"And He said to them, 'Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.' Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: 'The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:15-21)
Some of the most basic, yet wisest lessons in the world can be learned from the life of the man in this parable. Quite possibly, we might be able to identify more with him than any other parabolic character. Jesus, in the context, showed disinterest in earthly fortunes and plainly reminds us of the vanity of trusting in riches (Matt. 6:24). Some interesting applications can be made from the teaching of this parable.
The original word translated "covetousness" actually means, "A desire to have more, always in a bad sense, in regard to material possessions" (W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of NT Words, p. 255). What is striking about the man in the parable is that he coveted his own things.
The New Testament relates that "covetousness is idolatry" (Col. 3:5). Contrast that with 1 Timothy 6:6 which says, "Godliness with contentment is great gain." If we are content with what we have (Heb. 13:5), we will possess a peaceful countenance (Phil. 4:7) but if our possessions possess us, we are lovers of the wrong things (2 Tim. 3:4). A beautiful, thought- provoking hymn states, "Not all earth's gold and silver, Can make a sinner whole. What doth it profit thee, O man, if thou should lose thy soul?"
Though the man in the parable seemed happy in the thought that he was set for life, his happiness, and his life, ended swiftly. Material possessions do not bring happiness.
In the Old Testament, Ahab, King of Israel, and his wife Jezebel were rich but not happy (1 Kings 21:1-24). Naboth's vineyard haunted them and they had to have it. Ahab "sold" himself (v. 20) to get it. But getting that vineyard only brought them more unhappiness and woe.
We must learn that earthly wealth often brings misery and confusion. To be truly happy, we must acknowledge, as stated by Jesus, that it is "more blessed to give than receive" (Acts 20:35). If you were in a burning house, you would not think first of jewels, money, clothes, etc. You would think of life. We ought to have that same priority in our approach to life. Christianity provides abundant living (John 10:10). The rich fool of the parable in Luke 12 learned that a bountiful harvest can actually be a curse.
The man in this parable thought more of his land than he did of the "Landlord" of heaven and earth "("The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein" [Psa. 24:1]). God called him a "fool." The original word for "fool" literally means, "One guilty of moral folly, without reason, reckless and inconsiderate, a lack of common sense perception" (Vine, 453-454).
The rich man of this parable had a foolish perception of what life was about. He gave no thought to things eternal in nature. His entire focus was on the "here and now."
The priorities of this man were the same as the those of many today. As they so dominate the lives of millions today, material things ruled his life. He was totally consumed with them to the exclusion of all else. Additionally, he, as many today, thought too much of himself. This is evidenced by his use of first-person pronouns. He used some twelve of them in three verses.
How typical this man is of us and our day. Since Jesus called him a "fool," I wonder what the Lord might have to say about us. Materialism ruled his life, ego filled his heart, and Satan had conquered his life. We would be wise to learn from this fool.