Why the Man was Called a Fool
Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on Luke 12: 13 – 21. Focus on what you can’t serve God and money. Check out Kelly Crandell and Bill Ucker’s Anthem following the sermon.
There are really two stories going on here: The man who wants Jesus to decide how his family’s inheritance should be divided up and the parable of the rich fool. And both cover different territory or could easily require two separate sermons but what they both have in common is this axiom by Jesus: “You can’t serve God and mammon.” Luke 16: 13.
There are 10 commandments and most of us live rather easily with most of them but there’s one commandment we all break which is the commandment to not covet. It’s the last of the commandments – number 10 and rather than dealing with an action it deals with an interior predisposition.
For example you can’t murder someone with there being a body. You can’t commit adultery, without another person’s involvement. You can’t profane the Sabbath day without someone noticing.
And it’s the one commandment we all break. You can’t prove that someone has coveted anything unless they admit to it or and this is where it ties in to our parable someone acts on it. If you read this parable closely you’ll discover that the man, who is called a fool, which is the harshest thing you can be called in the Bible, because it means you are someone who lacks wisdom. The Greek word for fool is “moros” from which we get the English – Moron.
So what is it that makes this man a moron? And the first thing to notice is what he says. He speaks sixty words and of those he uses the words “I” and “my” more than fifteen times.
So one of things that makes this man a fool or a moron is the fact that he said “I” and “my” so much that he lost the capacity to say “we” and “our.” This man talked like he could build the barns all by himself, like he could till the soil all by himself. And in so doing he failed to realize that wealth is always a result of the commonwealth. We accomplish nothing alone.
As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently put it: “Maybe you’ve never thought of it, but you can’t leave home in the morning without being dependent on most of the world. When you get up in the morning and reach for that bar of soap. You’re reaching for something that’s been made by a Frenchman and a Turk probably made that towel you dry yourself off with.
Then after dressing in the cloths that were made for you in Taiwan or China you rush down to the kitchen and you reach for the coffee that’s been grown for you in South America. Or maybe this morning you prefer tea; that’s been imported from the United Kingdom or the cocoa that’s come from West Africa. Then you reach for your toast that’s been grown for you by a mid-west farmer. And before you finish eating breakfast you’re dependent on more than half of the world.” (The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life Sermon Delivered at New Covenant Baptist Church, Chicago, Illinois, on April 9, 1967.)
And don’t forget that wherever you are today, somebody helped you to get there. It may have been an ordinary person, doing an ordinary job like pumping your gas, but no matter where you are today, somebody helped you to get there.
This man said he didn’t know what to do with his goods, because he had so many. I wish I had been his pastor. I could have advised him. But alas there are plenty of fools around who never realize just how dependent their lifestyles are on the work of others.
And finally, this man was a fool because he failed to realize his dependence on God. This man talked like he regulated the seasons. He talked like he could send the rain and provide the dew. He was a fool because he ended up acting like he was the Creator, instead of the creature.
And this man-centered foolishness is still alive today. It’s why Jesus said you cannot serve God and mammon. That’s what this passage is about. A life predisposed to coveting anything is the road that leads to sin and that road is always paved with money and power, which lives under the mistaken notion that you alone have earned everything you have. It’s a well worn path. And it’s a path that leads to nowhere good.
The kind of faith that Jesus intends for us to have goes way beyond coming to church for an hour a week or even doing a good deed from time to time. It’s a faith that realizes just how fragile and miraculous life truly is, that we were never intended to do anything alone. Because declared that it was not good for us to be alone. And that the kingdom of heaven on earth requires a minimum of two or three, in short it requires “us” and “we” and not just “you” or just “me.”
There is no “I” or “me” or “mine” in the kingdom of heaven. There is only God’s and ours. So we don’t need a savior who will come to us and tell us who is right and who is wrong. Who is in and who is out. We don’t need to have our inheritance divided up. And we certainly don’t need larger and larger barns to hold more and more stuff.
What we need is a willingness to do what God asks of us – to act in a just way with each other, to love it when people show love and mercy to one another and to walk and talk in humble tones. We must stop puffing ourselves up, because one day we all will stand in God’s presence. It’s only the fool who doesn’t realize it. Amen