The farmer is rich and, apparently, amassing his wealth without breaking any laws or cheating anybody. (For if Jesus had wanted that to be a point of his story, he would have told us!)
So far, so good.
His land produces abundantly, requiring that he build bigger barns.
So far, so much better.
Wisely, he looks to the future, storing plentiful provisions and preparing to “relax, eat, drink, be merry.”
So far, so even best.
Then not so good. He dies, leaving his fortune for others to argue over who gets what. Just like the man who wanted Jesus to settle an inheritance dispute with his brother, which inspired him to tell this parable; in which, not so good at all, he calls the rich farmer a “fool!”
The farmer is a fool not because of his wealth, but rather, paraphrasing our epistle text, setting his mind on earthly things and not heavenly things, because his god is wealth and himself. Listen to him:
“What should I do? I have no place to store my crops?
“I will do this. I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones.
“There I will store my grain and my goods.”
His foolishness was his self-centeredness; unable, unwilling to use his riches, even in part, to help others in greater need. His foolishness made worse by his false belief that his wealth could secure his future. For when he spoke to himself, saying, “Soul,” the word, the name of the immortal element of human existence, he declared aloud, perhaps unconsciously, that he had conflated, truly, that he had confused earthly and heavenly things.
Unlike the farmer, I’m not rich. Not in money. But, concerning educational achievement, material attainment, and standard of living, I’m richer and so are we all than billions of people in this world. And, sometimes, I confess, I fall prey to the temptation to cling to things for my security and to believe that more is better. And though I don’t want to be a fool, like the farmer, and make my wealth and myself my god, short of my death, I don’t plan to relinquish my earthly possessions.
Nevertheless, Jesus, through this parable, calls you and me to consider, perhaps reconsider how we view our possessions.
Can they provide us comfort? Yes.
Do they make us righteous, in right relationship with God, others, and ourselves? No.
Our human dignity, personal worth, and individual value are the fruits of our creation and, thus, the gifts of God and God alone. To live that way, mindful of these heavenly truths, can transform our perspective on our material wealth and make us more generous, in sharing both our substance and ourselves, with others.
Illustration: Parable of the Rich Fool, Eugène Burnand (1850-1921)