Lessons from a Rich Fool

Gold Coins

On one occasion, Jesus told a parable about a man who was considered a fool because of how he focused on his riches to the neglect of his soul. This parable was presented as a warning against greed and a reminder that there is more to our existence than material things (Luke 12:15).

And He told them a parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, “What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.’” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?” So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God’” (Luke 12:16-21).

Let us consider three brief lessons from this parable.

We Must Not Trust in Riches

Before Jesus spoke this parable, He reminded His audience, “Not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Our lives are more than the things we own. Even if we were able to acquire all that we might hope to gain in this life, it will not help us in eternity. Jesus said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Rather than trusting in our material possessions – which cannot save us – we should trust in God. Paul told Timothy, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).

Our Possessions Will Go to Someone

When God told the rich man that he would die that night, He asked, “Now who will own what you have prepared?” (Luke 12:20). When we die, we cannot take anything with us. Paul wrote, “For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either” (1 Timothy 6:7). Therefore, we will leave our possessions to someone else. This was one of the reasons why the wise man declared life to be futile: “Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun. This too is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19). Even if one works a lifetime to be able to leave an inheritance for his children or grandchildren (2 Corinthians 12:14; Proverbs 13:22), he has no control over his wealth after he is gone. Like the prodigal son, the beneficiaries may squander his wealth and leave nothing to show for the labor, wisdom, and good stewardship of the one who acquired the wealth that was left to them. This is certainly not to discourage one from leaving an inheritance to others, but there must be the understanding that those who receive the inheritance will use it in the way they choose, even if that way is foolish.

Our Souls Will Be Required of Us

God told this man, “This very night your soul is required of you” (Luke 12:20). One day our spirits will return to God and be judged (Ecclesiastes 12:7, 14). We do not know when this will be. James wrote, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). The rich man thought he had more time (Luke 12:19), but he did not. Therefore, unlike the rich fool, we must be ready at all times. Not only could our death occur at any time, the Lord could return at any moment as well (2 Peter 3:10). The way we prepare for our appointment before the judgment seat of Christ is to consistently live in a way that is pleasing to Him. As the wise man said, we must “fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Peter wrote, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14).


The parable of the rich fool serves as a warning for us. Rather than focusing all of our attention on the temporal things of this life, we must make spiritual things a priority. Jesus said, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). The rich man failed to do this. Let us not act so foolishly.

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