The Rich Fool (Part 2 of 3)


Author: Michael Dewar, Sr.
Executive Director, Dwelling Place Cleansing

The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crop…. This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns, and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and all my goods. And I will say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:16-21)

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The business man in the preceding story is labeled a fool by the highest authority in the universe. In Part 1 of this article, we try to identify just exactly what was his folly. In Part 2, I set out identify other lessons we can glean from this provocative and timeless story. Are there instructive inferences that can help us navigate everyday life without falling the same fate as the protagonist of the story? I found five, you may find more.

First, the business man was a fool without knowing it. Fools don’t know they are fools, and if someone points out their folly, chances are, they will be rebuffed. If a fool accepts wise counsel, that in itself is the beginning of wisdom. The fool in this story—the moment that his folly was articulated to him, his life was over. Fools are not normally called fools without a track record of folly and obstinacy. “A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy” (Prov.29:1).

The Divine hardly ever takes a person’s life without prior multiple warnings that you are on the wrong road heading for danger. But knowing human nature, we tend to shrug aside lifestyle reproof by others when we are doing well. Our pride often makes us deaf and myopic when our career is blooming, money is flowing our way, and dreams are being realized. This is the time we are most prone to disaster.

Sometimes, the divine messenger sent to warn us is a family member, a friend, coworker or business partner. They see us differently. Often, they see our folly but too wise to outright call us a fool. They see the crash coming, and every now and then wave the proverbial red flag before us. But instead of slowing down or changing course, we charge at them as a bull to the red cloth of the matador. It is after many ignored warnings that the Divine steps in and say, “breath your last!” It is at that very moment that we recognize our folly, but it is too late. Our pride makes us deaf and blind to our fate.

Second, the business man was not only a fool; he was selfish. Look again at the story, and count how many times the personal pronoun “I” is used. I count six times, and you could call it seven, because he refers to himself once in the second person (“You have plenty of goods…”). Life revolves around me, myself and I; we three and no one else. Success, winning, and the accumulation of things became his god. That is what idolatry is, material things become the center of our affection and devotion. When the Divine says, “Have no other gods before me,” do you know what those two little word “before me” really means? They mean, in my face. It’s like you say to someone, get out of my face!

Third, the business man was unaware of the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death. He thought he was going to enjoy life for many years with the goods he stored up for himself. We would say, great retirement plan. But did he plan well? King Solomon reminds us, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Prov.19:21).

We live as if life is certain and death is uncertain. We don’t like to be reminded of it, but every human being is under the sentence of death. We are more sure to die than live. Then there is another fallacy that follows closely behind. It says, with death all is over. The opposite is true; life begins at death, not over in terms of our existence. The business man in the story is said to be “poor toward God.” That means? He had no relationship with the Divine, no investment in the spiritual life. His life was out of balance.

Fourth, for whom or what do we toil? Do you notice that the protagonist in the story has no human or divine relationships? We heard of the material girl, but here is the material man. No family, no friends, no pets, no God. His world is totally material or secular. Of course, there are people who have wonderful families for whom they labor; others, have a cause or a charity that they give heart and soul to support. Sometimes, this is the fallacy that these causes and charities can substitute for personal spirituality. No, they are not good enough. When eternity beckons us, we must go, and only that which was sent ahead of us will be credited to our account. The protagonist was rich in earthly things but poor toward God.

Finally, does your work have eternal values? Perhaps, the better question is, do you work with eternity in view? That is, work with the motivating purpose and awareness that what you do in the here and now is not an end itself, but an investment against eternity. Saint Paul expresses it like this, “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord” and to his glory (Col. 3:17). This is the golden key to prevent us living and dying a fool’s death.

Let ask you one more time, not what’s in your walet, but is your dwelling place spiritually cleansed?

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