“So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.” Luke 12:21
There are three questions we could ask as we read the parable of the rich fool, questions about past, present and future. Who were you serving? Who are you serving? Who will you serve?
The people in Jesus’ time were accustomed to religious leaders adjudicating in legal disputes so it would not have been so unusual for a man to come to Jesus with a request that he resolve a family division over an inheritance. In Saint Luke Chapter 12 we read, “Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” Jesus might have asked him, who were you serving when you asked that question? Were you serving God? Were you serving your neighbour? Or were you serving yourself? What was the man thinking when he asked the question? Had he listened at all to what Jesus had been saying? Did he think that it was the task of Jesus to settle financial arguments in a family? Jesus makes it clear that this is not his role, “Friend,” he says in Verse 14, “who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” In Verse 15, Jesus warns the crowd to be careful about who they have been serving, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
Who were you serving? When we have had arguments with people, who have we been serving? When we look at the grudges we might hold, when we think about the resentments we might feel, should we ask ourselves the question, “who were you serving?” Were we serving God? Were we serving our neighbour? Or were we serving ourselves?
Jesus might have asked the man a question about the man’s past, instead he tells the people a parable about the present. In Verses 16-18 he says, “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 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.'” The people listening would have thought the man’s attitude was reasonable, when they heard the book of Deuteronomy read, they would have heard promises that faithfulness would bring material rewards. The man is serving only himself, though. In Verse 19, he says, “And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'” It is an attitude that is rebuked in Verse 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?'” God might have asked the man, “who are you serving?” Had the man himself even thought about it?
Who are you serving? Do we think to as ask who we are serving today? Do we ask ourselves the reasons why we think things? Do we ask the reason we say things? Do we ask the reason we do things? If we spent time thinking about who it is that we are really serving, we might be troubled by the answer. Are we serving God? Are we serving our neighbour? Or are we serving ourselves?
Who will you serve? Jesus is asking that question of his listeners. When they look at who they have served in the past, when they look at who they are serving in the present time, if they are honest, they will realize that there is a need to change. The parable of the rich fool is how Jesus describes those who have served themselves in the past and the present and who refuse to change, all their wealth is useless when their life comes to an end. “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God,”Jesus tells his listeners. Many of those listening will have gone away discouraged, annoyed even, at the thought that they could not accumulate as much as they wished without being regarded as foolish. Who will they serve? Will they serve God? Will they serve their neighbour? Or will they serve themselves?
“Who will you serve?” is a question we have to ask ourselves. Being a Christian is about answering questions, it’s about making choices: God and our neighbour, or ourselves?