The conclusion of Luke’s eleventh chapter highlights the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders and chapter twelve begins with crowds thronging to Jesus. “The scribes and the Pharisees began to oppose him fiercely and to cross-examine him about many things; they were lying in wait for him to trap him in something he said. Meanwhile, a crowd of many thousands came together, so that they were trampling on one another. He began to say to his disciples first, ‘Be on your guard against the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy’ ” (Luke 11:53–12:1). The hypocritical religious leaders were jealous and protective of their status while crowds of commoners were drawn by Jesus’ teaching and miracles. To this crowd, Jesus shared a series of stories.
A man from the gathered multitudes approached Jesus with a request for arbitration. The man’s father had recently died, and the estate had been dispersed to the heirs. I’m guessing that the man’s older brother had received a double portion as was traditional. The man was hoping that Jesus would instruct the older brother to give him an equal share of dear-old-dad’s money. In response, Jesus pointedly said, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15) and then proceeded to tell the parable of the Rich Fool.
“A rich man’s land was very productive” (Luke 12:16). I suspect that Jesus, a master at storytelling, raised the inflection in His voice and threw His arms wide as He told of the rich man’s abundant harvest. “So productive and fruitful were his crops, that his barns were filled to overflowing!” With great animation, Jesus continued his story. The rich man “thought to himself, ‘What should I do, since I don’t have anywhere to store my crops?’ ” (Luke 12:17).
What does a man do when he has more cars that he has garages? … too many tools for his shed? … too many Ben Franklins for his wallet?
The rich man, Jesus continued, determined how he must proceed. “I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and store all my grain and my goods there. Then I’ll say to myself, ‘You have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself’ ” (Luke 12:18-19). Bigger barns! Bigger garages! Bigger… bigger…
“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?’ That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:10-21).
“Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19–21).
In America, we have so much, and still, we want more… more… more.
God help me not be a rich fool! Remind me to “be on guard against all greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).