Jesus's Words

The Parable of the Rich Fool

back  |  next


Luke 12:16-21

Synopsis of Parable:

A rich man had too much fruit, so he built a bigger barn and said to himself, "I have saved everything, laugh and grow fat." God declined his wishes, saying "tonight you will die." Jesus likens this man as one who lays up treasure for himself and not God.

Parable Given in Response to:

A man had just asked Jesus to help him split his brother and his inheritance equally.(Luke 12:13.)

Symbolism Chart

Symbol Meaning Verse Found
↓Rich Man Person on Earth Luke 12:16
↓Ground Person's Labor Luke 12:16
↓Earthly Treasures Earthly Treasures Luke 12:18

The Parable of the Rich Fool

As presented in the King James Version of Luke 12:16-21

Luke 12:16And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
19 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.
20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

Explanation of the Interpretation of Symbols

The Rich Man is anyone on Earth Back to Top ↑

A simple and obvious interpretation for a simple parable. Anyone can be like the rich man in this parable, and it does not matter how righteous that a person might be.

A ruler once came to Jesus, and he kept all the important commandments.(Luke 18:18-21.) And yet Jesus told him to do one more thing, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. Luke 18:22 The man could not bare to sell his goods, and thus Jesus commented, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Luke 18:24, 25

And yet, there are still people who left everything behind and followed Jesus. Peter himself says so, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.Luke 18:28 Do you suppose that after Jesus's ascension that Peter decided to work for earthly treasures? What about food, water, clothing, or even the paper he used to write his letters? It is highly unlikely, instead Peter believed in Jesus's promise that God would take care of his needs.(As given directly after the parable, Luke 12:22-34.)

The Ground is a Person's Labor Back to Top ↑

The ground in this parable represents the man's labors. It is where he grew his fruits, and it is where he built the barns to store his fruit. It is how he made his living.

This can be compared easily to modern day currency. Instead of earning fruit, we earn dollars. Instead of storing dollars in a barn (a specialized location for fruit), we store them in a bank (a specialized location for dollars). That is not to say that the fruit and barns are currency and banks, respectively. But rather to say that the ground is what the man put all his labor into, and what he used to gain that fruit and store that fruit.

This interpretation, while not common, is also not uncommon. Most denominations do not assign an interpretation to this symbol. Regardless, this interpretation changes nothing about the overall meaning or morals about this parable.

The Earthly Treasures are Earthly Treasures Back to Top ↑

Amazing interpretation, is it not? By earthly treasures symbol, we mean the fruits that the rich man had grown and put into barns.(Luke 12:17.)

The rich man had plenty, so much that he couldn't even store it all. So he decided to tear down his barns and make them bigger to store the goods. He had no intention of selling them (immediately); he meant to store them. Thus, when the man dies, all of that fruit is useless for him. Not one ounce of it prolonged his life or improved his enjoyment of life, because they were not utilized (either sold or eaten) yet. In fact, with the rich man deciding to tear down his barns, the fruit probably added stress to his life. He has to answer some questions, such as, "where will I store the fruit while the bigger barn is being built?"

Such things can be stressful. Many people worry about their retirement accounts during economic downturns. The rich fool in this parable had quite the retirement saved up, so much so he could not fit it all into his buildings! None of it did any good for him.

This parable is very simple, and so putting forth an interpretation of a symbol like this, which changes nothing from most denominational teachings on this parable, is very safe. This interpretation will change nothing for most believers, it just puts a name to a symbol.

In Conclusion Back to Top ↑

There is not too much to dissect in the Parable of the Rich Fool. It is a simple parable that plays out much like a story. A man saves up a lot of treasure, but for him, it is all useless, for he dies the same day he realizes it. None of it goes with him into death. Notably, this parable is one of a few is not directly about the Kingdom of God.

Directly after this parable, Jesus gives his sermon on not being anxious or worried: Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. Luke 12:22 This contrasts with the rich fool. He cared deeply for his earthly treasures and what they meant on earth, whereas Jesus says to not even worry about them. Instead, Jesus tells us to sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. Luke 12:33

Consider this advice in a lifespan that lasts an eternity. If we will live forever, then what does this earthly money mean? How long would it last in eternity? Or what about a car, how well will a car function in four eons from now? Jesus tells us we can have incorruptible, undiminishing treasures that will last forever. Even if it is a treasure as simple as a chair, would that not be better than a pile of dust and ash?

back  |  next