The Rich Fool
Luke 12:16-21
And he spoke a parable to them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:…

It is an awful thing to be a fool l When any other calamity befalls a man he is conscious of his misery. But the fool does not know that he is a fool. That one fact makes a lunatic asylum the most saddening place in the whole wide world. To see one in the form of man gathering slicks and stones about him, and believing that he has great possessions; or one in the form of woman bedecking herself with bits of ribbons and faded flowers, as if to attract your admiration, or aimlessly giggling — she knows not at whom; another nursing a doll; another crowned with a mock crown — it is more pitiable than to see them wild or moody, or than it is to visit a hospital. And to be truly wise — wise not in our own opinion, for the fool is that; not in the opinion of others, for "men will praise thee when thou doest well to thyself"; but in the judgment of One who can neither deceive nor be deceived, — can there be any greater blessedness attainable by man? How then shall we know whether we are fools or wise? Can there be a truer standard to test ourselves by than Christ's? How shall we know what His judgment of us would be? There is no better way of finding out than by looking at the cases with which He came in contact on earth, and seeing how He judged them. Here is one of those cases. In a parable He draws the picture of a man whom we would have called wise, and whom He calls "fool." How do I know that we would have called him wise? Because of what is not said and because of what is said about him. Nothing is said against him. Had he been an open sinner, Jesus would have told us, for that would have been the ground on which He called him a fool. As nothing is said against him, we are bound to assume that he was a moral, respectable, law-abiding Jew; a man in full communion with the Church of God on earth. And note, on the other hand, how much is positively said in his favour — fairly put down to his credit, to enable us to judge him alight. In the first place, he was rich. .Now, there is a natural presumption in a man's favour when he is rich. If he has made the money himself, it is implied that at least he has been industrious, economical, prudent, capable of sacrificing the present to the future. All these are good qualities. They may not be the highest, but surely, as far as they go, they are good. If he has inherited the money, he has proved that he is able to take care of it, and that implies the possession of qualities good in their way also. Then the rich man in our parable had evidently gotten his riches in a legitimate way — not by cheating others, not even by speculation, or in any way at the expense of others; but from the soil, directly from the bounty of God. No way more honourable than this, all will admit. Again, we see in the man no boasting of his industry or skill; no foolish talking to others about his wealth; no indications of any rash action to be taken. We are simply told that when his great abundance came, through his ground bringing forth plentifully, "he thought within himself." Admirable! That is just what we would advise our friends to do in like circumstances. Fourthly, this man was not one of those penurious, close-flared creatures, who are too mean to spend anything, even on the permanent improvement of their property. Many a farmer would have been content with the old barns, adding an unsightly addition perhaps, or building one new barn that would hold all his overplus. But this was a spirited, enterprising business man. He saw that the time had come for acting with energy, and he at once decided on doing so. He would pull down these old barns and build others that would hold all that the land was ever likely to yield. Lastly, he was not one of those restless, avaricious mortals who give themselves up to the sole task of increasing their store; who define "enough" as "a little more than what we have." Had he been one of those human beavers, he would have said, "I am on the high road to be a millionaire; I can buy out my neighbour on the right of me, and next year I shall buy out my neighbour on the left; and who knows but that I may die the owner of the whole county!" Such a thought never entered into this man's mind. He was satisfied with his portion, and he aimed now at dignified repose and enjoyment. "I will say to myself, 'Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; eat, drink, be merry.'" Is it possible to avoid thinking well of such a man? How fairly Christ draws His picture! not prejudicing us against him, taking him at His own estimate, describing him in his own language. When such a man is in our community, how anxious we are to get him into our society and our congregation. He is one of your typical, solid, model men. And yet — the one only name that the living God gives to him is "Thou fool! "Why? The narrative supplies reasons enough for one who looks beneath the surface of things. He was a fool because he forgot — as most of us forget — and, in forgetting, he practically denied, the four great facts of life — God, his neighbour, his soul, and death. He forgot God. His language is "my goods," "my barns," "all my fruits and my goods." Very like the language we use, but that only shows that he is not alone in his practical atheism. There is no recognition of the Giver; no gratitude; no longing after Him who never wearies in His loving-kindness towards us. His very gifts hide Him from us. Instead of making us grateful they foster pride. They make us say or feel, "How wise, how strong, how industrious, how deserving we are!" And we — fools and blind — see Him not, who should be the object of all our love. He forgot his neighbour. This folly — common enough though it is — was more surprising than the former. A man who is accustomed to go entirely by his senses may think himself excusable for not seeing Him who is invisible. But how can he help seeing his neighbour? And, seeing him and his needs, what occasion was there to go to the expense of building new barns? Were there not barns enough ready made to his hand? What an honour God put upon him when He gave him the opportunity of taking His own place to those bereaved ones! God had built barns for him. He did not see them, poor man! The chance was given him of being as a god to the poor. He lost it, and he never got another chance. Was he not a fool? And yet what a countless number of followers he has! How many of us use our money, our intellectual power, our time, our education, our opportunities, as under law to God for our brothers, for the country, for the Church, for future generations, for the purifying, sweetening, ennobling of the life of the community? He forgot his soul. This is folly still more inexcusable. A man may say, "I cannot prove that there is a God." He may also say, "As for my neighbour, am I his keeper? Every man for himself l" But how is it possible to forget his own soul? And yet this forgetting or unbelief springs from the previous forms of unbelief. Deny God, and you will soon deny your neighbour; and then you are not far off from denying yourself. He that knows not God and man knows not himself. I do not wonder that such a man thought that when money was provided all had been provided. Inexcusable as it is, this has always been the common form of infidelity, and the form that brings the most certain nemesis. He forgot death. This was the crowning proof of folly. We have seen that a man may give reasons for forgetting God and his neighbour. And philosophers nowadays rather ridicule the idea of there being a soul or anything but matter in man. But even a philosopher can hardly deny that there is such a thing as death. The reality comes home to all of us. The old and the young are taken; the light of our eyes and the strength of our life. And death forces us to think. No matter how immersed we may be in the affairs of the world, it drags us away to a silent room, and forces us to look beyond the present and the visible. It opens a door, and shows us this little inch of time and sense girdled by the immensities and the eternities —

Now at my back I always hear

Time's winged chariots, hurrying near,

And yonder all before me lie

Deserts of vast eternity."

And yet, inexcusable as the folly is, we are all guilty of it. In forgetting death we forget eternity, and what folly can be compared to that?

(Principal Grant.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:

WEB: He spoke a parable to them, saying, "The ground of a certain rich man brought forth abundantly.

The Rich Fool
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