Bible Study Resources - Tips, Online Bible Search, Devotions

What Can We Learn from the Parable of the Rich Fool?

What Can We Learn from the Parable of the Rich Fool?

As you know Jesus would often talk in parables, and one of his parables was about the rich fool. It is ironic that he uses the words rich and fool in the same sentence because we often think of those who are rich as wise and not fools. Clearly Jesus saw something different which points at the heart of what the parable of the rich fool is all about. If you are not familiar with it here it is in the Gospel of Luke.

And he told them this parable: 'The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ ‘Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ ‘But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ ‘This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.’” – Luke 12:16-21

Now that you have read this let me highlight two key themes that point to what the parable of the rich fool is about.

What Is the Lesson of the Parable of the Rich Fool

If you are not careful when you hear Jesus talk about wealth or riches, you would think that he has a problem with them. This can create this dichotomy we have in the church where poverty is holiness and on the other spectrum every Christian is supposed to be rich. Honestly, neither one of these things are true. The real problem Jesus is dealing with in this parable is not wealth but greed. Look at the two verses that caused Jesus to share this parable.

"Someone in the crowd said to him, 'Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.' Jesus replied, ‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’” – Luke 12:13-14

Notice that Jesus tells the people to guard against greed. One of the problems or dangers of pursuing wealth at any cost is that there is the potential for greed to set in. The question that needs to be asked then is how do you know when greed has set in? Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • Are you ever content with what you have?
  • Do you feel like you always have to get more?
  • Is the pursuit of things consuming you?

If you answer yes to these questions, then you might be infected with greed. The problem with greed is that it is deceptive, we have even cloaked it today in spiritual language where we don’t call it greed, we call it increase and every prayer people pray is all about increasing their territory, increasing their finances, and increasing their stuff. Again, Jesus is not against wealth but as he said your life is not about the abundance of your possessions. There is nothing wrong with having possessions but just make sure those possessions don’t have you. The real test of that is what happens if it all goes away. Would you still love God and serve him with the same fervor if it all went away? Would you be willing to lay it all down if God asked you to? If you can’t say yes to those questions, then that is a sign that your possessions have you and you have been deceived. Here is what Paul says which is the right attitude you should have toward your finances and wealth.

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:11-13

The right attitude toward riches is not to always lust for more. I am not saying you don’t strive to be better or for increase because there is nothing wrong with that. If you can get promoted or make more money, go ahead, just do it with the right attitude being content with where you are in life as God blesses and brings more into your life. When you have the right attitude, your pursuit does not become all-encompassing, and you don’t lose sight of your relationship with God in the process. If you don’t have this attitude, then you become like the rich fool who had enough stored up for years and simply decided to build bigger barns so he could acquire more. This is the attitude Jesus was trying to deal with and here is something Solomon said in Ecclesiastes to highlight this.

“Whoever loves money never has enough;
 whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless.” – Ecclesiastes 5:10

What Does the Parable of the Rich Fool Teach Us about Eternal Life

The second mindset Jesus was dealing with was the focus of this man’s life. He poured his entire energy and focus into building a great life for himself, but he only focused on this life, not his eternal life. The problem with that mindset is that this life is temporary. We are reminded in Scripture that it is appointed to man once to die and after that judgment (Heb. 9:27). There is a deceptiveness that can come with wealth that makes a person feel invincible. This man thought he had many years left to live and chances are in his pursuit of wealth he forgot about his pursuit of God. Paul said this in 2 Corinthians 4:18.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

When you look at the gaze of this man it was on all the things he had. This was a temporary gaze. The deceit of always pursuing more can cause you to put God on the back burner because after all I need the extra money, the higher position, the bigger house, the next whatever. If you are not careful you can fall into the same trap that this man did and be rich toward all of your pursuits but not be rich in your relationship with God. There is nothing greater in this life than being rich toward God. This is the most important thing, and nothing should ever replace this. 

Why Godliness and Greed Shouldn’t Be Mixed

Let me give you one more warning. There are some that are serving God because they see it as a means to acquire wealth or more stuff. God is the key to the blessings of life this world has to offer. All I can say is guard your heart against this. Listen to the words Paul told Timothy.

“If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” (bold emphasis added)

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” – 1 Timothy 6:3-10

This is the attitude that was present in this rich fool and this is the attitude that Jesus was warning against in the parable of the rich fool.

What Is the Meaning of the Parable of the Rich Fool?

It calls for the wisdom to keep your priorities in the right place. Let your life be rich and Christ centered because as you do this it will keep your heart in the right place. Do your best in this life and if that leads to wealth or riches that is fine, just don’t make that your sole pursuit. Pursue God and don’t define your blessing by how much stuff you have, define it by how much of God you have in your life. This not only produces blessing for this life but also for all eternity.

Further Reading

Why We Should Heed the Warnings of the Parable of the Rich Fool

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Tinnakorn Jorruang

Clarence Haynes 1200x1200Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club.  He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit

This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible parables. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of parables within Scripture. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.

Parable of the Lost Sheep
Parable of the Talents
Parable of the Good Samaritan
Parable of Wheat and Tares