Question: "What is the meaning of the Parable of the Rich Fool?"
Answer: The Parable of the Rich Fool can be found in Luke 12:13–21. The key to understanding this parable is in verse 15 (and later summarized in verse 21). Luke 12:15 says, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Jesus says this to the man who asked Him to arbitrate between him and his brother. In ancient times, the firstborn was guaranteed a double portion of the family inheritance. More than likely, the brother who was addressing Jesus was not the firstborn and was asking for an equal share of the inheritance. Jesus refuses to arbitrate their dispute and gets to the heart of the matter: Covetousness! Jesus warns this person, and all within earshot, that our lives are not to be about gathering wealth. Life is so much more than the “abundance of possessions.”
Jesus proceeds to tell the man the Parable of the Rich Fool. This person was materially blessed by God; his land “produced plentifully” (verse 16). As God continued to bless the man, instead of using his increase to further the will of God, all he was interested in was managing his increase and accumulating his growing wealth. So the man builds larger barns in place of the existing ones and starts planning an early retirement. Unbeknownst to him, this was his last night on planet earth. Jesus then closes the story by saying, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
So the point of the Parable of the Rich Fool is twofold. First, we are not to devote our lives to the gathering and accumulation of wealth. There is an interesting point made in the parable. God says to the man in the story, “And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” This echoes the thought expressed in Ecclesiastes 2:18 (“I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me”). You see it all the time in people who are singularly devoted to the accumulation of wealth. What happens to all that wealth when they die? It gets left behind to others who didn’t earn it and won’t appreciate it. Furthermore, if money is your master, that means God is not (Matthew 6:24).
The second point of the Parable of the Rich Fool is the fact that we are not blessed by God to hoard our wealth to ourselves. We are blessed to be a blessing in the lives of others, and we are blessed to build the kingdom of God. The Bible says if our riches increase, we are not to set our hearts upon them (Psalm 62:10). The Bible also says there is one who gives freely and grows all the richer (Proverbs 11:24). Finally, the Bible says we are to honor God with the first fruits of our increase (Proverbs 3:9–10). The point is clear; if we honor God with what He has given us, He will bless with more so that we can honor Him with more. There is a passage in 2 Corinthians that summarizes this aptly (2 Corinthians 9:6–15). In that passage Paul says, “And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that having all contentment in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” We are blessed by God, so we can in turn “abound in every good work” and be a blessing in the lives of others. So, if God has blessed you with material wealth “set not your heart on it” and “be rich toward God.” That is the message of the Parable of the Rich Fool.