The Parable of the Wise and the Foolish

As Jesus was warning His followers about the times of tribulations that were fast approaching, He encouraged them saying that the Holy Spirit will always be by their side throughout the ordeal. When they would be dragged to the synagogues and courts and be on trial before the authorities, they need not worry about what they had to say as the Holy Spirit will defend them. Now amongst the crowds, there were many who would not have understood what Jesus was talking about and one man asked Jesus to settle a dispute that he was having with his brother.

“Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”

Luke 12:13-14 (NIV)

When Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit standing for us and defending us in courts, the man thought that Jesus will help solve his legal issues as well. That is the fault with us and why we struggle to understand God’s will for our lives. When God is teaching us something, we understand it according to our convenience and apply it to the things of the world. God wants to bless us by making us righteous while we interpret His words only in the context of our needs. God wants to have us rule with Him, while we are only looking for the next promotion from Him or the next big deal to close. The gifts from above are substituted with worldly perks as we allow the prince of the world (satan), to dictate the terms of our lives.

Jesus pivoted from the man’s ask to resolve his dispute onto another teaching, a Parable about a rich man who thought his wealth will sustain him forever. He was warning all His listeners to not have greed for the things of this world in their hearts as life does not consist in an abundance of possessions (Luke 12:15).

Saving Up For An Early Retirement

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Luke 12:16-21 (NIV)

Seeing the abundant harvest, the rich man built for himself bigger barns to store the surplus grains. He might as well have given the surplus to the destitute of his community but he chose to be selfish and wanted to keep it all for himself. What he forgot was that God was the reason for his plentiful harvest as nature is under His control. The same God could have sent floods destroying all his hard work leaving him to be destitute.

Some of us would remember the childhood story of the ants and the grasshopper. While the ants worked hard all summer, the grasshopper whiled away its time. Come winter, the ants had stored up food for themselves while the grasshopper was left famished. Imagine kids being taught that the ants lost all their stored up food in a fire, that would have been a bad moral story. The world teaches us that if we work hard and plan properly, we will be able to sail through life.

When we have confidence in ourselves, in our abilities and in our talents, we ignore the gracious hand of God that is working in our lives. We can plan for every contingency but due to our limited field of view, we will never be able to recognise God’s plan for life. Jesus follows this parable with a sermon on how we must not worry about anything as we are just wasting time that we could have rather spent at the feet of God.

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

Luke 12:25-26 (NIV)

In today’s world, saving up for one’s retirement is a paramount objective. The uncertainty in our economy and anxiety for the future compels us to plan for our tomorrow. If we are fully dependent on Christ for everything, we would trust Him to take care of our future. Jesus even told one of His followers who had plenty to go and sell everything and give it to the poor (Luke 12:33). Among all the other distractions in this world, the security that we get from our savings and assets is the biggest hindrance to our faith.

When He fed the five thousand, He did not tell His disciples to keep aside twelve baskets of bread for themselves but told them to distribute freely to the hungry. The less we have, the more we learn to depend on God. While wasteful spending in frivolous pursuits is wrong, being overly anxious about the future and worrying about our savings is equally wrong. Our priority should be to have a strong relationship with Christ and the rest would be taken care of by Him.

Between a Rock and a Sand

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV)

People who hear Jesus’ words only at a superficial level are like the man who built his house on sand. The house might look strong but during a tremor, it would be the first to collapse. Similarly in our lives, if we do not have a strong foundation in Christ but pretend to be Christlike, we will also not withstand the problems that come our way. At the first instance of trouble, we run to the princes’ of the world for a solution as we have no connection with the King of Heaven.

If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

1 Corinthians 3:14-15 (NIV)

But if we have a strong foundation in Christ, we will understand His words and what they mean for our lives. We will not be like the man who was in a dispute with his brother and who misunderstood Jesus’ words to mean something else. Every decision that we take in our lives, we will be running it by Christ. And when problems do come our way, we will be strengthened by His Spirit and know exactly what to do, depending on Him completely.

Questions Discussed

  • Why did the man think that Jesus will arbiter his dispute with his brother?
  • Is it wrong to save up for retirement?
  • What is Jesus trying to teach us through the Parable of the Rich fool?
  • How can we be rich toward God?
  • What does Jesus mean by building our houses on a solid foundation?

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