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The Parable of the Rich Fool

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The Parable of the Rich Fool was given by Jesus in the New Testament Gospel of Luke.

From Luke 12:16-21:

And he spoke a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
There is a similar parable found in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas. This is one of the few places where Thomas shares a similarity with Luke not found in the Gospels of Matthew or Mark:
Jesus said, "There was a rich person who had a great deal of money. He said, 'I shall invest my money so that I may sow, reap, plant, and fill my storehouses with produce, that I may lack nothing.' These were the things he was thinking in his heart, but that very night he died. Anyone here with two ears had better listen!"
The 3 verses which precede this parable in Luke also share a unique similarity with verse 72 of Thomas:
And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

(Luke)

A [person said] to him, "Tell my brothers to divide my father's possessions with me." He said to the person, "Mister, who made me a divider?" He turned to his disciples and said to them, "I'm not a divider, am I?"

(Thomas)

Interpretation

The meaning of the parable can be threefold:

  • One meaning is that man should not devote their lives to the accumulation of superficial things because in the end what is to happen to them once the person dies. Usually, the things will depreciate, be given away to others who have not earned them, and eventually won't be appreciated. This echoes the fundamental principle expressed in Ecclesiastes 2:18 (“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.”)
  • Another meaning is that anyone who has a singular pursuit of possessing things will never have an opportunity to enjoy them because his or her life is, in essence, in the hands of God, and not of themselves. (Note in the text the numerous times that "I" or "my" appear.)
  • A third meaning is that man is not blessed if he hoards all of his possessions to himself. This redefines the meaning of "richness".

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