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published: 10/8/13

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The Parable of the Rich Fool

What is the parable of the rich fool?


The parable of the Rich Fool was spoken by Jesus Christ and is recorded in Luke 12:16-21.

The Parable of the Rich Fool

16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:

17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?

18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.

19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.

20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?

21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

Analysis of the Parable of the Rich Fool

The rich fool and Dives (cf. Luke 16:19-31) and Lazarus raise the question whether we should interpret them as true histories or as instructive fictions. Both are directed against the chief enemy of the Gospel, riches loved and sought after. The rich fool ("Nabal", as in I Kings 25) was uttered on occasion of a dispute concerning property and Christ answers "Man, who hath appointed me judge, or divider, over you?" Not injustice, but covetousness, "the root of all evil", is here reprehended. Read St. Cyprian, "De opere et eleemosyna", 13.

The story of Lazarus, which completes this lesson by contrast, appears to have no concealed meaning and would therefore not fulfil the definition of a parable. Catholics, with Irenaeus, Ambrose, Augustine, and the church liturgy, regard it as a narrative.

The modern school rejects this view, allows that our Lord may have spoken the first half of the recital (Luke 16:19-26) but considers the rest to be an allegory which condemns the Jews for not accepting the witness of Moses and the Prophets to Jesus as the Messias. In any case our Lord's resurrection furnishes an implied reference. "Abraham's bosom" for the middle state after death is adopted by the Fathers generally; it receives illustration from IV Mach. 13:17. St. Augustine (De Gen. ad Litt., viii, 7) doubts whether we can take literally the description of the other world.

The Parables of Christ
Parable of the 10 Virgins Parable of the Dishonest Manager
Parable of the Good Samaritan Parable of the Hidden Treasure
Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard Parable of the Mustard Seed
Parable of the Net Parable of the Pharisees and Tax Collector
Parable of the Prodigal Son Parable of the Rich Fool
Parable of the Sower Parable of the Two Sons
Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Parable of the Weeds
Parable of the Wicked Tenants Parables of Christ (Home Page)


International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain (with minor edits).