16 Then he told them a parable: “A rich man’s land was very productive. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What should I do, since I don’t have anywhere to store my crops? 18 I will do this,’ he said. ‘I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and store all my grain and my goods there. 19 Then I’ll say to myself, “You have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared—whose will they be?’
21 “That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
All it took was one night. Everything hinges on this. This man seemingly had it all, to the point of expanding things even more. He’s pulling down older and smaller with the intention of going big time. Perhaps on a superficial level, all that he intended to do made incredible sense. He had the means, why not make the next step?
This man saw an opportunity, and he quickly decided that he must be especially favored by God. “Didn’t becoming rich the evidence of the father’s approval?” It seemed that he was stepping up, and stepping into the prosperity of authentic blessing. He thought he truly understood.
This was the common perspective of the day. To be wealthy was the proof that you arrived.
We can see his thinking in verse 19. This was his reasoning, and we must understand the whys in order to understand this particular story. The parable makes perfect sense when we really consider Jesus’ words in verse 15:
“He then told them, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.”
The rich man was considering his retirement. The risk he was taking was somewhat inconsequential when the business end of things looked so good. There was a risk, but it doesn’t seem that it was a real factor.
But the prophetic voice was definitely clear. One voice was Haggai who spoke about measuring godliness with the measure of financial attainment. Perhaps the rich fool didn’t take this into account:
“You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.”
Rich towards God, or confusing material prosperity with the spiritual is a deadly trap to fall into. Many of the prophets spoke directly to that temptation, and riches was not to be the gauge which one was to use.
Life is short–death comes way too suddenly. The rich fool didn’t have a handle on what was eternal (and what wasn’t.) This man was to be an example and a not-so-good one. Jesus both encourages and warns us that unless our wealth is funneled into eternity it means nothing. In a thousand years, we’ll realize its truth.
Real wealth is not found in an abundance of possessions. When will we understand this?
Art by Eugène Burnan