A fool is a man who has his eyes closed for the reality of life and death, of the things of this life and those of the life to come. This is true of every one who lives without God in the world. If a man blesses his own soul and depends upon his own wisdom, he makes a fatal mistake.
Such a man we meet in the parable of the rich fool. This parable was spoken and stands in close connection with a peculiar event. The Lord was preaching to the multitude. He warned his listeners for the leaven of the Scribes and the Pharisees. Furthermore, the multitude is warned of the time when persecution shall come. Be not afraid, says the Lord, of them who shall kill you, but fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell. And while persecuted be not afraid what ye shall say, for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.
While speaking, one of the multitude interrupts the Savior’s discourse. This man has an important question to ask. Not a question in connection with the Lord’s teaching, but with something radically different and in sharp contrast with the content of Jesus’ sermon.
This is, first of all, a sign that the words spoken by the Lord did not carry much weight and did not strike him. Listen to him. Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. Without any introduction or explanation he appoints Jesus to be the judge. Jesus speaking concerning God and His Kingdom. The persecution of the Church and the power of the Holy Spirit. Of the Son of Man and the spiritual things on the one hand and on the other hand this man, not impressed at all, not even realizing that the warning was also meant for him, becomes impatient and means to say we have heard enough now. Listen to me. My heart has different needs. The carnal mind for evermore fixing its attention upon the things that once shall perish and have no eternal value.
The Lord does not answer the questioner. That is, he does not speak to him directly, but he takes hold of the underlying sin which besets him. Beware of covetousness. Beware of it, because life does not depend upon the abundance of the things which one may possess. And at the same time the Lord continues his instruction with the teaching of the parable of the rich fool who received in abundance. Who blessed his soul and considered himself because of his earthly goods. Who also meant to possess salvation, peace, and rest in these things. And whose soul was dragged down to the basest service of the flesh and must leave it all behind when death overtook him.
The only thing wrong with him was that he had a foolish conception of life. That is plain from the fact when we listen to his philosophy of life. He had abundance and came to the conclusion I have years to live and enjoy from the abundance to my own satisfaction. And the enjoyment of the earthly things were the only object of his soul. It meant life to him. Living and enjoyment belong together. That was life and when that is ended all is ended. Now first of all, we have one word in our language which is not adequate to express that which Scripture means by it when it speaks of life. “Fully to understand these words we must understand what ‘a man’s life’ is, which thus does not stand in the abundance of the things which he possesses; of which therefore this petitioner would not have had more, if instead of half, he had secured the whole of the disputed inheritance. While we have but one word for ‘life,’ the Greek possesses two—one to express the life which we live, another to express the life by which we live; and it is of this latter which Christ is speaking here. A man may have his living, his ‘bios,’ the sustenance of his lower life, out of his earthly goods; nay more, they may themselves be called by this very name; but his life itself, his ‘Zwn,’ he cannot draw from them.” (Trench Parables and Synonyms).
The question therefore was not first of all of the sustenance but of life itself. And that again pertains to our innermost being. Thus we understand why this man, who interrupted Jesus, was worried about the patrimony. He did not care for life itself, of whom it came and how it must be dedicated unto the Lord, nay, but he worried about his daily sustenance. He was a materialist pure and simple and did not acknowledge the relation between his life and God. In fact, God was not in all of his thoughts. Therefore, he coveted the patch of ground, because if not looking toward God he must of necessity look to the dust, the things that perish. In that respect the one interrupting Jesus and the Rich Fool are identical. Both are men who center their thoughts upon the things here below, as if in these things are the fountain of life. Both of them make the real life identical with the things of the earth. Hence, peace, joy, and blessedness must be found in the abundance of the things of the earth. The more gifts in the same measure one can speak of blessedness and that without God. The same theory of common grace applied by the men of the world—without God and without Christ. And because life is from God even as it must be dedicated to Him, he who singles God out of his life must of necessity be or become a fool, even a rich fool in the possession of the many gifts of the earth.
Life after all, is that we continually reach out or seek after God. To have communion with him. He must at all times and in all things be the object of the desire of the heart. He alone can give us the real life because in Him is the fountain of life. His life is to delight in himself, to seek himself, and to rejoice in himself. And because he is the life and the only Life-Giver, all creatures depend upon him. Even the rich fool should know when his body called for food that life was not in him, but in God and from him alone. To recognize God and to confess his Name is to have life. The difference between this man and the Christian is, the one seeks life in the creature, the other in and through Jesus Christ. As we said, God was not in all his thoughts.
And of course, a wrong conception will also reflect itself in a foolish mode of living. This man’s land hath brought forth plentifully. That he could not help. We must remember this man is not pictured as a spoiler or extortioner, neither did he remove his neighbors landmarks. We may say that his riches were fairly gotten. The abundance of heaven was thrown in his lap. Yes, I know, he did not consider his land to be the Lord’s property, nor was the seed sown the Lord’s and therefore without the abundance he was a fool, but that was after all the cause why he could not possibly see the connection between the abundance and God. He received the gifts, but not out of the hand of the Giver. And whereas he denies God he must of necessity make himself God. And because he made himself the sole heir he becomes perplexed in the midst of his riches. He does not know what to do with them. Worldling never knows what to do with abundance. In the midst of it he will create poverty and confusion and will end in self. How about the needy and the poor? The homes of the widows and orphans? Take God out of man’s thought and he will reveal it in his mode of living. Earth, will never be connected with heaven but will seek self and end in self.
According to his wisdom (?) he acts.
Speaking within himself all is of God and God is all? No, but all is mine and I am all. He is pleased to converse in the singular. Listen to him for a moment.
I shall do this—bigger barns.
I will store away.
In my barns and of my fields and for my body. No, not for the body but for my soul. Self and God are here contemplated as the two poles between the soul must choose. And he, the Rich Fool, layeth up his treasures for himself. He linked himself with the things which perish and shall presently perish with them. God is not in all his thoughts.
Scripture considers the heart as that which constitutes to be either poor and foolish or rich and wise. He that has no love toward God, no spiritual affections is wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. He has no peace and comfort neither in time or eternity. For he has nothing with God. He seeks to stay here and speak of many years, many barns, much bread, and much money. Because he is from below it is the desire of the heart to remain here eternally.
What a terrible awakening it must be for this fool in the midst of riches! He said to his soul many years are in store for you and much goods are laid up, now eat and drink, be merry, and take thine ease. Yes, yes, he was set Voor de oude dag! He provided his old pension in abundance.
God speaks thou fool.
He said many years, and the Lord changes the years to this night.
He said, soul thou shalt be made fat—God says, it will be required.
They shall require it of thee. The question is who shall require that soul? Some explain the avenging angels shall come and take his soul from him. Others, this fool will meet a violent death. To our mind that is not the question. The question is, it is required for the purpose to give an account. God demands an explanation. First of all it implies he must and will come face to face with God whom he denied. He received his life and the things for this life, the abundance of God alone. But he became sole heir of self and of all that rightfully belongs to the Lord.
Then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided? His proprietorship is denied in the heart of the question ‘whose shall it be’? Some explain it shall no longer be his, but will belong to others. There is an element in this explanation to justify it. For when the rich die someone else will inherit his riches. However, there is a better explanation possible. This man comes face to face with God. He had made himself guilty of taking possession of the things of the earth which rightfully belonged to the Lord. And standing before the Lord being asked about the life that was spent and in close connection being asked what was done with that life and the things thereof, this becomes plain that even the rich fool will admit nothing belongs to me but to Thee, O God. And not having recognized God, placing him outside of his life there is nothing left but the severe punishment that shall be meted out in harmony with the divine justice.
So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.