Luke 12:13f The Rich Fool
Bible Background: More often than the other Gospels, Luke writes about money and the gap between rich and poor. Rich people do not come off very well in Luke, with the exception of Zacchaeus who pledges to give half of his wealth to the poor. In today’s reading, Jesus addresses the allure of wealth and the danger of greed, and invites followers to fully rely on God.
Digging Deeper: 1. A request for Jesus’ help (“Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me”) leads Jesus to tell the parable of the Rich Fool, as he declines to get involved in a dispute between brothers. (The oldest son would normally receive a double share of the inheritance in those days.) We’re not sure why Jesus avoids the request to help. Perhaps he sees greed as the real issue.
2. The parable is about a successful farmer who ends up with a larger harvest than he knows what to do with. All of the pronouns center around “I” and “my”. He consults only with himself. He congratulates only himself. He seems concerned only for his own pleasure and future. There’s no mention of God. No mention of workers who helped with the harvest. No thought given to needy neighbors.
3. The sharp ‘reversal’ is when God speaks: “Fool! This night your life is required of you!” The word fool would remind the reader of Psalm 14:1 “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God'” This man had not seemed to pay any attention to God.
4. St. Augustine reportedly said something like: God gave us people to love, and things to use. Sin-in short-is the confusion of these two things. The rich man has confused earthly riches with life, when it’s really our closeness to God and to neighbor that makes for a rich life.
5. The allure of wealth creates the illusion of independence and invincibility. But wealth cannot protect us from a health crisis; or a tragic accident; or family discord; or even from fear. One really can gain the whole world and lose one’s soul. (Luke 9:25). How does our society overrate wealth and money?
6. Jesus teaches us to trust God and store up treasures in heaven (much like in Matthew 6). Our struggle is to be faithful stewards, rather than rich fools! How do you wrestle with that? How can we together talk about money/wealth/faith?
Next week’s main reading is Genesis 2.