Luke

12:13-21

The teachings of Messiah, 9:51-19:44

2. The kingdom and power, 11:1-12:34

vi] Goals in life - to have or to live. 12:13-34

a) The parable of the rich fool

Synopsis

The request for Jesus to judge an inheritance matter leads him to warn two warring brothers of the danger of avarice. Jesus then supports this warning with a saying which he illustrates in the parable of the Rich Fool.

 
Teaching

Possessing is not living.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 11:1-13.The parable of the rich fool forms part of the sixth episode in a set of episodes which deal with the kingdom and power, 11:1-12:34. This particular episode examines the goals of life and makes the point that authentic life consists of a great deal more than what we own. This subject is further explored in a set of sayings, v22-34.

 

ii] Structure: This passage, The parable of the rich fool, presents as follows:

Jesus refuses to get involved in a financial dispute, v13-15a:

Setting, v13;

Jesus' response, v14:

Saying, v15a:

"be on your guard against all kinds of greed."

Jesus' teaching on real life, v15b-21:

Saying, v15b:

"life does not consist in the abundance of possessions."

Parable, v16-20:

Application, v21:

"so is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."

 

iii] Interpretation:

Jesus aligns with Ecclesiastes in dealing with the issue of worldly wealth, eg. 11:12-28, cf. "Although they say now I can sit back and enjoy the benefit of what I have got, they do not know how long this will last; they will have to leave their goods to others and die", v19. The perspective of the Preacher (Qohelet) and of Jesus at this point is much the same. Being rich or poor is not the issue, thinking that we are self-sufficient is; "poverty and wealth all come from the Lord." There is nothing intrinsical wrong with wealth, in fact "stick to your job, work hard at it and grow old at your work", provide for the future, but don't think that your security rests in the stuff of this age, for a person's security rests in the fear/respect of the Lord.

"Jesus points his hearers to the importance of priorities in the quest for life. The foolishness of the rich man lay more in his attitude to life than in his specific actions. He built his life on great expectations only to find sudden and bitter disillusionment at the very moment of their fulfilment. ...... Life does not consist in possessing. Life consists in living, and in losing that one loses all", Ellis.

Ellis actually misses the point slightly when he titles this unit "To Have or to Live" given that it is not an either/or issue. This uneasiness toward wealth is found with many commentators, so producing an either/or dichotomy where wealth needs to be sanctified, usually in sharing the surplus with those in need. Danker heads in this direction by titling the unit "Worldly Care." Certainly the initial question prompts the theme of avarice, but in the end the theme of the parable is the danger of worldly security. "Life does not consist of possessions", Nolland. "The principal deficiency of the wealthy farmer is his failure to account for God in his plans", Green.

 

The twin truths revealed in v15:

"Be on your guard against all kinds of greed", v15a. "The desire to have more than is needed", Fitzmyer. The saying, following the drift of the question, seems to highlight the problem of avarice, but the parable seems to highlight the issue of a person's ultimate security. Avarice may well be the motivation that blinds a person to their need for a security that transcends this age. Someone who is overly focused on the issue of their inheritance, a focus driven by avarice, may fail to notice the offer of an eternal inheritance. None-the-less, the warning in 15a is not integrally linked to v15b. Having warned the two litigants, Jesus moves on to make the wider point that "life is a great deal more than what you own", Junkins.

"Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions", v15b. The point being made in the saying is that real life, as opposed to just existence, is a gift of God; "no amount of possessions, however abundant, can make it greater or give it security", Johnson. The parable certainly illustrates this truth, although, as noted above, the logic in the move from a warning on avarice to the teaching that real life is a gift from God is not so clear. Marshall sees the argument advancing in the terms of "avarice is dangerous since it leads a person to direct their aim to the wrong things in life."

 

Form: The parable of the rich fool presents as a teaching parable, an illustration, and not a kingdom parable. Jeremias argues that it is a kingdom parable, depicting the crises caused by the coming kingdom of God, but if this were the case we would expect the introductory statement "the kingdom of God may be compared to the situation where ......" None-the-less, it may have originally been a kingdom parable and Luke has adapted for a didactic purpose. Theorizing aside, context determines God's word to us, and in its context it presents as a teaching parable.

 

iv] Synoptics:

These sayings are unique to Luke.

 

v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 12:13

Possessions: i] Jesus refuses to get involved in a financial dispute, v13-15a. a) Setting, v13: A rabbi was expected to arbitrate on matters of law, but Jesus is unwilling to play this role. His task is to reveal the truth of the gospel, not settle a fight over an inheritance.

ek + gen. "in [the crowd]" - out of [the crowd]. The preposition is used here for a partitive genitive.

autw/ dat. pro. "[said] to him" - Dative of indirect object.

didaskale "teacher" - The appropriate address for a Rabbi.

tw/ adelfw/ (oV) "[tell my ] brother" - say [to the brother of me]. Dative of indirect object. The word here is used of a sibling, not a fellow believer.

merisasqai (merizw) aor. inf. "to divide" - The infinitive is possibly adverbial, final, expressing purpose, "in order that he divide", but more likely establishing an object clause / dependent statement, indirect speech, expressing the content of the command that the man wishes Jesus to issue; "tell my brother that he must divide our inheritance with me", Cassirer.

thn klhronomian (a) "the inheritance" - the portion, part, division = inheritance. "The property our father left us at his death", TH.

met (meta) + gen. "with [me]" - Spacial; "with me."

 
v14

b) Jesus' response, v14: Jesus certainly has the authority to judge the issue, but he has only one message for the people of his age and that is "repent and believe"; this is the only path to authentic real life.

anqrwpe (oV) voc. "Man" - Plummer suggests this response implies disapproval.

katesthsen (kaqisthmi) aor. "appointed" - made, appointed. "What makes you think its any of my business to be a judge or mediator for you?" Peterson.

meristhn (hV ou) "[a judge or] arbiter" - one who divides = mediator. The phrase serves as an object complement to the object me, "me". Jesus obviously doesn't repudiate his authority in such matters, it is just that he is in the business of promoting the worth of God's promised new life, not the life of material security.

ef (epi) + acc. "between [you]" - Here expressing influence / control; "who made me .... an arbitrator over both of you."

 
v15a

c) Saying, v15a: Jesus warns the two intended litigants / the crowd / the disciples of the danger of avarice, v15a. Interestingly, there is nothing in the dispute to hint at avarice other than Jesus' interpretation. Of course, experience tells us that most disputes over wills are usually driven by greed.

oJrate kai fulassesqe "watch out! Be on guard" - take care and be on guard. The two imperatives together serve to make the warning emphatic; "be constantly on guard", Junkins.

apo + gen. "against" - from. Expressing separation; the phrase fulassesqe apo is classical, "keep yourself away from", cf. 1John 5:21, Plummer.

pleonexiaV (a) "greed" - an insatiable desire to have more = greediness, ruthless greed, grasping, covetousness.

 
v15b

iii] Jesus' teaching on real life, v15b-21: a) A saying on possessions, v15b. Jesus goes on to warn that a life focused on things, can easily miss the hidden reality of life. Authentic existence is found in a relationship with God through Christ and not in the contentment that may be derived from wealth.

With regard the syntax of this verse, Evans notes, "the section shows signs of composition." In fact, given its awkward syntax, Luke may have condensed two sayings into one, or possibly they were condensed during oral transmission: a) life is not found in abundance / superfluity; b) life is not found in possessions. Yet, it seems more likely that the saying is complete in itself, but has been condensed over time. The prepositional phrase ek twn uJparcontwn autw/, "from the things being possessed by him" serves to complement the infinitive perisseuein, "to abound = to be satisfied, content", so explaining the source of the satisfaction, contentment; lit. "his life is not when someone is satisfied from their possessions" = "a person's real life is not actualized in contentment, a contentment that comes from owning a lot of things."

oJti "-" - for, because. Possibly expressing cause/reason, "be on your guard of avarice of any kind, for life does not consist in possessions", NJB, yet better introducing a dependent statement expressing an independent, although related truth, "said to them"; "True life is not secured by having a superfluity of possessions", Cassirer.

hJ zwh (h) "life" - the life. What "life" is intended here? Nolland suggests "neither physical life nor spiritual life, but rather humanly meaningful and satisfying life." If physical life was intended we would expect psuch, "existence". When the NT uses zwh, it does tend to end up meaning eternal life, spiritual life. So, rather than "humanly meaningful and satisfying life", the life in mind is "real life", a life which "is not found in objects, but relationships, especially to God and his will. .... Real life is tied to God, his offer of forgiveness of sins, his values and his reward", Bock, cf. Derrett.

autou gen. pro. "-" - of him. The genitive is adjectival, possessive; "the life of him = a person's life."

em tw/ + inf. "[does not consist] in" - [is not] in the. The construction here of the preposition en with the articular infinitive, usually forms a temporal clause, rarely a causal clause; "not while / when to have enough", cf. TH, Derrett.

perisseuein (perisseuw) pres. inf. "an abundance" - to abound, have enough. The sense may be "to have in abundance", but given the drift of the parable, the word may take the meaning here "to have more than enough", which leads to the idea of a life that is full, complete, satisfied, content. Such a person might say "I have everything I need (I am satisfied with life, I am content)", cf. v19. "A person's real life is not actualized in self-satisfaction."

ek "of" - out of, from. Expressing source/origin; real life is not sourced from one's possessions / wealth. As noted above, the prepositional phrase introduced by ek defines exactly what type of "abundance = satisfaction, contentment" is in mind; "[that is, the self-satisfaction] that comes from his possessions."

autw/ dat. pro. "his" - to him. The dative may be classified as possessive, as NIV (TNIV drops "his" to provide a generic translation).

twn uJparcontwn (uJparcw) pres. part. "of [his] possessions" - the things being possessed. The participle functions as a substantive; "the things which belong [to him]."

 
v16

b) The parable of the rich fool, v16-20. The point of this teaching parable / illustration is simple enough, particularly as we have its application in v21: "God alone is Lord of life, and a person truly lives only when they are rich toward God in faith", Miller (nicely expressed, but Donald adds "obedience and service" to "faith" - a touch nomist! Faith, in the sense of our faith / trust / reliance in/on Christ's faith / faithfulness is what makes us rich toward God and actualizes real life for us.)

parabolhn (h) "this parable" - a parable. Here a teaching parable, an illustration serving to make a point. Certainly not a kingdom parable expressing the gospel in a hidden form.

legwn (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant.

euforhsen (euforew) aor. "produced a good crop" - fruitful = brought in a good harvest. "Produced an excellent harvest", Barclay.

 
v17

dielogizeto (dialogizomai) imperf. "he throught" - he was reasoning, deliberating [in himself saying]. The imperfect is durative expressing an ongoing internal debate.

en + dat. "to [himself]" - in [himself]. Locative, expressing space/sphere; as of reasoning within oneself.

legwn (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant.

poihsw (poiew) aor. subj. / fut. "[what] shall I do" - [what] might I do. Deliberative subjunctive, or deliberative future.

oJti "-" - for, because [I do not have where I will gather the fruits of me]. Probably expressing cause/reason, explaining the reason for the farmer's dilemma; "for I have nowhere to store my crops", ESV. Possibly introducing a dependent statement expressing the content of the dilemma.

 
v18

kaqelw (kaqairew) fut. "I will tear down [my barns]" - I will destroy, pull down. "I will demolish."

meizonaV (megaV) comp. adj. "bigger" - greater. "Larger ones."

ta agaqa adj. "[my] goods" - the good things [of me]. The adjective functions as a substantive. "I shall pull down my storehouses, building larger ones, and into them I shall collect my corn and my other goods", Cassirer.

 
v19

th/ yuch/ (h) dat. "[I'll say] to myself" - to the soul [of me]. Dative of indirect object. "Soul" in the sense of one's inner being, one's self. The NIV does not translate the following vocative of this word and this seems best. The literal translation, "I will say to my soul, Soul, you have plenty ...", is unnecessary. Note that the word is again used in v20, this time the NIV translates it as "life". "This very night your life will be demanded of you" is surely the intended sense.

keimena (keimai) pres. part. "laid up" - laid down = stored up. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting polla agaqa "many / much goods / good things" = "ample stores which are laid up for many years."

eiV "for [many years]" - to [many years]. Here temporal, as NIV.

anapauou (anapauw) pres. imp. "take life easy" - stop, be refreshed. "Take it easy", Berkeley; "relax", Phillips.

eufrainou (eufrainw) pres. imp. "be merry" - be of good cheer, rejoice. "Be happy."

 
v20

afrwn adj. "you fool" - fool. Vocative. A person who cannot see the logic of a situation. Often used of a godless person who says there is no God. The farmer's foolishness probably does not lay with his failure to "fulfill his moral responsibility before God to care for the needs of others", Bock, so also Nolland, Marshall, ... In fact, he is managing his farm wisely. His foolishness is evident in his failure to include God in the plans for his life. He has failed to recognize "that his life is on loan from God", Green. "You foolish person."

tauth/ th/ nukti/ dat. "this very night" - this the night. Temporal dative; emphatic construction, as NIV.

thn yuchn (h) "your life" - the soul, life [of you]. See above. Emphatic by position.

apaitousin (apaitew) pres. "will be demanded" - they are asking back. The agents are possibly the angels acting on behalf of God. Functioning as grim reapers "they will come and ask for your life back", Evans, so also Marshall, contra Fitzmyer. Possibly a deferential reference to God as the agent, who, when not referenced, as NIV, forces the verb to be rendered in the passive voice, as NIV. Possibly just a circumlocution for "God demands the return", Danker. So, "this very night you must hand back your life to God", Barclay, but better expressing the idea that life is on loan from God, "this very night the Grim Reaper will ask for your life back."

apo + gen. "from [you]" - Expressing source / origin.

tini dat. pro. "then who [will get]" - to whom [will it be] = whose [shall they be]? Dative of possession.

a} pro. "what" - what = the things which [you prepared]. Forming a relative clause which serves as the substantive subject of the verb to-be, estai; "the things which you prepared is to whom?" = "who will get all you have prepared", Moffatt.

 
v21

c) Concluding application, v21. The punch-line ("moralizing conclusion", Evans) "brings out the latent meaning of the parable. The rich man gathered treasure for himself, but failed to grow rich as regards God", Marshall. Real life, a meaningful and sustaining life, is not found in possessing, but in being "rich toward God" through faith in Christ. As the Preacher explains, "the beginning of all wisdom is the fear (respect) of the Lord." Real life is lost when a person "remains a pauper in the sight of God."

ouJtwV "this is how it will be with" - thus, so, in this way. Here elliptical, "this is the situation of ...", TH.

oJ qhsaurizwn (qhsaurizw) pres. part. "anyone who stores up things" - the one storing up, saving up. The participle serves as a substantive.

eJautw/ dat. "for himself" - to himself. Dative of interest, advantage.

ploutwn (ploutew) pres. part. "rich" - [and not] the one being rich. The participle functions as a substantive.

eiV "toward [God]" - to, toward [God]. Taking a referential sense, "with reference to / respect to God"; "and is not rich in relation to God", Berkeley. Often seen as parallel to "treasure in heaven", v33. Jeremias draws out its meaning by arguing that the foolish man heaps up wealth to himself, while the wise man "has entrusted it to God", presumably in the sense of using his wealth in a way approved by God. This approach seems unlikely and would probably prompt a strong reaction from the apostle. Nolland rightly identifies the issue as one of direction. To possess real authentic life, life that is eternal, as oppose to the transient shadows we experience here, requires us "to be rich in a Godward direction", rather than rich with this world's things. The person "who amasses worldly wealth, but who in God sight has no riches at all" (Barclay), is left only with the shadows.

 

Luke Introduction

Exposition

 

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