Summary: Parable of the Rich fool. Sometimes people have trouble identifying with this parable because we don’t see ourselves as rich.
Does this Sermon Apply to You?
August 5, 2007
I would like to take you this morning to a place in your imagination. There was this fellow named Ben. Ben was the first from his family to go to college. His parents had grown up during the depression and money had been so tight, that higher education was a dream that they never were able to realize. But they made a promise to each other that their son would get the best education that was available.
Fortunately, Ben was a fine student and was admitted to the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Following graduation, he applied and was accepted to the MBA program at Harvard.
So with a brand new MBA in his pocket, he was ready to take on the world. He took a great risk and started his own company. He heard of a couple of veterinarian researchers who had developed a micro-chip which, when implanted in a pig, would transmit biological information which could then be used to design unique feeding programs for individual hogs, thus maximizing market value.
It was a great idea, but they couldn’t sell it to anyone, until Ben decided to take a chance. The company exploded in growth beyond almost everyone’s expectation. Almost overnight Ben became very rich. His company built a headquarters in Chicago with regional offices in Denver, Dallas, and Atlanta.
Ben collected antique automobiles, race horses, and expensive homes. In addition to his home on Chicago’s Gold Coast, he had a home on Martha’s Vineyard, and in Palm Beach, and a get-a-way house in the south of France.
At age 50, he had amassed a huge fortune. He was literally making money faster than he could spend it. So he decided to retire. He sold his business to an international conglomerate, put his money in a bank in the Cayman Islands, and retired to a sixty-five million dollar home just outside Nassau in the Bahamas.
The very first night in his new home, he had a dream. In the dream, he relived his whole life. He remembered college and graduate school, the early risky days of his new business, the phenomenal growth of the company, and becoming very, very rich. And then a voice said, “You’re an idiot. Before the night is over, you will stand at the gates of eternity. What will you have to show for it?”
Does that sound familiar? It should if you remember the gospel lesson I read just a few short minutes ago. The headline above this parable is titled “The Greedy Farmer” in The Message. It is more commonly known as the Parable of the Rich Fool.”
At this point in the gospel of Luke, Jesus is making his way slowly but surely down to Jerusalem for the final time in his life. Along the way, he drew crowds, as he always did, to hear his preaching and teaching. One day, this guy in the crowd stood up with a really strange request. “Teacher, order my brother to give me a fair share of the family inheritance.” We all know that Jesus was a great preacher, and preachers all love an opportunity to preach. Jesus, most of all, recognized a preaching and teaching moment when it presented itself.
First he asked this guy why it was his business to interfere into individual family affairs. And then he said to the general audience, “Take care. Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.”
Then he told them a story. There was a rich farmer who had been wildly successful. He discovered that his barns weren’t big enough for his harvest, so he decided to tear them down and build bigger ones. Then he would be able to sit back and retire on his earned wealth, never having to worry about finances again.
Just then, who happened to show up but God, who told the rich man that he was acting like a fool. That night, he would die. Since there are no pockets in a shroud, he couldn’t take any of his wealth with him. You have never seen a U-haul trailer hitched on to the back of a hearse. So he would be entering death the same way he entered life: naked, bald, and penniless. His relatives would be the ones who would be fighting over the will and getting his estate through probate. Jesus said, “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.”
This isn’t a parable just for the rich. It is for all of us. That is the biggest problem because we can’t see ourselves in that picture. We don’t have Cayman Island bank accounts or huge estates. We like to tell ourselves that we’re not rich, when in fact; we are richer than we imagine. We have more stuff than we ever can use, and we just keep accumulating more.