Summary: Lessons from the Parable of the Rich Fool

05-08-01 Morston/Stiffkey

Sermon – Luke 12:13-21 – Shrouds don’t have pockets

Father, I pray that you will take my words this morning and use them to speak to us all from the Gospel reading. I ask this in Jesus Name. Amen.


Story: An atheist was sitting under a tree one day smugly thinking:

"God, I know you don’t exist but if you do exist you must be really stupid.

Look at this huge oak tree. It’s got a little acorn on it. And look at this huge marrow carried by such a puny marrow plant.

Now, if I had been you, I’d have created the oak tree to carry the marrow and the marrow plant to carry the acorn.

While he was reflecting on his wisdom, suddenly an acorn fell and hit him on the head.

“Thank God that wasn’t a marrow!” he exclaimed.

Our thoughts are not God’s thoughts.

So it is with the man in the Parable of the Rich Fool in this morning’s Gospel reading.

Or should the parable be more appropriately entitled: Shrouds don’t have pockets!

Resume of the story:

There are three elements to the story

1. The abundant crop.

2. The rich man’s attitude and

3. God’s condemnation of that attitude.

1. The abundant crop

This parable would have been quite shocking to the 1st Century Jew. Because he would have equated a good crop with God’s blessing.

Wealth was seen as a gift from God.

We can see this idea - for example reflected in the book of Job. When Job has successfully gone through all the tests Satan put before him, and has stayed true to God - he is blessed with wealth. (see Job 42:10 onwards).

So when God in this parable says “You fool” – it must have really jarred the ears of Jesus’ hearers.

What could the man have done to lose God’s blessing.

I think the key is to be found in the rich man’s attitude.

2. The rich man’s attitude

In the parable, Jesus reveals the rich man’s thinking. His motivation was purely selfish – he was out to have a good time. The Rich Fool says:

“You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Eat drink and be merry”.

The whole focus of his life was greed.

The man thinks he has many days of ease ahead of him, when God says to him:

“You fool. This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”

A very sober question. It jars.

Shrouds don’t have pockets.

“So it will be” says Jesus “for anyone who stores up things for himself – but is not rich before God.” v.21

Death is the one great leveller in our society. Rich and poor alike will die one day.

Psalm 49 16 (in the Message) puts it well:

“So don’t be impressed with those who get rich and pile up fame and fortune. They can’t take it with them; fame and fortune all get left behind. Just when they think they have arrived and folk praise them because they have made good, they enter the family burial plot where they’ll never see sunshine again”

Story: I thought about this parable of the Rich Fool three years ago when I was considering whether or not to go into the ministry.

I was a patent agent at the time and I asked myself the question:

“When the last patent that I have written expires what will I have to show for my life? A great pension - but what have I achieved on the eternal scale? Yet if one person commits their life to the Lord through my responding to the call to the ministry – that is something eternal.”

I thought about this parable again earlier this year. My brother, Eddie had bought a wonderful house in Sutton about two years ago and was looking forward to enjoying it.

Yet on 23rd January 2001 this year at the age of 38, he died of a heart attack. And as I looked at his name on the crematorium board at 4 pm on Tuesday 30th January, I wondered what Eddie had to show for his life here on earth?

3. God’s condemnation

You might be tempted to think that this parable means that Jesus taught that wealth is evil. I don’t think it does.

Wealth – money is in itself neutral. There is nothing wrong with having wealth. We all store up things for a rainy day.

What is Jesus condemning then? He is condemning our attitude to what God has given us.

Jesus condemns those who are not rich in God’s sight. Those who live for themselves and not for God.

Our wealth is a gift from God and we are to use it wisely.

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