The Rich Fool
Jesus’ parable about money and death
Questions for Bible study groups
- What was the quarrel about? Whose side did Jesus take?
- In this parable, what did man propose? How did God dispose?
In brief: Jesus told the story of a rich man who thought he could have it all. But money doesn’t buy happiness or long life. None of us know what the future holds. The message? Use your time wisely.
Where there’s a will there’s a quarrel
Jesus was often called Rabbi by the people around him. This meant he was a respected teacher of the Torah, and his opinion was sought whenever there was a dispute, especially about legal matters. In this case, there seems to have been a family quarrel about property. Someone was not getting what they were entitled to, or thought they should be entitled to, and they wanted Jesus to take sides with them.
Jesus refused to get involved in the fight, even though he may have known the man and the circumstances of the quarrel. Instead he criticised the way people placed paramount importance on money, and spent too much time and energy on the getting of more money than they needed.
Read the blue Gospel text at bottom of page
To illustrate his point, Jesus told a simple story about a rich man who took an avid interest in acquiring even more money than he already had. He did everything a good business planner would tell you to do: he thought ahead, planned for success, and made arrangements to maximise his profits. He thought of all the benefits his foresight would get for him: he would have such a surplus of wealth that he would never need to work again. His future comfort and all those dividends rolling in would mean he could eat, drink and be merry, with nary a care in the world…
Read the green Gospel text at bottom of this page
But God disposes
God had other plans. That night, without any prior warning, He took away the life of the man who thought he could retire in comfort. The man suddenly died. His possessions were useless. It turned out that money could buy a lot of things, but not the one thing, life, that the man needed.
What he had failed to acquire was a solid relationship with God. In all this story there is no mention of family, or a right relationship with God, or of giving to the poor. The man had lived for his money, but now it was of no use. He had been a fool.
Read the black text at bottom of page
What the Gospels say
1. Where there’s a will there’s a quarrel. Read the blue text
2. Man proposes. Read the green text
3. God disposes. Read the black text
13 One of the multitude said to him, “Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man’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 brought forth 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 pull 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; take your ease, 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 he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”