Don't Be A Fool

Bible Book: Luke  12 : 15-21
Subject: Money
Series: Points in the Parables

If he were alive today, the Wall Street Journal, or Forbes might do a cover story about him. He was a highly successful business owner, with the foresight and wisdom to save everything he could for a restful and early retirement.

In many ways this man was living the American dream. Most would have looked up to him as a successful model. However, God’s assessment of him was quite different. God called him a fool.

Before us in Luke 12, is a parable that goes completely against the culture in which we live. We live in a world where too often a man is measured by the things he has attained. Our motto is “He who dies with the most toys, wins.”

As a result, most Americans are drowning in debt, trying desperately to keep up a life filled with the things they are convinced will complete them.

The parable our Lord gave in Luke 12 is a parable that serves as a warning to each and every one of us.

The warning is this: Don’t be a fool. Don’t come to the end of your life only to find out that you have wasted it on things that count for nothing in eternity.

In verse 15 of our text, the Lord Jesus uses the word “beware”. The parable of the rich fool is a cautionary tale. In it there is instruction to keep us from becoming foolish.

As we study this parable, there are three warnings we can take from this man’s story. Notice first of all that we must:


Look again at our text, and notice again verse 15. The Lord Jesus prefaces this parable with this statement, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness, for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth.”

There is a phrase in this verse that is so fitting for our day. It is the phrase “abundance of things.” More than any other generation, and more than any other culture, you and I live with an abundance of things.

The Lord Jesus warns us in verse 15, and then proceeds to give us this parable, all for the purpose of teaching us about the power of possessions, and how they can distract and eventually destroy us if we are not careful.

Notice a couple of ways in which we must be careful with our possessions. Notice first of all that to be careful with our possessions, we must remember this:

A. Don’t Let Them Dominate You

The Lord Jesus is not saying that there is anything wrong with having things. The problem begins when your things have you.

Notice the word “covetousness” in verse 15. It literally means greediness. The idea of the word is the constant desire for more.

Unfortunately, there are many people who are never satisfied with what they have. Their house is never big enough. Their car is never new enough. Their clothes are never nice enough.

They live with an insatiable desire for more, and therefore their lives are dominated by things. Every day is lived in constant pursuit of the next best thing.

In July of 2005, Slate magazine posted an online article entitled “Self-Storage Nation”. In the article Tom Vanderbilt tells about one of the fastest growing businesses in America – storage. Vanderbilt explains that 1 in 11 households own space at a storage facility. He goes on to list the reasons why the use of storage facilities has grown, and he makes this statement, “It has never been so easy for so many to amass so many consumer goods. And who doesn’t take pleasure from owning things?”i

The truth is that we do love owning things. That is why we have so many things. We love possessions too much.

Just like the rich fool in this story, we have more than we know what to do with. We are too often dominated by our desire for more things.

We read in 1 Timothy 6:6 reminds us of an important truth. It says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” There is a need for contentment. Somewhere we must be satisfied with what we have. To be content, we cannot be dominated by possessions.

Notice another way in which we can be careful with our possessions. First of all, don’t let them dominate you. Further, remember this:

B. Don’t Let Them Define You

Look again at our Lord’s words in verse 15. He says, “…a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”

If we are not careful, we will fall into the trap of believing that wealth equates to worth. We will begin to believe that the size of our house and price of our car are the things that determine our true value.

Life is not about what you have. It is about who you are. The Lord Jesus warns us about equating our possessions with our purpose.

In his commentary on this parable, Marcus Dods explains that a man’s possessions don’t determine the kind of man he is. Dods says, “He may fill his shelves with the wisest and most elevating books, and yet remain illiterate; he may gather round him precious works of art, and be a clown and a boor; he may buy up a county, and be the smallest souled man in it; he may erect a mansion that will last for ten generations, and may not have…ten minutes of health to enjoy it.”ii

The Lord Jesus reminds us that you can have everything and still be a nothing. Therefore, don’t let your possessions define you.

Your value lies in the fact that Christ loves you, and that He has given Himself for you! Your worth is wrapped up in your relationship to your Lord.

Things are not in themselves bad. But they are dangerous, and therefore we must be careful with our possessions.

Notice a second truth we glean from this parable. Notice not only that we must be careful with our possessions, but notice also that we must:


As you read this parable, you find the story of an already successful man whose fields produce a plentiful harvest.

The man begins to make plans for his future. In verse 18, the man says, “This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there I will bestow all fruits and my goods.”

The man goes on in verse 19, and says, “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.”

On the surface, it sounds like a good plan. The profits will be saved, and the man will take an early, long, and enjoyable retirement.

The only problem is that God shows up and tells the man in verse 20, “…this night thy soul shall be required of thee...”

This man’s plans were wasted. He planned ignorantly and selfishly, and there are some lessons to be learned from him.

Notice first of all, we learn this lesson about plans. The lesson is this:

A. Remember That Which Is Undeniable In Life

This man planned as if he would live forever. Notice he says to his soul in verse 19, “…thou hast much goods laid up for many years…”

This man planned as if there were no grave awaiting him. He planned as if he would never die.

We never like to think about death, but the reality is that if the Lord tarries His coming for very long, all of us are going to die.

The Word of God reminds us that, “It is appointed unto man once to die.” We all have a standing appointment with death.

In a recent interview, actor Dustin Hoffman said that he had already decided what he wanted engraved on his tombstone. Hoffman said that his marker would read, “I knew this was going to happen.”iii

When you make your plans, plan for that which you know is going to eventually happen – you are going to die!

In light of that truth, should we not plan not only for this life, but also for the life that will follow?

Notice something else this rich fool teaches us about our plans. He teaches us not only to remember that which is undeniable in life, but notice also that we should:

B. Remember That Which Is Uncertain In Life

Again, when you study this man’s plans, you find that he is assuming that his life will be long. The problem is that he had less than a day to live.

This parable reminds us that we are not guaranteed another day of life. This could be the last service we ever attend. Today’s lunch could be the last meal we ever share with our family.

Death is certain, and at the same time it is uncertain. We know we are going to die, but we do not know when.

With that being said, why would you put off anything to a tomorrow you are not guaranteed? Why would a lost man say, “Tomorrow I will come to Christ”? Why would a believer say, “Tomorrow I will share the gospel with my loved ones”?

This rich man was living for days he would never see. He gambled on a future he did not have.

Right now, what are your plans? Are you planning as if you will live forever, and never face the cold hand of death?

Are you planning on doing something tomorrow, when the fact is that you may never see tomorrow? The rich fool challenges us to be careful with our plans.

There is a third and final truth that we glean from the parable of this rich fool. Notice not only that we must be careful with our possessions, and we must be careful with our plans, but notice also finally that we must:


This man’s priorities were clear. He wanted to reach a day when he could relax, and say to his soul, “eat, drink, and be merry.”

When the Lord spoke to him in verse 20, he said, “Thou fool…” This man’s priorities were wrong. His selfishness was foolishness in the eyes of God.

Notice the Lord’s words in verse 21 as he concludes this parable. He says, “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

From the words of the Lord Jesus in verse 21, we find some instruction on what should be the priority of our lives. Notice first of all that we should:

A. Seek That Which Is Essential

Did you notice that nowhere in the man’s story did he ever mention God? His land brought a plentiful harvest, but he offered no thanks to God for rain.

He was rich, and yet there was no acknowledging the grace of God on his life, and the favor of God on his fortune.

Apparently, this man had no relationship to God whatsoever. God was the farthest thing from his mind.

Can I tell you, friend, you can have all the success in the world, and it is worthless if you do not know the Lord Jesus.

Success without salvation equates to failure. Money without the Master equates to poverty. Life without the Lord ends in death.

If you accomplish nothing else in life, make it your priority to know the Lord Jesus. Seek Him above everything else.

Say with the songwriter:

“I’d rather have Jesus, than silver or gold,

I’d rather be his, than have riches untold,

I’d rather have Jesus, than houses or land,

I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand.”

The rich fool reminds us that it should be a priority in our lives to seek that which is essential. Notice something else he teaches us about our priorities. We should not only seek that which is essential, but we should also make it a priority to:

B. Seek That Which Is Eternal

Notice again verse 21. The Lord Jesus says that like this man, a man is a fool that, “…layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Notice that last phrase, “rich toward God.” There is a reminder in that phrase of something the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 6:20, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:”

The greatest investments you will make will not be stored in a bank or an IRA. The greatest investments you will make are stored in heaven.

The greatest thing you can do with your life is not spending it on yourself, but rather giving it in the service of the Lord.

You may die with a fortune in the Bank of Dade, but what is waiting in the Bank of Heaven? Will there be anything eternal that comes from your life?

William Shakespeare said, “If thou art rich, thou art poor, for like a donkey whose back with ingots bows, thou bearest thy heavy load but a journey, and death unloads thee.”

One day death will unload from you all your earthly goods. When you arrive in heaven, will there be anything eternal left from your life?

Our priority should be to seek that which is eternal.

Several years ago, my dad preached a message entitled, “You Never See A U-Haul Following a Hurst.”

The truth is that one day, like the rich fool in this parable, we are going to have to face our God. What we have amassed in this life will stay in this life.

The only thing that will matter then is what our God has to say to us. Will you hear him say, “Well done”, or “Thou fool”?

Live for Christ; don’t be a fool.


i.; accessed 11/16/07

ii. The Parables of our Lord –Second Series; Dods, Marcus; p. 50

iii. McHenry’s Stories for the Soul; p. 66