Have you ever been called a fool? Many of us have, at one time or another. It’s a horrid term. No one wants to be thought of as foolish. It makes a difference, of course, if the person giving you that name is in earnest or just joking. Also it is significant whether the person calling you a fool is someone whom you respect. The greater the person describing you in that way and the more serious they are in doing so, the more devastating it is. Jesus once spoke of a man to whom God said “Thou fool” (Lk.12:20). He is speaking of a very successful farmer. What makes him a fool? Are you a fool?
The context here is covetousness. One of the crowd pleaded with Jesus to speak to his brother to divide the inheritance with him. How often families fall out over their parents’ will! Brothers and sisters who used to get on so well are now at each other’s throats because John got the house or Jane was left the money that James felt should have come to him. How pathetic to see the tears of grief over a sad bereavement turn so quickly to hatred! We can all think of families where lasting barriers have arisen over a few pounds.
Money was terribly important to this man in Luke 12. Some of the crowd came to Jesus for healing from their leprosy, or for curing of their paralysis or for opening their blind eyes. They had serious bodily illnesses or disabilities. These were pressing needs which sin had brought into the world. Others came for something even more important, the salvation of their souls. But here is a man who came to Jesus for mere material things because he was jealous that his brother had been left everything and he had been left nothing. The Tenth Commandment says “Thou shalt not covet”. Basically covetousness is the “love of money” which Paul describes as the “root of all evil” (1Tim.6:10). In the Sermon on the Mount Christ says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt.6:33). Spiritual needs are far more important than to be wealthy in worldly terms. There is more to life than money, far more.
Our Lord tells a parable about a man who longed to be rich. He envied his wealthy neighbours. He worked very hard. At last he made it. He obtained a huge harvest. He had earned his fortune. Now he could retire and relax and enjoy his hard earned wealth. But God said to him, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?” Are you like this fool?
He speaks to himself and says: “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry”. How terribly worldly! Why do people put such value on money? It’s because they see it as the key to happiness. With money I can own a beautiful house, the most luxurious of furnishings, the most modern of appliances and have an enchanting landscaped garden. If I am rich I can have a flashy car, designer clothes, eat out whenever I choose in the best of restaurants, join the most exclusive clubs, enjoy the best entertainment and go on the most exotic holidays. Here is a man who feels he has arrived. All he had ever longed for is in his grasp. Money brings certain happiness, or does it? The more you have the greater is your responsibility to use it for the good of others. Money is a burden bestowed by God upon people and for which they will have to answer at the Judgment Seat. This man says to himself “Be merry” but God says “Thou fool”.
No Thought of Death
God says to him “This night thy soul shall be required of thee”. “But I am only sixty-five, I’m only fifty-five, I’m only forty, and some live till they are a hundred”. Yes, and some die before twenty. Although we can immediately think of people we know who passed away in their teens, the fool in our heart says to us that we are going to live to a ripe old age. Not a day is guaranteed to us here. James writes of a merchant who says “Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy, and sell, and get gain: whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow” (Jas.4:13-14). Death is only a breath away. Are you a fool living as if you were going to be here forever?
No Preparation for Eternity
This man had much goods laid up for many years – for this life. He had savings, life assurance policies, substantial pension provisions, but he would enjoy none of them. Who would get what he left? He was crossing the Jordan of death into a new country where he would be homeless and penniless forever. One must be sensible in providing for one’s old age, but how much more must we provide for the never-ending eternity? Here is a man who lived for this world, for his job, success and pleasures. He dies and ends up in hell. He had planned for a heaven here, but never got his heaven here nor in the next world. He has eternity to regret his failure to lay up for himself treasure in heaven. The rich man of Luke 16 was “clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day” (v19). When he died he opened his eyes in hell and immediately became conscious of a terrific thirst that made him long for a drop of water to cool his tongue in the torment of the flame. “Fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee” and are you prepared?