Thursday, November 01, 2012

The Fool

And I will say to my Soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ (Luke 12:19)

Jesus had a strong word for anyone who calls someone a ‘fool.’ Hold your tongue. Restrain your anger. If you call your brother or sister a ‘fool’ you’ll be liable to the hell of fire. Best to drop that word from your vocabulary (Matt. 5:22).

But then Jesus told a story about a successful businessman, blessed with good fortune and skilled in leveraging it to maximize his profits. He was by every measure a very smart man. But in Jesus’ story God sums up this man’s life with one word: ‘Fool.’

My question: Why was this man a fool? What was it that God saw that merited this judgment?

Interestingly, these two scripture texts use a different Greek word for ‘fool.’ The word that Jesus forbade, the one which places our souls at peril, is the root of our English word ‘moron.’ It is a derogatory word, an insult. By contrast, the word God speaks in judgment upon the savvy rich man is a different word. God is not insulting the successful farmer. God is simply telling the truth, as God always does.

Sometimes ‘fool’ is an outburst, a slanderous word spoken in anger. But sometimes ‘fool’ is a word of truth. A person may rightly be named a fool because that’s exactly how they have chosen to live.

Note that God’s word of judgment is spoken at the very end of the man’s life. For this reason we may rightly regard this man’s death as tragic. The tragedy is not in how he died, for we do not know that. His death is not tragic because of when he died, for we know nothing of his age. The man’s death is tragic because of how he lived.

Embedded in Jesus’ story is the brief mission statement by which the main character had chosen to live. In our culture, whether consciously or not, so many have adopted the same mission statement. Lay up ample goods . . . relax . . . eat . . . drink . . . be merry.

The man in Jesus’ parable was not a fool because he was successful. He was not a fool because planned well and managed his resources wisely. He was not a fool because he built bigger barns. He was a fool because the aim of all of this was his own comfort. All of it was directed back at the self. The highest aim of his life was accumulation for the purpose of indulgence.

Such aims are not worthy of your life. Upon such a life God will pronounce his judgment. To use our energies and resources and intelligence to create a self-serving existence is foolish.

So, work hard. Manage well. Invest wisely. Grow your business. Advance your career. But live for something worthy of the gift of life. Use every grace that is yours to glorify the one who gave it to you. This is why you were made. This is why you are here.

Rightly used, earthly treasure reveals God as our greatest treasure. Where and how are you “laying up treasure” today?

Guard us, O God, from foolish living. Make us thankful for your gifts and grant us wisdom in using them well. But keep our hearts from loving the gifts above you, the giver. Make us bold to use what we have for glory of your name in this world, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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