“And He told them a parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And 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. And I will say to my soul, soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’”
Has anyone ever called you a fool? Does God think you are a fool right now?
What sort of man does God call a fool? Here in the text one may find out. So, let’s turn aside for a look at this parable Christ told.
First of all, the text tells us the man is a farmer. The Bible mentions the man’s land, his harvest and barns.
The first person on earth was a farmer. In Genesis 2 God told Adam to “Dress the earth and keep it.” So our man in the text is following an ancient and noble tradition ordered by God.
And who doesn’t like a farmer? Why, I’ve heard people say they have no need of a pastor or doctor, or even a banker or lawyer. But I’ve never heard anyone say they feel no need for the farmer. A bumper sticker summed it up quite well. It read, “Thank a farmer 3 times a day!”
Medical researchers are discovering, too, that farming agrees with a body. Something about the vigorous exercise of farming, lots of fresh air, sunshine, and fresh food gives farmers better overall health, less heart disease, and longer life.
So, this man was a farmer! But Jesus still called him a fool.
The text also tells us that the man was a hard worker. No farm runs itself. And the fact that the man’s land “brought forth plentifully” is evidence enough of a disciplined schedule, the toil of planting, weeding, irrigating, and harvesting. Such a toilsome daily regimen is probably why the prodigal son left the farm for the city. There are easier ways to make a living than farming where you work from “can see to can’t see.”
I saw a “Dennis the Menace” cartoon this past summer in which young Dennis had gone to visit for a week on his uncle’s farm. All week he shadowed his uncle as he milked cows, bailed hay, repaired fences, drove the tractor and such. The little boy was delighted with it all. And when his parents came by to pick him up, Dennis said, “Gee, Mom, Dad. I’ve had fun. And the best thing about Uncle Harry is that he never has to go to work!”
Yes, the man was a farmer. And he was a hard worker. But Jesus still called him a fool!
Another thing about this man: He was prosperous. The text says, “The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully.” It goes on to mention his barns, his abundant supply of grain, his goods, “ample goods laid up for many years.”
There is no mention of dishonesty, greed, unjust wages or the like. The man has worked hard, prospered, and is enjoying a financial blessing.
Get it straight right now that God’s not mad at the rich. There are those of us preachers who’d have you believe that wealth is a sin. No! Nothing of the sort. Job was rich. So was Solomon. So was John the Beloved and Christ’s close friends of Bethany— Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. As long as you come by your wealth honestly, you have God’s favor.
So, our man in the text was a farmer, a hard worker, and rich. But Jesus called him a fool!
Thinking of Expansion
The text tells us more. It says that the man was ambitious. He was looking for ways to improve the efficiency of his farm. So he decided to expand. “I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones,” he said.
Now, a fellow like this is good to have around. His endeavors are good for the local economy. His tearing down and building up will provide work for a lot of people. And that’s bound to make him popular.
Yet Jesus called him a fool!
Another thing about this man. He was wise in that he decided to waste nothing, but save all he could.
So many there are who spend everything they have. They live off everything with nothing put back for a rainy day or a drought year. Joseph saved Egypt and the Jews saving during the good years to provide during the famine years. And our friend in the he text is of that same wise tradition. Yet Jesus still called him a fool!
Note, too, that besides being a farmer, hard working, rich, ambitious, and a saver, our friend also was no workaholic. He knows when enough is enough. He knows how to take time off. In the text he says, “Take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry!”
To be sure, this man knew how to work and he knew how to play. His life was balanced! But Jesus still called him a fool!
This man had a lot going for him. Why, many of us would quickly agree to trade places with him.
Who wouldn’t want to be rich?
Who wouldn’t want to be healthy, employed, a hard worker.
Who wouldn’t want to be able to save, to expand, to live a balanced life between work and play?
And who wouldn’t want to live on a farm?
Why, the typical American success story is about a lad who grows up on a farm, leaves for the big city where he struggles and makes a fortune so he can retire, buy a farm, and move out of the city!
Yet Jesus called this man a fool.
For all of the man’s laudable credits, worship was not one of them. His success didn’t lead him to thank God. It only led him to pride.
Check out his lifestyle. You’ll find work. You’ll even find play. But nowhere is there worship.
In the dialog are many references to I, me, mine, myself, my. “I will do this.” “I will store.” “I will build larger.” “My grain.” “My goods.” “My soul.” Obviously the man’s success brought him self-intoxication. He was drunk on the wine of humanism, staggered by all he could do.
Did you hear about the woodpecker that was pecking on the tree when a lightening bolt struck? The woodpecker was thrown to the ground, but he got up, shook himself real good. And then he congratulated himself saying, “I didn’t know I had it in me!” Such is the fool in the text. And so with many in our day. But what of you and what of me?
When we work hard and prosper and save and expand as many of us have done in the past year, do we congratulate ourselves or thank God? Do we thank our genes, our heritage, our alma maters, even our lucky stars, but never once thank the Lord? Right where you sit, do you feel proud, lucky, capable and self-made? Or do you feel humble, dependent and God blessed?
You’ve got a lot of things going for you, but unless a thanksgiving relationship with God is one of them, you are still a fool.
Now, in calling this man a fool, for this man couldn’t see beyond himself or even beyond this world. Jesus wasn’t saying he was stupid! Just devoid of any sense of God.
I asked two men this week, “How are you doing?” One man said, “I’m dong just great! Business has never been better. I’ve bought a condo by the sea and me and my family are going down there for the weekend to eat, drink, and be merry! I can’t work all the time, you know. I’ve got to take time to enjoy the spoils of victory!”
The trouble with a self-made man like that is that pretty soon he begins to worship his own creator. And he becomes like a pig eating acorns under an oak tree. He never even once looks up to see from whence his blessings come.
The other man answered, “How am I doing? Stephen, to be honest, I’m doing a whole lot better than I deserve. Why, the Good Lord has blessed me again and again with health, family, a job, home, friends, Christ, a church. My cup runneth over! And I just can’t thank Him enough!”
And according to Jesus the one man was a fool. The other man was wise.
But what of you and what of me?
Do you feel lucky, capable, ready to work and play, surprised that you had it in you, and eager to eat, drink, and be merry this time of year? Or do you feel humble, dependent on God, thankful to Jesus and ready to eat, drink and be merry?
Are you a fool? Or are you thankful?
O my Father God, forgive me! Have mercy on my cocky, self-congratulatory work and play lifestyle. In the faith of Christ I ask for a fresh start at Thanksgiving. Amen!
"The university is the clear-cut fulcrum with which to move the world. More potently than by any other means, change the university and you change the world." Charles Malik, past president of the UN General Assembly
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