7 Theological Motifs from Luke 12:13-21 “The Parable of the Rich Fool”

These 7 motifs are from Kenneth Bailey (sourced at the end of the quote):

The theological motifs that inform the parable in its setting include the following:

1. A naked cry for justice, unqualified by any self-criticism, is not heeded by Jesus.

2. In a case of a broken personal relationship Jesus refuses to answer a cry for justice when the answer contributes to a finalizing of brokenness of that relationship. He did not come as a divider.

3. Jesus’ parables often reflect a profound concern for justice for the poor. For him justice includes a concern for needs and not simply earnings (cf. Matt. 20:1-16). But here a self-centered cry for justice is understood by Jesus as a symptom of a sickness. He refuses to answer the cry but rather addresses himself to the healing of the sickness that produced the cry.

4. Material possessions are gifts from God. God does grant unearned surpluses of material things. Each life is on loan. The rich man in the parable assumed to own both (“my goods” and “my soul”). The parable presents him as mistaken in both cases.

5. The person who thinks security and the good life are to be found in material things is stupid.

6. The abundant life is to be found in “treasuring up for God” rather than for self.

7. James talks of the rich man who will “fade away in the midst of his life-style (1:11). Jesus gives a parabolic picture of precisely this same phenomenon. This fool’s wealth destroyed his capacity to maintain any abiding human relationships. He has no one with whom to share his soul, and worst of all, he does not even know he has a problem.

Kenneth E. Bailey. Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes: A Literary-Cultural Approach to the Parables in Luke (Combined edition) (Kindle Locations 4163-4171). Kindle Edition.

© 2012, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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