3 Life Lessons from the Parable of the Rich Fool

The title of the Parable of the Rich Fool might make many people assume the parable doesn’t apply to them if they aren’t millionaires or independently wealthy. But the Parable of the Rich Fool meaning has a lot to do with your relationship with money and how it potentially impacts your relationship with God, so it applies to more people than one might initially think.

Parable of the Rich Fool cover image. Money.

Parable of the Rich Fool Summary

The Parable of the Rich Fool is a short lesson from the Bible that’s included only in the Book of Luke 12:13-21.

In the parable, a man’s land produces an abundance of crops; more than he can store. His solution is to tear down his barns and build bigger ones to hold the surplus so he can sit back and enjoy life. God calls him a fool and demands his life that very night, making his selfish endeavors all for nothing. God provides this warning for the greedy and stingy to take heed and change their ways.

Parable of the Rich Fool Meaning

Some of Jesus’ parables are difficult to decipher, but the Parable of the Rich Fool is one of the more straightforward ones. When we fixate on accumulating wealth without regard for God or others, we will ultimately have to answer to God for our greed.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. Hebrews 13:5 NIV

Note: This parable is about greed with excessive money, not about people whose basic needs aren’t being met.  God doesn’t expect people to live in poverty. His will is for you to trust Him to ensure you will always have enough instead.

Parable of the Rich Fool reflection

We’re bombarded by fancy, flashy, worldly things every way we turn. Our friends have the latest gadgets, new vehicles, and big homes, so we want them, too. Advertisements promise that if we buy certain products, we can stay younger longer, own a bigger house, or get rich quick. The temptations of the world pull at our desires and when we give in to them, we can easily slip away from God without even realizing it. 

God doesn’t care about the things of the world. He cares about our souls. It’s the devil who tempts us with worldly wealth and he’s very convincing! It’s up to each of us to say ‘No’ to greedy thoughts and behavior. 

Let’s take a look at three ways to stay on the right track or get back on track if you’ve derailed.

Three Life Lessons from the Parable of the Rich Fool

1. Be on your guard against all types of greed.

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:15 NIV

Society holds the rich in high regard. Rich is a status symbol that many people wear with pride. Having money isn’t the issue. It’s the excessive desire for wealth that becomes covetous. It’s when our greed exceeds our care and concern for others that it’s a problem. When we look at money with greed in our hearts, we’ve lost sight of God’s will.

Real-life and real living aren’t about wealth. Everything we learn in the Bible and everything Jesus said about loving one another have nothing to do with accumulating wealth. 

Luke gives us a firm warning. Watch out and be on your guard, he said. Take heed to Luke’s warning. Being greedy doesn’t lead to the happiness we think it will. In fact, God is looking for the opposite – our generosity to others. He will make sure you always have enough of everything you need. 

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Matthew 6:26 NIV

Look in the mirror:

Do you look for comfort in material possessions or wealth? Does your satisfaction come from the amount of money you have or do you find yourself craving more, even beyond your needs or current wealth? What fears keep you focusing on accumulating wealth?

2. Christianity is not of this world

Jesus never promised that following Him would be easy or be filled with worldly rewards, including financial. Nothing about Jesus’ life and ministry conformed to worldly status or values. Whether you consider yourself a Christian or not, if you find yourself conforming to worldly standards and desires, then you’re sliding away from Christ. The evil one is tempting you away from our Lord and you’re allowing it to happen.  

Covetousness (greed) is a sin we need constantly to be warned against. Your happiness and comfort don’t depend on the wealth of this world. Jesus promises that we will be rewarded by following His will, but the reward won’t be monetary or worldly. It will be of a spiritual nature. 

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24 NIV

Look in the mirror:

When our day of judgment comes, we’ll have to give account for how we’ve lived our lives. If you stood before God today, do you think He’d be pleased in regard to your relationship with money?  If it’s consuming your thoughts or actions, what changes can you make today? How could you follow God’s will instead?

3. Jesus warned against all idols

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5 NIV

When God said, “You shall have no other gods before me,” (Exodus 20:3) many people mistakenly interpreted ‘gods’ as actual deities.  And because they don’t worship Buddha or the gods of the sun and moon, they think “idolatry” doesn’t apply to them. Not so. 

Idolatry is anything that diverts our focus away from God and doing His will. It goes far beyond other deities. With this definition in mind, we all have earthly desires (idols) that we put before God. It’s up to us to take an honest look inside and find out what those are. For the purpose of the Parable of the Rich Fools, that idol is greed.

Greed, also described as covetousness, is idolatry. Greed is our utmost desire for more than we need while we turn a blind eye to God and his people, such as the hurting, the lost, and the downtrodden. 

Here’s a reminder from Paul to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:10 NIV:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Take a look in the mirror:

Assuming your basic financial needs are met (including shelter, food, and a job), what’s your relationship with money? Are you consumed by making more? Does working for money beyond what you need impact your relationship with your loved ones or the time you spend with them? Are you generous with what you have or do you ‘build new barns’ to store it all up for yourself?

What does the Parable of the rich man teach us?

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. Matthew 22:37-38 NIV

The Parable of the Rich Man teaches us that when we let greed for accumulating wealth override our Christian obligation to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, we are breaking His greatest commandment. When our life ends, we will have to account for our relationship with money. 

Parable of the Rich Fool Discussion Questions

These questions are intended to spark conversation about the Parable of the Rich Fool. I’ve included some brief thoughts to help guide the discussion, if needed.

Is it wrong or bad to have money?

No, money in and of itself is not evil. We need money to survive. 

Will God take your life for coveting money?

Most likely not, but He could. The real point is that He will hold you accountable when your time does come.

Is saving money wrong? 

No, actually saving money is prudent and there are several Biblical references about saving money. This parable is about greediness and stinginess. It’s about fixating on wanting more than we need and not being generous with what we have.  

How much money is too much?

The Parable of the Rich Fool isn’t about a certain amount of money being a problem. The problem comes in regards to a person’s relationship with money. When wealth becomes a fixation then money’s become an idol that separates the person from God. This can happen without excessive wealth. 

How can money be an idol?

Anything that we prioritize higher than our relationship with God separates us from Him. Anything that we want more than to please God is an idol. Money is only one example.

Can you be wealthy and not be a Rich Fool?

Technically yes. But Jesus warned the rich man:

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.  Mark 10:25 NIV

Being rich is a slippery slope and it’s difficult to not get swept away with all the niceties that being wealthy affords. The rich become reliant on wealth. It becomes something they don’t want to give up. In other words, wealth easily becomes an idol. The rich man proved Jesus right in Mark 10:17-22 NIV:

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Parable of the Rich Fool, Luke 12:13-21

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “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. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “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?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Parable of the Rich Fool Commentary, Luke 12:13-21:

You may find this commentary of Luke 12:13-21 from Matthew Henry’s Commentary helpful for more interpretation and insight. I referenced it for guidance in this article. Here is a selection of other free Bible Commentaries.

More Parables!

Do you love the parables as much as I do? You may enjoy reading life lessons on these others, these activities for adults and children, or this list of Parables and Meanings:

Cover photo by John Guccione www.advergroup.com from Pexels

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