The parable of the rich fool is found only in Luke’s Gospel. It begins a longer section on the attitude of the followers of Jesus toward possessions—an important topic for the Jesus of Luke’s Gospel.
1st Reading (Track 1): Hosea 11:1-10
Hosea prophesied in the Northern Kingdom of Israel (he often refers to it as “Ephraim”) in the 8th century b.c.e., prior to the Assyrians’ destruction of the kingdom in 722 b.c.e. Our reading today is an astonishing oracle. In verses 1-4, the Lord remembers his love of Israel. He raised them as his children. Verses 5-7 express his anger at their repeated alienation from him and the severe consequence which is to occur. Yet then, in verses 8-11, the Lord leaves his anger behind and returns to compassion. There will be consequences, but there will be a restoration, because God ultimately cannot sever his relationship with his people.
11:1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. 2 The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols. 3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. 4 I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them. 5 They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me. 6 The sword rages in their cities, it consumes their oracle-priests, and devours because of their schemes. 7 My people are bent on turning away from me. To the Most High they call, but he does not raise them up at all. 8 How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. 9 I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath. 10 They shall go after the Lord, who roars like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west. 11 They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the Lord.
Psalm 107:1-9, 43 (Track 1)
Psalm 107 is a song of thanksgiving, in remembrance of God’s merciful intervention in the life of Israel. It opens with a summon to thanksgiving for mercy (v. 1-3), and then gives four instances of God’s compassion (only the first is given for our passage this morning). Verses 4-9 recall the wandering in the desert, close to death, when God provided resources for well-being. The final verse is the concluding instruction for the psalm, placing it among the wisdom literature of the Hebrew Scriptures.
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, *
and his mercy endures for ever.
2 Let all those whom the Lord has redeemed proclaim *
that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.
3 He gathered them out of the lands; *
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
4 Some wandered in desert wastes; *
they found no way to a city where they might dwell.
5 They were hungry and thirsty; *
their spirits languished within them.
6 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, *
and he delivered them from their distress.
7 He put their feet on a straight path *
to go to a city where they might dwell.
8 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his mercy *
and the wonders he does for his children.
9 For he satisfies the thirsty *
and fills the hungry with good things.
43 Whoever is wise will ponder these things, *
and consider well the mercies of the Lord.
1st Reading (Track 2): Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23
Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth in Hebrew) is attributed to King Solomon, although biblical scholars believe the language is from a much later period, perhaps around 300 b.c.e. It is one of the five books of the Megilloth, the books of the Hebrew Scriptures read at major festivals: Ecclesiastes at Tabernacles (Sukkoth), Esther at Purim, Lamentations at the commemoration of the destruction of the Temple (Tisha B’av), Ruth at the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost or Shavuot) and the Song of Songs at Passover. The keyword of Ecclesiastes is “vanity,” in Hebrew hebel, whose root word means breath or mist or vapor. “Vanity” may not be the best translation—other English versions use “futility.” The author comes to the exact opposite conclusion as the author of Proverbs, who believes in an orderly, purposeful universe. Ecclesiastes’ gift to the biblical record (along with the Book of Job) is to challenge the dominant wisdom teaching that all is just and purposeful.
1:2 Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. 12 I, the Teacher, when king over Israel in Jerusalem, 13 applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. 14 I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind. 2:18 I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me 19 —and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22 What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? 23 For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.
Psalm 49:1-11 (Track 2)
Psalm 49 is written in the wisdom tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures. It reflects on the futility of riches, much like our first reading. It is better to trust in God than in the things we have managed to accumulate.
1 Hear this, all you peoples;
hearken, all you who dwell in the world, *
you of high degree and low, rich and poor together.
2 My mouth shall speak of wisdom, *
and my heart shall meditate on understanding.
3 I will incline my ear to a proverb *
and set forth my riddle upon the harp.
4 Why should I be afraid in evil days, *
when the wickedness of those at my heels surrounds me,
5 The wickedness of those who put their trust in their goods, *
and boast of their great riches?
6 We can never ransom ourselves, *
or deliver to God the price of our life;
7 For the ransom of our life is so great, *
that we should never have enough to pay it,
8 In order to live for ever and ever, *
and never see the grave.
9 For we see that the wise die also;
like the dull and stupid they perish *
and leave their wealth to those who come after them.
10 Their graves shall be their homes for ever,
their dwelling places from generation to generation, *
though they call the lands after their own names.
11 Even though honored, they cannot live for ever; *
they are like the beasts that perish.
2nd Reading: Colossians 3:1-11
The first portion of this reading speaks poetically of who we already are in Christ. The second half lifts up what we should become as a result of our communion with him. This is our belief about Baptism. Our Baptism says all that there is to say about us in the eyes of God. Our life on this earth then is our trying to live into the reality of what we already are. That dynamic is key to an understanding of Christianity and the Gospel. Our journey is a transformation into what we already are—created in Christ, with the end of worldly distinctions.
3:1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7 These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. 8 But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
Gospel Reading: Luke 12:13-21
The parable of the rich fool is found only in Luke’s Gospel. It begins a longer section on the attitude of the followers of Jesus toward possessions—an important topic for the Jesus of Luke’s Gospel. It should be carefully noted that the farmer in the story is not a criminal and, in many ways, is simply acting as any prudent farmer would. Jesus has said earlier in Luke’s Gospel (9:25), “What does it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit themselves?” In our own day this is a crucial question in a world where the acquiring of possessions takes up so much of our energy and impacts so much of our self-worth.
12:13 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 toward God.”
The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved. The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are copyright © 2019 Epiphany ESources, 67. E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, www.EpiphanyEsources.com. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study. Bulletin inserts or digital files for use in constructing Service Leaflets are available. Go to our website for more information.