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The Rich Fool


This is part of a series of parables told by Jesus to vast crowds, according to Luke.
They are obviously an amalgam of vignettes spoken at different times as the whole does not really hang together.

The Gospel of Thomas has a much clearer message, so is probably more akin to the original.
The rich man had all kinds of plans but died before he was able to effect them.
However Thomas leaves out the punch line in Luke's account;
"better to be rich towards God than in worldly goods".
Luke's continued focus on the marginalised,
adds his own spin to the tale.

Our focus on individual success or failure is something that is frequently addressed by Jesus.
This man is already rich and now he has abundant riches, enough to keep him in leisure for the rest of his life.
This, clearly, targets the Lottery and the betting shop, but , more subtly, the focus of most of us who have worked for a living;
Those who save up for a comfortable retirement, yet without any certainty in what lies ahead or for how long.
Jesus concludes the parable with "do not worry about the things of this life" (v22-23).

It may be, as the parable relates, that we will not live to enjoy our prudent provisions.
Many are the heart-attacks that come in the first years of retirement, maybe from the change of lifestyle.
Even so I worry so much more about my cheerfully improvident son, unable to put anything by for the future,
than I do about the elder boy with his steady job and pension plan.

This parable could be seen as a priestly device to encourage the support of the church and good causes.
"Give us your money and exchange earthly riches for the riches of God "
That is how monasteries used to survive, how the church became rich.
How the church found itself in a position to take life easy;
To build crenelated medieval palaces and churches;
to fund ecclesiastical pensions and the Papacy.

Maybe the bishop's cope is not a affront to the Almighty,
nor the altar's silver candlesticks a condemnation of our attitude to the poor.
Maybe the church is meant to reflect the glory of God in its soaring arches and choral worship.
Maybe we have not buried the message of Jesus in sacramental liturgy;
nor lost his teaching in creedal legalism.
Maybe!

Yet I wonder whether I am condemned by my comfortable life and middle-class attitudes.
Is God the god of the poor alone, or also of those who are financially able to support themselves?
Surely I am not damned for using the gifts that I have been given, nor for my provident financial management?