ou would think that after this long in the ministry, preaching several times each week, that I would have resolved this text but it still remains somewhat ambiguous.
Matthew 5: 22 records Jesus saying, "...whoever says, 'You fool!' Shall be in danger of hell fire." Then in Luke 12: 20 Jesus tells a story in which God calls a man a fool for building barns and bigger barns to store his abundant crops, and deciding to take his ease, eating, drinking and being merry, until God says, "Fool! This night your soul will be required of you."
My first working impression was that there is a difference in who is calling a man a fool. In the first instance it is just another man who is speaking a strong word of derision, against a fellow human being. It was his opinion that the man was a fool. In the second instance God Himself casts the final judgment that The Rich Fool was just that. We may feel, and there even may be a consensus in the community, that a person is acting like a fool; but God is the final judge. Perhaps the solution to the seemingly ambiguous texts is that it's not up to us to judge. "Judge not (who is a fool, and who is not) and you will not be judged (to be a fool yourself.)" (Matt.7:1).
None of us want to be called a fool by a person or by God. However, it is obvious that sometimes folks act foolishly. We must judge cautiously for sometimes we are wrong. John Wesley was called a fool by many who despised hearing the plain and simple gospel that brought judgment to them. Of course, Wesley ended up positively effecting civilization as much as any one of his generation.
We have all heard people pass an old fellow off by saying, "There's no fool like an old fool!" Usually this is a codger in a sports car chasing a young woman---- you get the picture. However, we need to be careful for even in a jovial comment we may be wrong; we were about Strom Thurmond. He has outlived most of his naysayers.
Looking at Jesus' Parable of the Rich Fool we can say that the love of money can be the root of evil. The danger of having a lot of money is that we can sit back and sign checks and forget that God is the source of our abundance and that we are only temporary stewards. The Rich Fool forgot God, he presumed on God's grace. We might say that the root cause of the Rich Fool's mistake was his assumption that he had somehow produced his own wealth.
There was one lady who had inherited a large thread mill from her husband. She bought the biggest black Cadillac. She did nothing for her children or sisters. She did name them in the will and soon they drove together in her big car to her grave. The preacher did not find it in his heart to mention Jesus' story of The Rich Fool; but we all made the connection and asked ourselves, "How can I avoid playing the fool?"
He was past fifty and was chasing a young widow with his silver Camaro convertible. There was sometimes even an ascot and always the gold chain. She did attend several "to-dos" at the club with him, and a concert at the Fox, but soon she realized that she was being chased by a fool. He left town, someone said he moved to Miami. Lots of married guys think about moving to Miami, but then they remember Jesus' story from Sunday School of The Rich Fool. They will know in time that the straight and narrow is the best way after all.
We all seem to have
it in us--- playing the fool, but we never would, would we?
I think we already know how to avoid playing the fool. We have seen so many who have messed up, and want to avoid that. We have all known, or read about, persons who have kept the faith. We know how to find and follow God's plan for our lives--- It's choosing to do it that's the rub. Still, we know that we can. We have done so thus far and we can continue.
Finishing our course with grace is not a matter of success in business. The Rich Fool, "produced abundantly." (v.16). His problem was that he did not live abundantly in God's will. Sure, he did have some relaxation, maybe an around the world cruise, alone. He ate well, drank too much too often, and possibly felt at fleeting moments that he was having a merry time. But, he was alone; no family, no friends to share his merriment, or his wealth. And soon he died and strangers came in and bought his stuff at an estate sale.
Marilyn, Lyn and I went to an estate sale a couple of weeks ago. A bachelor had collected hundreds of signed 8x10 glossies from movie stars and other famous people. There was the smell of filth and years of drunkenness in his once fancy apartment. But he had gone and none of those movie stars attended his graveside.
In Christ there is no annihilation. A widow came to ask if it was all right to feel her husband's presence in her prayers. "I know that we Protestants are not supposed to pray for the dead." She said. "But your husband is not dead!' I replied. "He is walking with God!" That's a rich reward for following God. It's turned out to be life's greatest joy!
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor