Parable Surprises – The Rich Man and Barns

This parable is a response to an unknown crowdster, that wanted to “see tha money”. I don’t think he knew what he was getting into!

Let’s take a look at

The Parable of The Rich Man and Barns

Luke 12:16-21

16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”‘ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

As mentioned in our introduction, we have a number of questions that will provide guidance in understanding each of these parables. Let’s review and delve into this parable.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

Luke 12:13 mentions a crowd being present. Jesus had been teaching and a crowd came together to hear the Master. The disciples of course were present.

When did the Lord give this parable?

Specifically, I can not find a time or location this parable was taught. Others with greater abilities than I place it in the region of Galilee.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

It seems this parable was taught in the early years of the Lord’s ministry.

Why did the Lord give this message?

As mentioned in the introduction, the parable was given in response to a man in the crowd wanting resolution over an inheritance.

During our Lord’s time, it seems the scribes of the law were addressed in the matter of the laws of inheritance.

One of the laws of inheritance that may seem foreign to us nowadays is the right of the first born. The first born would receive twice the amount of inheritance than any of the other siblings. So, for example, out a 2 million dollar inheritance between two brothers, the first born would receive 1.3 million buckaroos, while the younger brother only $667,000. (Poor little rich boy!)

In our society that would cause constant complaints, a commission should be set up to study and strike down such an unjust law. That is our problem – this was Old Testament Israel, set up originally as a theocracy, with laws that picture the supremacy of the first born, looking to the Savior as a fulfillment. But I digress.

As mentioned, sometimes scribes were addressed regarding inheritance laws. But Jesus would not get pulled down into this specific issue since it was not his mission. He simply asked the man the following.

Luke 12:14

… “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?”

What a question. In the matters of this man’s familial conflicts and greed, He would not get involved. And yet, upon His resurrection, God made Jesus a judge over all.

Romans 2:16

16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

This question, or shall I say demand, from a stranger in the crowd, brings Jesus to the topic of covetousness, and the teaching of this particular parable.

What was the message for the original audience?

The message for the original audience is to be on guard over covetousness. The covetousness in this parable takes the form of the rich man seeking comfort and ease in his future life. He has had a bumper crop, to no credit of his own efforts – the God of creation provided the bounty – and yet in the midst of this great success financially, the rich man thought of the ease it may provide for his own soul.

Luke 12:19

….“Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’

Jesus was addressing priorities, for in the very next verse, God called this man a fool. Why? The rich man had no earthly future upon which to enjoy his goods, and the statement implies that all the goods this rich man accumulated would be dispersed to an unknown recipient.

I don’t want to make this parable walk on 50 legs, finding parallels in every word, but this question from God is startling, for the condemnation from God is two fold in my eyes this morning.

  • The rich man was not prepared for death.
    • He wasn’t prepared for death in that he had planned for “many years of relaxation and rest”. Back in the garden, God told us to “till the garden”. Labor is not a part of the curse, but part of the original creation, a blessing that is instilled in us by the Creator. Why was relaxation and rest the top priority for this rich man?
    • The rich man did not consider the Creator regarding the length of his lifespan. No man knows of his time, and it behooves us to be prepared, even daily for death. This is not something that is encouraged in our culture, or even in our churches very often. We so often want our best life now. This may not be wide! Tonight his soul is required of him.
  • The rich man was not prepared for death.
    • He wasn’t prepared for death in that he hadn’t directed his earthly possessions to his descendants (if he had any) or to worthy causes. This is a bit stunning, for what does it matter to the Creator of the universe where this rich mans paltry possessions end up? Whose will they be?
    • We began this post considering a man who had issues with an inheritance. His initial question from the crowd began this post. Inheritance in the Old Testament was a common topic, and this phrase is directing me to consider its implications. ( A quick search for the word inheritance shows it coming up over 200 times in the Scriptures.)

Although the topic is covetousness, there seems to also be an undercurrent of priorities to be applied to one’s life.

Could it be as simple as the priorities of God first, family and friends next, and then finally yourself?

In answering this question, I began with my thinking that it addresses covetousness in the believers life, and that is true, but in this parable, priorities are used to reveal the covetous life.

What is the message for us today?

In reading this parable over the years I have had a number of reactions to it. When I read it quickly, or think about it without reading it (don’t do that), I come away from it thinking all retirement investing as being sinful.

Is that the intended message for us today?

Of course, if covetousness is controlling your plans for retirement, or generally for your future, consider your ways.

If you are planning for a time when you may no longer be able to provide for yourself or loved ones, then this may be considered careful planning.

In setting priorities, we need to remember that becoming a burden on others should not be a goal in our lives. Balance in our lives regarding our financial decisions needs to be reviewed, and the previously discussed priorities of God, family and self (in that order) need to be reapplied as necessary

You know, as I think of this topic, it reminds me of two items that may help in understanding the intent of the parable

Prioritizing Honesty with God

Recently my wife and I were in the book of Acts, and read of Ananias and Saphira. I posted earlier on the surprise of a small statement in the text about Barnabas selling a field. He sold a field, not all of his fields, or most of his fields. It doesn’t tell us what percentage he sold. It seems unimportant. He performed a loving action for his brothers.

Ananias and Sapphira were different – They also sold a field, and lied about giving all of the funds to the church. The amount didn’t seem to be the problem – it was the lie that they gave all when they only gave some. I wonder if things would have turned out differently if they admitted they only gave some?

In prioritizing God in our financial decisions, honesty is a priority. After all, it is all of His, and we are simply “tilling the garden”, not owning the field!

As an aside, I find that being anonymous in my giving is also beneficial, in order that my motives may approach an honest simplicity.

Prioritizing Others after Death

Early in our married life, I shunned many offers of life insurance, thinking it showed a lack of faith in God. I wanted to honor God in every decision, and as I sought to understand His will for our lives, I came up against 1 Timothy 5:8.

1 Timothy 5:8

8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Out of context, I understood this verse to speak of supplying food and shelter for my family and I still believe that. Consider 2 Thessalonians 3:10

…If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat

But as I considered the context of 1 Timothy 5, I began to see something that would require an attitude adjustment.

The context of this verse is in relation to widows. 1 Timothy 5:3 speaks of honoring widows, and of family members caring for the widow in the next verse. Then verse 8 pops up, speaking of one not supplying for members of his household, and that he is worse than an unbeliever. It may be addressing the living relatives of the widow, but I was impressed with the need of supplying for my wife and family in the event of my death. Out of that period of time, I revised my thinking (it’s called repentance) and took out a life insurance policy for my wife and children.

Please understand that I am not a life insurance salesman, nor is anyone in my family a life insurance salesman. This is not a life insurance commercial!

I currently have a policy that will supply funds for my wife (my children are out of the house now) in the event of my passing before her. Is this a solution for all? That is for you to seek God in. There may be many ways for the believer to honor God and love his family in place of having a policy as I have.

In the midst of the insurance struggle that was raging in my mind and heart, I also was drawn to the topic of a last will. Nothing specifically in the Scriptures directed me in this matter but love for my wife and family constrained me to get one done. But gosh golly, gee willikers, this parable may be addressing the need of a will, when we look at Luke 12:20.

….whose will they be?

Your thoughts and comments are always welcomed and I look forward to any insight you may add in the comments. Thanks so much for visiting. May the Lord bless you and keep you in all His ways.



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