Luke 12: 16-21 – Parable of the Rich Fool

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This ‘parable’ is in fact another one of the ‘example stories’ in Luke (see Lk 10: 29-37); it is exclusively Lukan and is derived from his private source ‘L’. it illustrates by example the danger of greed and the folly of the rich expressed already in verse 15.

The entire story manifests the dramatic contrast between the ways of the fool and of God. The rich man says to himself, “I will do this…” (Lk 12: 17-19). But God calls him “Fool…” (Lk 12: 20). The soliloquy of the rich farmer echoes the attitude of the fool in Ps 14: 1: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’.” (see similar monologues of the wealthy in Eclus 11: 18-19; 8: 15; Tob 7: 10). The rich man is a ‘fool’, because he thinks and acts unwisely, that is, as if there is no God. Godlessness results from greed for possessions. Therefore, it is the most serious obstacle to salvation (Cf. Mk 10: 23ff). The only thing he sees is the abundance of riches to enjoy with; he is blind to the verdict of God, to the meaning and purpose of life (Lk 12; 20). The judgement of God (Lk 12: 20) refers to the fate of the individual consequent upon his death. Material possessions will not be his; they will pass on to others. Therefore, such possessions cannot offer any guarantee for life and its future. It is precisely at the moment when the rich man had achieved everything, he wanted that he is taken by surprise by death’s call.

Luke 12: 21, adds a further dimension to the message of the parable. The one who piles up treasure for himself is not rich with God. Therefore, one should become rich towards God by storing up treasure that are precious before God. This can be done only by using one’s riches for others. This is further spelt out by Luke in Lk 12: 33-34.

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