A Successful Man’s Failure

“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?” Luke 12:20

A man came to Jesus seeking adjudication of a dispute with his brother about inheritance of property. Jesus declined to decide the matter, adding: “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” To drive this truth home, Jesus told the story of “the rich fool” (Luke 12:16–21), the man who possessed great wealth, out did not own his soul, find was “not rich toward God.”

Christianity is not primarily a social or economic program. Many talk about “applied Christianity” today, yet they have no real Christianity to apply. They want the fruit before they have the tree, or perhaps they even want the fruit without the tree. Regarding Christianity as primarily a social and economic program is like looking for the legendary pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; though we strive endlessly, we will never attain the goal. Some think that socialism will save the world. Others hold that the establishment of cooperatives will bring the golden age. Still others say that universal “social security” and old-age pensions will produce a better world.

Christianity is first of all a matter of reconciliation with God. The social and economic results are only the by-products, not the main thing. The rich man in Jesus’ parable had all the economic security that anyone could wish for. His sin, of course, was not his possession of wealth but his godless, selfish attitude toward his wealth. He was a practical atheist; he neither thanked God for giving him the wealth, nor thought of using it in such a way as to glorify God. He planned for the future without taking God into account: “This will I do . . .” But God said, “Thou fool!” Man proposes, but God disposes. We must leave room for the sovereignty of God, and his secret purposes, in all our plans and programs. It may not be God’s purpose to let all our dreams come true.

The rich fool forgot that security is necessary for the true blessedness, and security cannot be fully possessed on earth. Human life can indeed be insured, but it cannot be guaranteed. The rich fool was a successful man, as the world measures success. He possessed everything—except the life to enjoy his riches. Therefore he was really a failure.



Our true wealth is not money or material possessions. Jesus spoke of a person’s true wealth as being “rich toward God.” This means having God himself as our possession; it means to be in a special covenant relationship to God, so that he is our God and we are his people; it means being able to call  God “my God.” The person who can call God “my God” has real faith in God; therefore he has peace of mind in spite of a multitude of troubles and afflictions. The Christian possesses security from a spiritual and invisible source. Nothing can really harm him.

The godly enjoy blessing during this present life. They may not possess so much as wicked and worldly people have, but they can enjoy what they do possess because they have peace of mind a clear conscience and no fear for the future. And God often bestows even material blessings liberally on his own children. even in this present world, though those material blessings do not constitute their true wealth.

Best of all, the Christian is an heir to eternal glory. “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18), A divine judgment awaits all who, like the rich fool, make gold their god; but that judgment will also bring victory and vindication to God’s children: “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 13:41–43).