Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
— Luke 12:16-21
There are somewhere between 30-46 parables in the synoptic gospels, depending on how they are counted.1 Of those, twenty-four of them appear in Luke, eighteen of which are unique, including some of the best known ones, e.g. the good samaritan, the rich fool and the prodigal son. The story of the rich fool is today's subject. It is the story of greed, covetousness and accumulation. I imagine many today will relate. I know I do.
With the accumulation of goods and property comes the accumulation of fear and worry. We tend to think of wealth as something that will free us, but a quick look at the lives of many lottery winners tells a different story,2 as does the stories of the many financial wizards whose obsessive accumulation landed them in prison.3 We look to build up our treasures on earth but a person only needs so much to survive and be happy. The rest becomes a burden. I often look around our home with despair. When did we buy all this stuff? How did that happen? How much of it do we really need? And the answer to that last question is really, so little. The various gadgets we have in our home are designed (so we are told) to make our lives easier. They occasionally make things faster, but easier is subjective. If I feel heavy with the burden of possessions that is not an easier life.
The point of this parable is to remind people to get out of them selves. Listen to the language of the rich man: my fruits, my barns, my goods, my soul. Everything is centred on himself, and nothing on God—not even his soul. There is nothing inherently wrong in ownership, and there are of course things we need to make our lives more enjoyable, even more useful. The problem lies not in being wealthy, but in being self-centered—and wealth tends to push us towards that way of being. It is worth paying attention. Jesus asks his followers to find some balance between self interest and spiritual integrity, remembering that life is fragile. It is not what we have that matters, but how we spend it—our wealth and our time.
1 For example, compare Got Questions? with this article which has useful links to all the parables in chronological order.
2 lotterycritic.com reveals some of these stories.
3 20 Billionaires who ended up in jail, theclever.com