Luke 12:20 Index
"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?"
Research Material

" . . . Thou fool . . . " (Luke 11:40)

  • Jesus does not say that God actually uttered these words to the "fool" or even brought to him an awareness of this appellation, any more than our Lord means to imply that the conversation between the rich man and "father Abraham" (Luke 16:24-31) actually took place. In both instances the conversation is supplied for the benefit of the audience listening to the parable, that they may see the divine principle illustrated by the parable. Compare also the conversation between the trees of the forest (Judges 9:8-15). (5BC 797)
  • By the parable of the foolish rich man, Christ showed the folly of those who make the world their all. This man had received everything from God. The sun had been permitted to shine upon his land; for its rays fall on the just and on the unjust. The showers of heaven descend on the evil and on the good. The Lord had caused vegetation to flourish, and the fields to bring forth abundantly. The rich man was in perplexity as to what he should do with his produce. His barns were full to overflowing, and he had no place to put the surplus of his harvest. He did not think of God, from whom all his mercies had come. He did not realize that God had made him a steward of His goods that he might help the needy. He had a blessed opportunity of being God's almoner, but he thought only of ministering to his own comfort.
    • The situation of the poor, the orphan, the widow, the suffering, the afflicted, was brought to this rich man's attention; there were many places in which to bestow his goods. He could easily have relieved himself of a portion of his abundance, and many homes would have been freed from want, many who were hungry would have been fed, many naked clothed, many hearts made glad, many prayers for bread and clothing answered, and a melody of praise would have ascended to heaven. The Lord had heard the prayers of the needy, and of His goodness He had prepared for the poor (Psalm 68:10). Abundant provision for the wants of many had been made in the blessings bestowed upon the rich man. But he closed his heart to the cry of the needy, and said to his servants, “This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods (Luke 12:18). 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 (Luke 12:19).
    • This man's aims were no higher than those of the beasts that perish. He lived as if there were no God, no heaven,no future life; as if everything he possessed were his own, and he owed nothing to God or man. The psalmist described this rich man when he wrote, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).
    • This man has lived and planned for self. He sees that the future is abundantly provided for; there is nothing for him now but to treasure and enjoy the fruits of his labors. He regards himself as favored above other men, and takes credit to himself for his wise management. He is honored by his fellow townsmen as a man of good judgment and a prosperous citizen. For “men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself” (Psalm 49:18).
    • But “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 3:19). While the rich man is looking forward to years of enjoyment, the Lord is making far different plans. The message comes to this unfaithful steward, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee” (Luke 12:20). Here is a demand that money cannot supply. The wealth he has treasured can purchase no reprieve. In one moment that which he has toiled through his whole life to secure becomes worthless to him. “Then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:20). His broad fields and well-filled granaries pass from under his control. “He heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them” (Psalm 39:6).
    • The only thing that would be of value to him now he has not secured. In living for self he has rejected that divine love which would have flowed out in mercy to his fellow men. Thus he has rejected life. For God is love, and love is life. This man has chosen the earthly rather than the spiritual, and with the earthly he must pass away. “Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:20).
    • So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is no trich toward God” (Luke 12:21). The picture is true for all time. You may plan for merely selfish good, you may gather together treasure, you may build mansions great and high, as did the builders of ancient Babylon; but you cannot build wall so high or gate so strong as to shut out the messengers of doom. Belshazzar the king “feasted in his palace,” and “praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone” (Daniel 5:3). But the hand of One invisible wrote upon his walls the words of doom, and the tread of hostile armies was heard at his palace gates. “In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain,” and an alien monarch sat upon the throne (Daniel 5:30).
    • To live for self is to perish. Covetousness, the desire of benefit for self's sake, cuts the soul off from life. It is the spirit of Satan to get, to draw to self. It is the spirit of Christ to give, to sacrifice self for the good of others. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son (1 John 5:11). He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12). (COL 256-259)

" . . . this night . . . "

  • Every moment is freighted with eternal consequences. We are to stand as minute men, ready for service at a moment's notice. The opportunity that is now ours to speak to some needy soul the word of life may never offer again. God may say to that one, “This night thy soul shall be required of thee,” and through our neglect he may not be ready. (Luke 12:20.) In the great judgment day, how shall we render our account to God? Life is too solemn to be absorbed in temporal and earthly matters, in a treadmill of care and anxiety for the things that are but an atom in comparison with the things of eternal interest. Yet God has called us to serve Him in the temporal affairs of life. Diligence in this work is as much a part of true religion as is devotion. The Bible gives no indorsement to idleness. It is the greatest curse that afflicts our world. Every man and woman who is truly converted will be a diligent worker. (COL 343)

" . . . thy soul . . . "

  • The clause reads literally "they are requiring thy soul of thee." Some suggest that the impersonal "they" is a rabbinical circumlocution to avoid use of the divine name (Luke 15:7). Others refer the pronoun to the "destroyers" (Job 33:22). (5BC 797)
  • As we deal with our fellow men in petty dishonesty, or in more daring fraud, so will we deal with God. Men who persist in a course of dishonesty will carry out their principles until they cheat their own souls, and lose heaven and eternal life. They will sacrifice honor and religion for a small worldly advantage. . . . Honesty should stamp every action of our lives. Heavenly angels examine the work that is put into our hands; and where there has been a departure from the principles of truth, “wanting” is written in the records. (CS 142)
  • When Abigail returned home she found Nabal and his guests in the enjoyment of a great feast, which they had converted into a scene of drunken revelry. Not until the next morning did she relate to her husband what had occurred in her interview with David. Nabal was a coward at heart; and when he realized how near his folly had brought him to a sudden death, he seemed smitten with paralysis. Fearful that David would still pursue his purpose of revenge, he was filled with horror, and sank down in a condition of helpless insensibility. After ten days he died. The life that God had given him had been only a curse to the world. In the midst of his rejoicing and making merry, God had said to him, as He said to the rich man of the parable, “This night thy soul shall be required of thee.” (Luke 12:20). (PP 667-668)