October is the month when farmers are out in their fields from dawn to dusk harvesting their crops. In the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21), Jesus tells us of a rich man whose field produced a bumper crop. But first, there’s a question by “someone in the crowd” that prompts Jesus to tell us the parable. He follows the story with a very stern warning about “stewardship and giving,” the Holy Habits I will be meditating on in a couple of scripture passages this month. I hope you’ll come along!
Most of us know the story of the rich fool. Once again, here’s a familiar parable, but one that’s worth a closer look if we are to better embrace the importance of stewardship and giving. In the beginning of Luke 12 we find Jesus in a crowd of thousands, so thick that “they were trampling on one another.” He’s trying to give his disciples some constructive teaching – both warnings and encouragements. And somewhere in the crowd this man has his mind, not on Jesus’ teaching, but on a family problem. He says, very boldly, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
According to my research, these were the kinds of disputes that were brought to rabbis. But Jesus doesn’t bite. I think he’s annoyed actually. In your imagination can’t you almost see him grinding his teeth and pursing his lips at the brashness of the man’s demand? He says, very pointedly, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”
According to Jewish law, the firstborn son received as an inheritance a “double share” of all the father had (Deut. 21:17). So this man was probably a younger son, unhappy about his older brother’s new blessing. There’s already a rift in the family, isn’t there? Greed, entitlement, and perhaps even bitterness have already entered the heart and mind of this man. He wants Jesus to do something about what he considers unfair! That’s the context of the parable Jesus tells next, and we need to keep it in mind, okay?
Jesus is about to give us a Kingdom lesson based on Psalm 24:1 – “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” Nothing we have, whether by our own hard work, a stroke of luck, an inheritance or any other windfall, actually belongs to us. It’s God’s! We are stewards, recipients with responsibilities. In his next few words Jesus will make that very clear. And, if we’re wise (and I hope we all are striving to be!) we had better listen!
So come along with me to hear the story of the rich fool, okay? And bring a friend, too. Please!
P.S. Stop by the Connect Kiosk on Sunday to see some artist expressions of this parable – and more!