The Fundamental Human Condition
Living for Self
Life is all about stories and every person has a story. God, too, has a story – the grand metanarrative – that makes sense of every human story; for the sacred Scriptures make known two kinds of wisdom so that every human being can make sense of, and interpret properly, his or her story in light of His story:
+. a soteriological wisdom: to make us wise unto salvation which is by grace, through faith, in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:15)
+. a hermeneutical wisdom: to help us make sense of life’s story in light of His story and the many stories recorded in Scripture (Matthew 13:11, 16-17, 51-52; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
In the parable of “the rich fool,” what essential teaching does Jesus share with us about the fundamental human condition so that we might benefit from its wisdom and grow in our discipleship as “a wise scribe, trained for the kingdom” (Matthew 13:52).
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully,17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
What did the parable mean “then and there?”
Two brothers were arguing over the family inheritance and how it should be divided. One of the brothers went to Jesus in order to see if Jesus would render a judgment, hopefully in his favor. Jesus does not get involved in their dispute by telling them how to divide up the inheritance; what He does do, however, is to give them this counsel: “take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And then Jesus shared with them the parable of the rich fool.
The land of a rich man brought forth a plentiful harvest year after year. His biggest concern was figuring out how to store all of his wealth. So he thought to himself for a bit and then resolved to do this: I will tear down my old barns and put up larger ones…and there I will store all of my grain and my goods; and then I will “kick back and take life easy as I eat, drink and be merry.”
Despite his great wealth, and his ambitious plan, he was not able to realize it; for his life ended that very day. He had been a fool – how so? -- he was rich toward self and he was not rich toward God.
What does the parable mean “here and now?”
+. the parable addresses two dominant themes common to the fundamental human condition: (1) individualism: life is about me and living life my way; and (2) materialism: life is about accumulating and acquiring more and more stuff
+. one insightful way to understand and reflect upon one’s own life…or upon the life orientation of another person…is to ask: what do you think the good life is all about?
In this parable, the rich man believed that the good life consisted of working hard, acquiring significant wealth and then enjoying his retirement years as he ate, drank and was merry…and living for self
+. a favorite verse from the Old Testament that describes the good life from God’s perspective is recorded in Micah 6:8: “He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you? That you act justly, that you love mercy, and that you walk humbly with your God.”
+. Francis Schaeffer had an interesting phrase that he used to describe the orientation of many modern individuals when he said that they live “ash heap lives” since most of the things they live for will end up in the city dump one day
+. Martin Luther, in one of his sermons, taught that every person needs to experience three conversions: first, of the heart because we have to BELIEVE differently; second, of the mind because we have to THINK differently; and third, of the wallet because we have to STEWARD our life’s possessions differently…
+. Ambrose lived from 338 A.D. to 397 A.D. and, in his commentary on the Scriptures, had this homiletical insight into this parable when he wrote: “the rich man had plenty of barns in the mouths of the needy”…he had been blessed by God with great wealth so that he could be a blessing to his neighbors of all kinds in their need
In closing, let us impress these words from Scripture upon our hearts that address the need of every person to deny oneself and follow Him:
“what good is it to gain the whole world yet lose one’s soul…”
“do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal…for where your treasure, there will your heart be also”
“no one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other…you cannot serve God and mammon”
“do not love the world or the things in the world…if any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him…for all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world…and the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”