…So then he ran off with the girl and the old lady ran after them and shouted angry insults in their direction for tearing up her walls and landscaping. And the children were saved.
It is hard to jump into the middle of a story without knowing what is around it…whether Hansel and Gretel or one of Jesus’ parables, the context can change everything. It is the same with the story of the Rich Fool.
Luke 12 opens with a big crowd. Thousands of people. As many as a football stadium. And Jesus began speaking to His disciples. Earlier chapters tell us the Pharisees are waiting for Him to make a mistake. And Jesus starts talking about avoiding their lifestyle: it was just like having yeast bread during the feast of unleavened bread. Not very tactful, but He reminds His disciples that they do not have much power…after all, they can only hurt you now. And God is in charge of now and later! That can be frightening. But at the same time, God is keeping track of you, so you do not have to be afraid.
Are you afraid of people? If you try to save your back by denying that you know the Son of Man, Jesus said, I will deny you before God. The Holy Spirit will teach you how to respond to people. These ideas have a strange mix of perspective to the magnitude of God, and gentleness in how God cares for us. It sounds like many times in the Old Testament where He acted to save Israel.
And this is where a man steps in and asks Jesus to make his brother share the family property. Jesus asked who had made Him judge. Ironically, Jesus says in John 5 that God made Him judge. So the answer is, God.
And God said in the tenth commandment to not covet (Exodus 20). Jesus echoes the same thing. This made me wince – it sounds like how I like to argue about “fairness”. And then Jesus tells a story of a man who had everything, all he could want, and decided to pile it all in bigger barns and live large. Paul talked about this mindset as the logical conclusion for those who had no hope beyond this life. But those people are forgetting that God not only gives the crops, but is in control of their souls as well (1 Corinthians 15). And the rich fool had to face God later that day. This reminded me of the tenth plague in Egypt where the special firstborn son died, life much shorter than expected (Exodus 12). What good was an abundance of possessions if you did not know who would be getting it after you? Jesus asks. Solomon contemplated this same thing in Ecclesiastes and concluded that it was better to enjoy what God gave you in life than just to hoard it.
So what was Jesus’ conclusion? The man was focused on earth-treasure for himself, and not rich toward God. He ignored God’s blessings in his life, snubbed his nose at God’s authority, and did not obey God’s commands to help others.
And Jesus jumps right into a conversation with His disciples about not worrying where your food and drink will come from because God will provide as He does for the birds.
Jesus knew His Bible, and He was pointing His disciples away from the present to the future God was giving them. Live now with a focus on where you are going later.
God, thank You for context to help a story take on so much more depth. Thank You for the allusions that Jesus wove through His stories to lessons of how You provide, act for those who love You, and punish Your enemies. Yet it is so easy for me to become like that rich fool and want to use money to control my life. God, please help me to be rich toward You and those around me. Amen.