfgratification and self-protection, a way to ensure one’s own comfort and security in the face of life’s uncertainties.

However, the man’s self-centered perspective is ultimately shown to be foolish. His wealth, which he believed would secure his future, proves to be utterly futile in the face of his own mortality. The very night that he makes his plans for self-indulgence, his life is demanded of him.

The rich man’s story is a cautionary tale about the dangers of finding one’s identity and security in material possessions. It shows us how easily we can become enslaved to a desire for more, how quickly we can forget our dependence on and accountability to God.

God

Parables Bible Study #7 - The Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21)

The other character in the parable is God, who appears suddenly and pronounces judgment on the rich man’s foolishness. God’s words to the man are harsh: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20).

God’s pronouncement reveals several important truths. First, it reminds us of the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death. No matter how much wealth we accumulate, we cannot escape the reality that our lives are ultimately in God’s hands.

Second, it shows us that our possessions are temporary and that we cannot take them with us when we die. The rich man’s carefully stored wealth will pass to someone else; it will not benefit him beyond the grave.

Third, and most importantly, God’s judgment reveals that a life focused on material gain is ultimately foolish in His eyes. The rich man is called a “fool” not because he is wealthy but because he has failed to be “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).

This phrase, “rich toward God,” suggests that true wealth is found in one’s relationship with God. It implies a life that is centered on God’s purposes, that uses one’s resources for His glory and the good of others. It is a life that recognizes that all we have is a gift from God and that we are called to steward these gifts with wisdom and generosity.

In contrast, the rich man’s self-centered hoarding of his wealth reveals a heart that is impoverished towards God. Despite his abundant possessions, he is spiritually bankrupt, lacking the true riches of a life lived in relationship with and for God.

Reflection Questions:

  1. In what ways can you identify with the rich man in the parable? How does his story challenge or convict you?
  2. What do you think it means to be “rich toward God”? How might this look in your own life?

The Dangers of Greed

At the heart of the Parable of the Rich Fool is a warning against the dangers of greed. Jesus tells this story in response to a man’s request for help in securing his inheritance, and He uses it to illustrate the folly of a life centered on the accumulation of wealth.

Greed, or covetousness, is a desire for more than one needs, a craving for wealth and possessions that is never satisfied. It is a dangerous attitude that can quickly take root in our hearts and lead us away from a trust in and dependence on God.

The rich man in the parable exemplifies the self-centered nature of greed. When faced with abundance, his first thought is not gratitude or generosity but a desire to hoard his wealth for his own future comfort. He makes plans to store up his possessions, dreaming of a life of ease and self-indulgence.

However, the man’s greed blinds him to several important realities. First, it causes him to forget his own mortality. In his preoccupation with his wealth, he fails to recognize that his life could be demanded of him at any moment and that his possessions will ultimately pass to someone else.

Second, the man’s greed blinds him to his responsibility to others. There is no indication that he considers using his abundance to help the poor or to benefit his community. His wealth has become an end in itself, a means of self-gratification rather than a tool for blessing others.

Finally, and most significantly, the man’s greed reveals a heart that is far from God. In his self-reliance and self-centeredness, he has forgotten that his wealth is a gift from God, to be stewarded for God’s purposes. He has replaced a trust in and dependence on God with a trust in and dependence on his possessions.

The result of this greed is spiritual poverty. Despite his abundant wealth, the rich man is called a “fool” by God, someone who has failed to recognize what truly matters. He has gained the world but lost his soul, storing up treasures on earth but failing to be rich towards God.

The parable thus serves as a sobering warning about the insidious nature of greed and the danger of placing our trust in material possessions. It challenges us to examine our own hearts and to ask ourselves where we are finding our security and satisfaction.

Are we, like the rich man, preoccupied with our own comfort and self-gratification? Are we hoarding our resources for ourselves, failing to use them for the good of others and the glory of God? Are we placing our trust in our possessions rather than in the God who provides them?

These are challenging questions, but they are essential if we are to avoid the trap of greed and pursue true wealth in our relationship with God. They call us to a posture of gratitude, generosity, and dependence on God, recognizing that all we have is a gift to be used for His purposes.

Reflection Questions:

  1. In what ways have you experienced the dangers of greed in your own life? How has a pursuit of wealth or possessions affected your relationship with God and others?
  2. What practical steps can you take to guard your heart against greed and cultivate a posture of gratitude and generosity?

True Wealth

While the Parable of the Rich Fool is a warning against greed, it also points us towards a positive vision of true wealth. Jesus concludes the parable by contrasting the rich man’s foolishness with the wisdom of being “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).

This phrase suggests that true wealth is not found in the accumulation of possessions but in a right relationship with God. It implies a life that is centered on God’s purposes, that recognizes His provision and seeks to use one’s resources for His glory.

Being rich toward God involves several key attitudes and actions. First, it requires a recognition that all we have is a gift from God. Our wealth, our abilities, our very lives are not our own but are entrusted to us by a loving Creator. This recognition should lead us to a posture of gratitude and humility, acknowledging God as the source of all good things.

Second, being rich toward God involves a commitment to steward our resources for His purposes. It means seeing our wealth not as an end in itself but as a tool to be used for the advancement of God’s Kingdom and the good of others. This might involve giving generously to those in need, supporting the work of the Church, or using our skills and influence to promote justice and compassion in the world.

Third, being rich toward God requires a trust in His provision and care. Rather than finding our security in our possessions, we are called to trust that God will supply our needs and guide our steps. This frees us from the anxiety and grasping that often accompany a pursuit of wealth and allows us to hold our possessions loosely, ready to use them for God’s purposes.

Finally, being rich toward God involves investing in eternal treasures rather than earthly ones. Jesus often warned that the things of this world are temporary and that true security is found in a relationship with Him. He encourages His followers to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20).

This heavenly investment involves a life devoted to loving God and loving others, a life that prioritizes spiritual growth and service over material gain. It recognizes that our ultimate home is not in this world but in the eternal Kingdom of God and that our greatest wealth is found in knowing and following Christ.

The Parable of the Rich Fool thus invites us to reexamine our priorities and to ask ourselves where we are investing our time, our energy, and our resources. It challenges us to shift our focus from the temporary to the eternal, from selfgratification to God-centered stewardship.

As we seek to be rich toward God, we may find that our definitions of wealth and success begin to change. We may discover a greater joy in giving than in getting, a deeper satisfaction in serving others than in indulging ourselves. We may find that our relationship with God and others is more precious than any material possession.

Ultimately, the path to true wealth is the path of discipleship, of following Jesus and aligning our lives with His purposes. It is a path that requires faith, sacrifice, and a willingness to let go of the things of this world. But it is also a path that leads to abundant life, to the “riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18).

Reflection Questions:

  1. What does being “rich toward God” look like in your own life? In what ways are you investing in eternal treasures?
  2. How might a focus on being rich toward God change the way you view and use your material possessions?

Conclusion

The Parable of the Rich Fool is a powerful reminder of the dangers of greed and the importance of finding our security and satisfaction in God. It challenges us to examine our own hearts and priorities, to consider where we are investing our time, energy, and resources.

The rich man in the parable serves as a cautionary tale, an example of the folly of a life centered on material gain. His story reminds us that our possessions are temporary, that our lives are ultimately in God’s hands, and that a preoccupation with wealth can blind us to what truly matters.

At the same time, the parable points us towards a positive vision of true wealth, a life that is rich toward God. This is a life centered on gratitude, stewardship, trust, and investment in eternal treasures. It is a life that recognizes God as the source of all good things and seeks to use one’s resources for His purposes and glory.

As we reflect on this parable, may we be challenged to let go of our grip on material possessions and to find our security and satisfaction in God. May we be inspired to live lives of generosity and service, using our wealth to bless others and advance God’s Kingdom.

May we also be reminded of the fleeting nature of this life and the importance of investing in eternal treasures. In a world that often measures success by the size of one’s bank account or the grandeur of one’s possessions, may we have the courage to pursue a different kind of wealth, the riches of a life lived in relationship with and for God.

This pursuit is not always easy. It requires faith to trust in God’s provision, sacrifice to give generously to others, and humility to acknowledge that our possessions are not our own. It may mean going against the grain of a culture that celebrates selfgratification and material excess.

But the rewards of this pursuit are great. As we seek to be rich toward God, we will find a peace that surpasses understanding, a joy that is not dependent on circumstances, and a hope that endures beyond this life. We will discover the true meaning of abundance, not in the accumulation of things but in the depth of our relationship with the One who gives all things.

So let us hold loosely to the things of this world, recognizing them as temporary gifts to be used for God’s glory. Let us invest our lives in the things that matter most, in loving God and loving others. And let us look forward with hope to the day when we will inherit the true riches of God’s Kingdom, the eternal treasures that moth and rust cannot destroy.

As we go from this place, may the Parable of the Rich Fool remain in our hearts and minds, a constant reminder of the folly of greed and the wisdom of being rich toward God. May it inspire us to live each day with gratitude, generosity, and a deep trust in the One who provides for our every need.

And may we, like the wise steward, hear at the end of our days the words of our Master: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21). For this is the true wealth, the greatest treasure, and the deepest joy – to know and serve the God who loves us and to be welcomed into His eternal Kingdom.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What is one key takeaway or insight you have gained from studying the Parable of the Rich Fool?
  2. How can you apply the truths of this parable to your own life and priorities this week?
  3. Take a moment to pray, asking God to help you hold loosely to the things of this world and to find your true wealth in your relationship with Him.

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