Most translations entitle the passage which contains these verses as The Rich Fool. At first glance, the title would seem to be a bit of an oxymoron. While the example in the passage may have inherited some of his wealth, it was apparent that he possessed some business acumen. After all, he had substantial land that produced enough crops to warrant the building of larger barns. Therefore, he would not seem to be foolish by any earthly standards.

The issue with this gentleman, however, was not his acquisition of wealth, nor was it necessarily his saving of it. Indeed, there is great wisdom in saving for a rainy day—or potential famine in his case. Instead, the acquisition had transformed his heart.

Notice what prompted this parable. Jesus shares this lesson in response to two brothers arguing over an inheritance. To be clear, the brothers were arguing over something that neither of them earned. An inheritance is given or granted by an older relative or master but never earned. Furthermore, there is an expectation of the grantor that the grantee would steward it properly and not waste what was given. In the same way, the subject of the parable had forgotten his position. He felt that he deserved his wealth instead of rightly recognizing that it was given to him by the Giver of all good things for faithful stewardship.

Though God calls the land owner a fool, Paul describes this type of person as an idolater in his letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 5:5), and rightly so as the idolater is a fool because they worship something that does not last. Instead of building barns to store his crops, the land owner should have been building tables to share his fortune with others to build God’s kingdom, not his. Only then would his inheritance have been invested wisely.

Once again, let us remember that Christ responded to two brothers arguing over an inheritance they did not earn and that they, in the end, will not keep. Paul warned that a greedy person would not inherit the Kingdom of God. In the end, the issue with the fool, the two brothers, and even us at times is that our greed cultivates acts of idolatry. Let us remember that we never deserve such a rich inheritance—we have not earned it and have only received it because of God’s mercy and for it to be stewarded rightly. Instead of growing our kingdom by building our barns, let us expand the kingdom of God by building tables.