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Penny Wise, Pound Foolish
The Parable of the Rich Fool

For Openers:

For Your Information:

Read the parable about the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21 and the somewhat similar parable in the Gospel of Thomas 63.

Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." 14 But he said to him, "Hey, man, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?" 15 And he said to them, "Watch out and be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions." 16 Then he told them a parable: "The land of a certain rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he reasoned to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' 18 Then he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' 20 But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."

Gospel of Thomas 63*

Jesus said, "There was a rich man who had much money. He said, 'I shall put my money to use so that I may sow, reap, plant, and fill my storehouse with produce, with the result that I shall lack nothing.' Such were his intentions, but that same night he died. Let him who has ears hear."

*The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of 114 sayings of Jesus discovered in a Coptic version in 1945/6 in Egypt. Fragments of a Greek original can be dated back to around 140 A.D. The Gospel of Thomas shows the influence of an early Christian heresy called Gnosticism, and so Christians do not regard it as the inspired Word of God like the Bible is. It is still very important to study, however, because the sayings it records are versions independent of those recorded in the canonical Gospels.

Further information to help us make sense of the parable:

"One who loves gold will not be justified; one who pursues money will be led astray by it. 6 Many have come to ruin because of gold, and their destruction has met them face to face. 7 It is a stumbling block to those who are avid for it, and every fool will be taken captive by it. 8 Blessed is the rich person who is found blameless, and who does not go after gold. 9 Who is he, that we may praise him? For he has done wonders among his people. 10 Who has been tested by it and been found perfect? Let it be for him a ground for boasting... 11 His prosperity will be established, and the assembly will proclaim his acts of charity."
Isaiah 22:12-14
In that day the Lord GOD of hosts called to weeping and mourning, to baldness and putting on sackcloth; {13} but instead there was joy and festivity, killing oxen and slaughtering sheep, eating meat and drinking wine. "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." {14} The LORD of hosts has revealed himself in my ears: Surely this iniquity will not be forgiven you until you die, says the Lord GOD of hosts.
1 Corinthians 15:32 

If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."

For Your Consideration:

  1. What exactly did the rich man do to expand his storage capacity? Read Luke 12:18 again. What do you think of his plan?
  2. Through verse 18, how do you regard the rich man?
  3. Now continue reading with verse 19. How do you regard him now? What is it about his speech in verse 19 that changes your perception?
  4. Compared to the Epicurean expressions in Isaiah 22:12-14 and 1 Corinthian 15:32, what is missing in the rich man's expression of it?
  5. God addresses the man as "Fool!" in verse 20. Read Psalm 14:1. What was the rich man forgetting?
  6. Compare and contrast the statements made by the rich man and by God in verses 19 and 20.
  1. What is the answer to God's question in verse 20? To whom will the rich man's things go? (Compare Psalm 39:4-6 and Ecclesiastes 2:18-19.)
    Psalm 39:4-6
    "LORD, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. {5} You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight. Surely everyone stands as a mere breath. Selah {6} Surely everyone goes about like a shadow. Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; they heap up, and do not know who will gather.
    Ecclesiastes 2:18-19
    I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me {19} --and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.
  2. Recall the context in which this parable is set. Read verses 13-15 again. How was the parable an answer to the question posed to Jesus?
  3. Are the world's goods a limited or infinite commodity? Put another way, is there plenty of wealth to go around for everyone, or does one person's wealth mean someone else's poverty?

For Later:

Have no fear, little flock; have no fear, little flock,
For the Father has chosen to give you the Kingdom; have no fear, little flock!


Mark Vitalis Hoffman

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