The refrain of Bruce Cockburn’s song “Give it Away” says “I've got this thing in my heart I must give you today; it only lives when you give it away.” Not an original idea—in fact, an idea that’s been around for centuries, even before the time of Jesus. But Jesus addresses it in stark terms in telling this story, known as the “Parable of the Rich Fool”.
We live in a society in which, I would argue, those who are rich are NOT seen as fools. They are seen as people who would have to be smart, and wise, and clear-headed in making good decisions—after all, they are rich, and you’ve got to be smart to get rich. It is the people who are NOT rich who are seen as the fools—clearly they can’t make good decisions or they WOULD be rich. However, this is not the way Jesus sees it.
Jesus tells this story about a man who was rich, and did all of the things not only to get rich, but to stay rich. He had an abundance of crops one year, and decided that what he needed to do was to build bigger barns to store it all. Clearly a sound, wise business decision. Who wouldn't do this? The man would seem to agree with our society's assessment about the wisdom--and even the morality--of the wealthy and successful: after this wise, prudent, satisfying business decision he plans to celebrate not only that he makes good business decisions, but that his "soul" is satisfied, as the man says to himself "I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” (Luke 15:19) He's done everything right, and been justly rewarded for it, and gets to enjoy the results of his success. Who would have a problem with that? The "invisible hand" of the market has moved, and his virtue has been blessed and sanctioned by the cosmos.
And yet, Jesus sees it differently, and drops a bombshell into the self-satisfaction and sense of morality and virtuousness. "God said to him, “You fool!"
Fool? Isn't this how it works? He's been smart, and wise, and virtuous--how is he a fool?
He can't take it with him, and his life will end that night, God conveys to him. His efforts are of no consequence for himself once he has passed on from this life. "And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?" God asks, almost rhetorically. The "things" don't only include the bigger barns; the "things" include the contents of the bigger barns, which are the crops that came from the earth that GOD made. Which were produced abundantly from the soil that GOD made fertile, and the weather conditions for that growing season that GOD brought about. This man is rich BECAUSE of God, but is not rich TOWARDS God, as God reminds him.
God's love is poured out for him, but God's love is not meant to be hoarded for oneself. Being rich toward God means that any love God shows to us does not stop with ME. Bruce Cockburn is right--“I've got this thing in my heart I must give you today; it only lives when you give it away”. Love isn't love until we give it away.
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ 14 But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ 15 And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ 16 Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” 18 Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull 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, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’