Parable of the Rich Fool

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The Parable of the Rich Fool by Rembrandt, 1627.

The Parable of the Rich Fool is a parable of Jesus which appears in only one of the Canonical gospels of the New Testament. According to Luke 12:13-21, the parable reflects the foolishness of attaching too much importance to wealth.

An abbreviated version of the parable also appears in the non canonical Gospel of Thomas (Saying 63)[1] and this parable has been depicted by artists such as Rembrandt.

Narrative[edit]

The parable is introduced by an audience member who tries to enlist Jesus' help in a family financial dispute:[2]

One of the multitude said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me."

But he said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or an arbitrator over you?" He said to them, "Beware! Keep yourselves from covetousness, for a man's life doesn't consist of the abundance of the things which he possesses."

— Luke 12:13-15, World English Bible

Jesus then responds with the parable:

He spoke a parable to them, saying, "The ground of a certain rich man brought forth abundantly. He reasoned within himself, saying, 'What will I do, because I don't have room to store my crops?' He said, 'This is what I will do. I will pull down my barns, and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. I will tell my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years. Take your ease, eat, drink, be merry."'

"But God said to him, 'You foolish one, tonight your soul is required of you. The things which you have prepared—whose will they be?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

— Luke 12:16-21, World English Bible

Interpretation[edit]

The rich farmer in this parable is portrayed negatively, as an example of greed.[2] By replacing his existing barn, he avoids using agricultural land for storage purposes, thus maximising his income, as well as allowing him to wait for a price increase before selling.[2] St. Augustine comments that the farmer was "planning to fill his soul with excessive and unnecessary feasting and was proudly disregarding all those empty bellies of the poor. He did not realize that the bellies of the poor were much safer storerooms than his barns."[3]

The farmer's conversation with himself is, in Luke's gospel, a negative.[2] It is also self-centred: first-person pronouns occur 11 times.[4] Arland J. Hultgren comments that the parable "provides an example of what one ought not to be like. The person whose identity is tied up with his or her possessions, status, and/or achievements — and is driven by acquiring them — can so easily end up unaware of the call of God and the need of the neighbor."[4]

The farmer's foolishness lies particularly in the fact that wealth cannot guarantee the future: the Day of Judgment arrives sooner than he expects.[5]

Depictions[edit]

This parable has been depicted by several artists, including Rembrandt, Jan Luyken, James Tissot, and David Teniers the Younger.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gospel of Thomas: Lamb translation and Patterson/Meyer translation
  2. ^ a b c d Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, Eerdmans, 1997, ISBN 0-8028-2315-7, pp. 487-491.
  3. ^ Arthur A. Just, Luke, InterVarsity Press, 2003, ISBN 0-8308-1488-4, p. 208.
  4. ^ a b Arland J. Hultgren, The Parables of Jesus: A Commentary, Eerdmans, 2002, ISBN 0-8028-6077-X, pp. 104-109.
  5. ^ John Clifford Purdy, Parables at Work, Westminster John Knox Press, 1986, ISBN 0-664-24640-0, pp. 41-43.