There are 18 parables in the Gospel of Luke. One of the shortest ones contains one of the most powerful messages. It’s about the rich man who had a magnificent harvest. He faced a conundrum: “What shall I do with this fantastic harvest? My barns will never hold all of this since they still have some of last year’s harvest.” His solution makes sense and, in fact, helps him plan for what he anticipates will be big harvests for years to come.
“I’ll tear down my old barns and build new bigger ones so I have plenty of storage space for this harvest.” So far so good. But he forgets a most basic truth: he is not governor of his time or his lifespan. He envisions his new barns bursting with grain and exclaims to himself, “You have so many good things stored up for many years that you can rest, eat, drink, and be merry!”
God is surely not condemning this man’s hard work and dedication. God is not condemning wealth or riches that the man acquired. Sometimes we can get that impression from the Scriptures. But if you look at the great variety of saints whose lives we celebrate, many were poor and had little. At the same time, there have been kings and queens who reached a high degree of sanctity.
What a Fool Believes
Jesus’ teaching is about the blind attitude of the rich man in assuming that his needs were covered for many years to come. In a way, he was acting like God and presumed he knew the future. In fact, he predicted his future to be one in which he could eat, drink, and be merry.
Jesus calls him a “fool,” which is strange because Jesus said earlier in the Gospel, “Call no man a fool” (Mt 5:22). But, of course, in the parable, the man is really just that—a fool. One definition of a fool is a person who cannot or does not see reality for what it is. And no one is more a fool than one who takes himself out of the ordinary circumstances of life. There is absolutely no guarantee to anyone about the future.
The reason is simple: no one has control over the millions of circumstances that can and will affect his or her life. The most powerful man on earth can be laid low by a tiny blood clot that travels to his heart. The wealthiest man in the world can stumble, fall, and hit his head. An accident or an unforeseen disease can strike anyone at any time. The fool is one who sees himself as secure based on material things and therefore has a false sense of security.
Salvation in God
Jesus says that our security, no matter the circumstances, comes from our faith in God and in our desire to live our lives as best we can in accordance with the will of God. In doing that, our future takes care of itself.
What is wonderful about the Gospel is that we are reminded of the realities of life and death. Ultimately, our hope and peace of mind lie in our reliance on God. In the end it comes down to this little prayer, “Dear Lord, I am yours, and I am thankful that you are mine.”