"You Fool!"

Ordinary 18C

Luke 12: 13 21


Our reading for this week begins when our Lord is reaching the high point of his teaching. He has just declared:

"When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious how or what you are to answer, or what you are to say. The Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say:"

There is a large crowd of followers present and they are deeply moved by our Lord's assurances.

Some Notes On Our Text

Verse 13

Suddenly someone in the crowd totally ignores what our Lord has been saying and blurts out:

"Master, tell my brother that he must share with me the property our father left when he died."

Verse 14

Not surprisingly our Lord is angry that someone should interrupt his passionate teaching with a matter like this which could easily be dealt with later.

Jesus shows his strong disapproval by addressing him with the term "Man". (This, in the original languages, was a severe form of address indicating a strong sense of disapproval.) Jesus then asks a question but this is really a strong statement in the negative, "I have not come to be a judge in temporal matters!"

Our Lord takes a very wise position. He knows that the slightest interference in matters of civil government would compromise his position and place him under unnecessary obligation.

Verse 15

Immediately Jesus issues the strongest possible warning:

"Watch out and be on your guard against every conceivable form of greed!"

Then he gives his followers a little pearl of wisdom to remember. It can be translated in several ways:

  • "Your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions."
  • "You are not the master of your own life just because you are master of many goods".
  • "No matter how few or how many possessions you may have, they will not give you the power to live any longer."

No one hearing this believes Jesus is saying we do not need material things for our happiness: clearly we do. We must have food, clothing, shelter and so on. What he is emphatic about is that we make a serious error when we measure our wealth in terms of material possessions.

Our Lord has been interrupted whilst in full flight of teaching. He deals with the incident swiftly and regains the full attention of his hearers who suddenly find themselves asking: well if life does not consist in abundant possessions then just what does it consist of?

Verse 16

Our Lord immediately elaborates what he has just declared by telling a parable. And he starts off by teasing (in the true sense of the word) a little.

The land of a certain rich individual produced an abundant crop. Everyone listening would agree: a good life does consist in abundant crops! So far, so good.

Verse 17

The parable then takes a very specific direction, for the owner of the land "debated with himself", that is, reviewed his options as to what he should do with such over abundance.

"I have no place to store my crops, he comments, "since my barns are already completely filled up."

Verse 18

It appears he comes to a conclusion: "I have no choice, there is only one thing to do — and that is to build bigger and bigger barns to store even more than the abundance I already have."

Verse 19

"What a great joy. With so much wealth I can rest assured that for many, many years I can please myself how I live and what I do. I can suit myself, take life easy: eat, drink, and be merry — for who or what can harm me!"

Verse 20

But God interrupts the man as he takes pleasure in reciting to himself all his rights and privileges. The language is strong: "You fool!" (The Greek word means, without mind, or sense or understanding.)

Where did the man go wrong?

When he took his very first look at the superabundant harvest, he made a serious mistake. He did not see it as a blessing from God, but rather the result of his own efforts. From that moment all we hear about is my crops, my barn, my grain, and my goods.

No one else figured anywhere in this person's thinking! Everything revolved around him and his total self-indulgence.

God completes his declaration. (We expand it to unpack the extremely condensed Greek text.)

"Tonight your life will be taken from you. At that moment you will no longer possess even the smallest item of the great wealth I entrusted to you. Sadly, because of the way you looked on it, and selfishly kept every little bit to yourself, you will end your life with absolutely nothing to your name. Grace is the only lasting possession, and you are totally bereft of even the slightest portion. And it was entirely by your own choice!"

Verse 21

Jesus concludes the parable with a sober waring:

"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God."


Our Lord is well aware that we all (so very righteously) love to despise the behaviour of the man in the parable. But he is also deeply concerned lest his disciples fall into the same trap. By implication it is clear he expects all of this followers to think beyond their own well-being to help supply the needs of others, and thus to grow rich "towards God." And that is "lovingkindness" by any other name.

We are reminded by our Lord, that we were made, not only to amass wealth, but to glorify God on earth and enjoy Him hereafter in heaven. That was the purpose of our being made, and given breath. And so, life indeed does not consist in the abundance of possessions. Whilst we need material things to survive, life is not improved by having more than we need. We may find that hard to understand, but Jesus requires his followers to believe him and put into practice the key ideas he has, in this episode, been teaching.


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