11th Sunday after Pentecost 2016 | The Parable of the Rich Fool

Bible Text: Luke 12:13-21


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

But He said to him, “Man, who has made me a judge or arbitrator over you?”

Well, in all fairness, the man in the crowd did.

And, assuming his brother is willing to play along,

then both of them are ready for Jesus to be a just judge and arbitrator for them –

One who will give them each of them what is due.


Now, what would drive a man to go to Jesus with a request like that?

Odds are, as a good Jewish boy,

he had read the same text from Ecclesiastes that you heard just moments ago.

King Solomon writes

“What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.”

So…if Solomon is right, and all this work is in vain, why bother?

Why not skip the toil, and simply take the inheritance?

And, as a bonus, why not ask Jesus to do it?


Jesus gives only one reason, a very simple statement:
“One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”


But you already knew that.

You already knew that what you work for you won’t keep.

You already knew that all the treasures you’ve laid up for yourself will not last.

You already knew.

So you didn’t need Solomon to say it, but he did anyways:

He goes on: “I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool?”

You already knew: that your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions.

You knew this, and deep down, so did the man in the crowd.

So then why does Jesus still need to tell this parable?



Financially speaking, you’re the top 1% of the planet.

Maybe your house is overflowing with stuff.

Maybe your barns and bank accounts are full too.

Maybe they’re so full you need a bigger bank with better rates.

Maybe you’re maxing out your IRA, while still trying to stay in the “poor me” tax bracket.


But maybe not. Maybe you’re only in the top 2% in this world.

Maybe like the man in the text, you’re looking for someone to deliver to you the windfall income.

Maybe your accounts aren’t full, but you’re striving to fill them.

Maybe you look at your Roth contributions, and think:

“This is o.k. But I should be storing away more.

After all, how else shall I eat, drink, and be merry?”


So whether you’re in the top 1% or the dreaded top 2%,

Whether your barns are full or whether you’re striving to fill them,

This parable from Jesus is for you.


Here Jesus sheds even brighter light on Solomon’s wisdom:

Wisdom does not dictate that you simply work hard for a comfortable retirement.

Nor should it compel you to lament that the things you worked for might be wasted by future generations.

After all, Solomon’s labor and riches were both temporary.

And so are yours.

So on the night your soul is required of you, whose will they be,

these accounts you’ve filled?

These investments you’ve made? Whose will they be?


On a related note, when the housing market crisis hit, a lot of folks lost big.

Maybe you were among them.

And if so, maybe it crossed your mind that, if you had to lose it, which one day you will anyways, wouldn’t it would have been better to pay off your church’s overdue mortgage than to bail out Wall St?


You’ve been rich toward the accounts which safeguard and not so safely guard your brief future here,

You’ve been rich toward yourself,

But poor toward God and the work of His Kingdom which goes on and on forever.


“So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”


By the way, nobody should go home today thinking that your pensions and investment vehicles are wicked,

Or that you should empty them into the church’s general fund.

Go ahead and fund them. That’s part of stewarding God’s gifts, too.

Caring for your family and being concerned their welfare is what you’re called to do.

But do it after giving a real, faithful 10%.

The rest is yours to give more or store away or just have some fun.


But always remember that what is most beautiful here today is this:

that Jesus refuses to be merely a dispenser of earthly treasure or investment advice.

What is most beautiful is that Jesus will serve as your Judge,

But He has first come to serve you by becoming your Brother.


Jesus has made that abundantly clear first in His Incarnation, in taking on your flesh.

Jesus has made that abundantly clear on the cross,

Where He inherits from you the sin which He did not earn – that’s your gift to Him:

All your covetousness and anxiety, your hoarding and refusal to be rich toward God,

For all of that you have not gotten what you had coming.

Because Jesus is better than a judge who gives what folks deserve,

And He is greater than any earthly brother who will divide an inheritance if forced to do so.

He is the Brother who gives you His inheritance, and take your poverty in exchange.


In your Baptism Jesus shares His own Divine Life with you.

In this Man, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ – In Him, though you have not been rich toward God, God has been rich toward you.

In Jesus, you inherit everything that you did not work for.

All that you could never earn is given as a free gift.

And unlike earthly treasure, Jesus Christ and His righteousness will never be taken from you.


And so if God has given you all He has,

if in His Son He has been boundlessly rich toward you, then you are free.

You are free from hoarding and keeping and worrying.

You are nothing but given to.

And so you are free to be rich toward God in return.


So you, beloved by the Lord, come now to His table.

Eat, drink, and be merry.

Find joy in His toil, the fruits of His cross. All free. All for you.

This is from the hand of God.

About Pastor Hopkins