SEVERAL SORTS OF SIMPLE FOOLS
Introduction: Have you ever felt foolish? That you did something to make a fool of yourself? Did you ever look at someone and say, "That person is a fool.." We simple Bible believing Christians are seen by the unbelieving world as fools. They scorn and ridicule us in their media. The even sometimes make fun of us to our face. But I am sure they more often do so behind our backs.
That’s as the scriptures predict. We were named Christians by the world because they thought it foolish that we should to be imitators of Christ. "Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.’ (Acts 11:25-26) Paul, in the first chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians made it clear that the gospel and those who believed it and witnessed and preached it were seen as fools by the philosophers and intelligentsia of the world. Since most men in the street imagine themselves to be in that category; this means we also are seen as fools by most everyone. "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." (I Cor. 1:18) But Paul said he was pleased to be a fool for Christ’s sake. "We [are] fools for Christ’s sake . ." (I Cor. 4:10)
Historically, the word fool has had different connotations in different cultures. You may recall that the word fool was synonymous with court jesters and clowns of yesteryear. Even in our day the world is thrown around loosely and even sometimes used as a term of endearment. But a casual examination of the Word of God will confirm that God used the word seriously. Our Savior strongly cautioned about the dire consequences that could await those who may casually call others fools. "whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.. ." (Matt. 5:22a)
Since God considers the word so seriously, we can be sure that when God defines and condemns a fool His Words are not to be taken lightly. When one finds himself fitting God’s description of a fool, it is no small matter. God went to considerable lengths to define general categories of fools throughout His Word. He twice called all God-denying, Christ rejecters fools, "The fool hath said in his heart, [There is] no God...." (Psalm 14:1, 53:1) He consistently called liars and slanderers fools. "He that hideth hatred [with] lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, [is] a fool." (Prov. 10:18) He pointed to egotistical, conceited and proud people and called them fools. "The way of a fool [is] right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel [is] wise." (Prov. 12:15) He identified ragers (perhaps road ragers?) as fools. "A wise [man] feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident." (Prov. 14:16) He said that those who will not heed parental instruction and will not be accountable to reproof are fools. "A fool despiseth his father’s instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent." (Prov. 15:5) He said that many fools seem prone to repeat their foolishness over and over again. "As a dog returneth to his vomit, [so] a fool returneth to his folly." (Prov. 26:11)
Yes, God and His Son, Jesus Christ, considered foolishness a most serious affliction. So much so, that Jesus shared this parable with us to illustrate the foolishness of those who are the greatest fools of all. Those who deny God. Those who leave Him out of their lives and plans for the future, both here and in eternity.
But let’s make sure we understand the fool described here had some good and commendable qualities. He perhaps could have been seen as paragon of virtue and a good neighbor and friend by those around him.
I’m sure God did not call him a fool because He was a farmer. Although in today’s economic climate some farmers may see themselves in that light at times. It is clear in the Word of God that God has always seemed to have a special affection for those who till the earth and sow the seed to bring fourth bountiful harvests. Rather than being characterized as fools, the men on the land could more clearly be characterized as being the salt of the earth.
It should also be clear God did not call him a fool because he was a hard worker who worked from sun to sun. It is only in our leisure oriented society that a glorification of indolence and slackness has occurred. Those who are now advocating shorter and shorter work weeks should remember that God initiated a six day work week. God said that he who refuses to work shouldn’t be given a free lunch. He also said the person who would not work and take care of his own household is worse than an infidel.
He wasn’t characterized as a fool because he was rich; even though Jesus does desribe three different rich men as acting very foolishly. This man as well as the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 and the rich man who goes to hell in Luke 16. But Job was one of the richest men of his time. So was Abraham. And what about Solomon? God was not implying he was a fool because he was responsible, frugal, careful and took care of what he had. The Bible commends a balance of all these qualities. So why did God call him a fool? Perhaps God Jesus wishes us to examine the negative qualities and character flaws of this fool and then determine the sorts of things that make men simply fools in God’s eyes.
This man was clearly a SELF-CENTRED FOOL. ( See verse 17) This self-centered egoist uses the personal pronoun I six times and the pronoun my five times. It is clear that he saw himself residing at the very centerof his little world as well as being main attraction in the larger world around him. Someone has pointed out the the letter "I" is at the center of both sin and pride.
I am sure we can all identify with this foolish attitude. The great apostle Paul indicated a struggle with the sin of pride was all too common place among believers. He talked about the struggle in avoiding that which was wrong and doing that which was right. As someone has said, "The trouble with me, is me!" I’m afraid many Christians are like Paul and me. We’ve found that most sin problems come from within and are of our own making. In fact, I can whole-heartedly agree with Paul’s lament when he said, "Oh wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
Victory in our spiritual warfare with the sin and pride of our flesh can only come when we fully yield to God. We should make a once and for all presentation of our entire being to God. Paul urges us to present our bodies as a complete living sacrifice unto God, implying this is the only way we can reasonably expect to win the battle. This implies a completed rather than a compartmentalized transaction. An absolute transformation and renewal is required. We are not to give Him our talents this year, our family next year and our money the year after that. It’s all one ball of wax with God. He never settles for less than one hundred percent. If He is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.
But God describes this fool as one who has altogether ignored His very first commandment. "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this [is] the first commandment." (Mark 12:30) How many really take Christ’s call for complete committal seriously? "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matt. 6:33) It is foolish for either the saint or sinner to have priorities that relegate our Saviour to second place. "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." (Col. 2:2)
How do fools today make this same sort of mistake? Some pray, "Lord bless me, my wife and two kids - us four and no more." They ignore our Savior’s selfless example and teaching. "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Matt. 16:24) Are crosses today only for church steeples or to be worn around the necks of worldly entertainers?
I once heard of an advertisement in a Christian Bookstore, ’Special, Crosses, Fifty Percent Off’? Too often we Christians shop for a discounted cross rather than take up His cross of self-denial. Some want a vinyl-padded cross that’s not too heavy. Others look for a small, flat cross which can be put out of sight when they wish to practice secret discipleship. Still others look for a jeweled cross which can make them part of the fashionable in-crowd. But the cross of authentic discipleship is a plain, rough wooden cross that takes a lot of effort to carry. The type on which our Savior was crucified. And this is the cross of discipleship which we as His followers are called to carry. But one important difference is that Jesus Himself has promised to stand with us and help us bear the load. He who said, ’Take up your cross,’ also declared, ’My yoke is easy, and my burden is light’." There are no cheap crosses!
This man was obviously a SELF-SUFFICIENT FOOL. He does not even once mention how God had blessed Him and he assumes all has been wrought by his own hand. "That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matt. 5:45) This fool did not seem to not understand that we owe our breath and very being to God. "For in him we live, and move, and have our being; .. " (Acts 17:28) "Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this [is] the gift of God." (Ecc. 5:19) He does not seem to understand that God could close His hand of provision and blessing at any moment. "Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing." ("Psalm 145:16) He seemed oblivious to the need of spiritual blessings from God. "Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" (Ro. 2:4)
Just how could this rich man have laid up treasure in heaven rather than spending his days obsessed and absorbed with accumulating riches that would perish? "Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go [and] sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come [and] follow me." (Matt. 19:21) Jesus is emphasizing the willingness and the need to place Him first in all. Doing so opens the door to heaven’s treasury! What are you holding back that God wants you to lay on His altar of service? The treasure of time? Talent? Money?
Jesus shows us a SPIRITUALLY STARVED FOOL. (Verses 18-19) This fool imagined that happiness somehow lay in the acquisition and accumulation of material things. Sound familiar? Who is selling that bill of goods today? How? As far as wealth and material things are concerned, how much is enough? "He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this [is] also vanity." (Ecc. 5:10) A little boy once asked his grandfather, "Grandad, just how much money does a rich man have to have before he thinks he has enough?" His wise grandfather replied, "He always thinks he needs just a little more!"
Does happiness lie in the direction of entertainment, parties and and a constant seeking to satisfy our sinful sensuous nature? How many today, as this rich man, are providing for the material, but ignoring the spiritual? How many parents are abundantly providing for the physical needs of their children and absolutely ignoring or neglecting their spiritual future?
We are often horrified and heart-broken when we see images of severely starved children in faraway lands. This is properly so. Our hearts should be touched with their pain. But would it not be good if we could view the plight of those who suffer from spiritual malnutrition with at least an equal amount of horror? Is spiritual starvation, suffering and deformity any less destructive and distressing in the eyes of God? Is spiritual malnutrition not even more eternally significant than temporal deprivation? And yet we seem to take it in our stride as being an inevitable part and parcel of the human condition.
I am sure it would be fair to say that this condition is all too prevalent among God’s people today. We seem to be surrounded by a veritable army of those who are merely spiritual survivors. Who seem to ingest just enough to enable them to weakly struggle on from day to day, always defeated and never really knowing the robust victory the Lord intended in the lives of His people. Is it unfair to comment on the overwhelming number who seem to suffer from spiritual rickets? Those who seem to stagger through life on spindly and wobbly spiritual limbs with the ribs of their skeletal spiritual frame protruding for all the world to see?
It might be even more important to ask ourselves if this is the normal expectation among Christians today? If, as someone has said, a Christian lived the normal Christian life described in the New Testament, would he be viewed as abnormal by other Christians and the world around him? Perhaps we should recognize anything short of continuing robust spiritual growth constitutes spiritual malnutrition and is at least as pathetic and pitiful. Would we be drawing too long a bow to assert that SPIRITUAL STARVATION AND MALNUTRITION IS FOOLISH? Especially when we know that it is not God’s will for man to suffer from SPIRITUAL RICKETS!
It is all too apparent that Jesus is telling a story about A SHORT-SIGHTED FOOL. (See Verses 21, 31,32) It is clear that this rich man spent his life preparing for his few earthly years without any regard for eternity. Jesus once asked an all important rhetorical question on this issue, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:36-37) What is the world’s answer? What is your answer? What is God’s? A short-sighted fool loves his body more than his soul. A short-sighted fool cares more for physical health than spiritual. A short-sighted fool lays up his treasure in the wrong store house. A person’s priorities and purposes in life can truly be reflected by what he values as treasure and where he places it. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matt. 6:19-21)
This short-sighted fool presumed upon tomorrow. (See Verses 19-20) He seemed to feel he could take it with him. But not so. "As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand." (Ecc. 5:15) His greatest mistake was to assume he would have a tomorrow! "Whereas ye know not what [shall be] on the morrow. For what [is] your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." (James 4:14) A wise person does not presume upon tomorrow, but makes the right preparation today to meet his Maker today. ". . . behold, now [is] the accepted time; behold, now [is] the day of salvation." (II Cor. 6:2)