The Parable of the Rich Fool 1627 Rembrandt Gemäldegalerie Berlin
Reflection on the Artwork “The Parable of the Rich Fool”, also known as “The Money Changer”, is an oil painting on canvas of 1627 by Rembrandt, now in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. Produced early in the artist's career, it depicts the eponymous Biblical Parable. The model for the figure is said to have been Rembrandt's father. In the early XVII Century, a stack of books was often used as a symbol of vanity. The Hebrew letters suggest a biblical setting. The usual interpretation of the Parable is that there is no point in spending a life gathering wealth. After all, once you die money is of no use. It might even get into the hands of people who do not deserve it. It is therefore thought to be wiser to be "rich toward God”.
Lectio Luke 12: 13-21 13“Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me”. 14But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ 15 And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions’. 16 Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry’. 20But God said to him, ‘
You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God”. Meditatio
Context The Parable of The Rich Fool is very much a Parable of our times, where many seem obsessed with the idea of accumulating more and more possessions, as if the value of our life depends on how much we possess. It speaks of an attitude of mind, so prevalent today, where, in the West, many are focussed totally on themselves - whether that be from a money point of view, getting the most ‘likes’ on social media or looking better than anyone else. So, we have to ask ourselves: ‘To what extent do I place my security in material things?’ The key to this passage is “Whoever stores up things for themselves”. This Parable is telling us that what really matters is making ourselves rich in the sight of God. Wealth The rich man here does not come across as evil or wicked but as selfish, greedy and preoccupied with himself to the exclusion of others. It could be argued that the rich man is not foolish because he makes provision for his own future. Is this not what we are encouraged to strive for? Is it not wise and responsible to save for the future? We have to remember that Jesus’ contemporaries lived lives of great hardship under very harsh social and political conditions. But the problem here is that ‘his ONLY concern’ is his own future and no-one else’s. He does not think to use his abundance to help others. It is a well-known fact that many of the greatest Saints in the history of our Church came from wealthy families. However, it is not riches that corrupt our heart, but a refusal to love one another and to care for our poor. The Bible says, “love of money is the root of all evil” - not money itself, but the “love of money”. And that is because such a love is a distraction in that it distracts our attention from all that is worthwhile here and now in this life. At times, Jesus seems a little bit harsh on the rich - but it is not because they are rich. Vanity and Emptiness The reality we live in today is such that, no matter how much we have, we are always aware of the things we do not have. We are bombarded by marketing wizards whose job it is to convince us of all the products we need to complete our lives. And so, we are always striving for something more. Like the rich farmer, we are tempted to think that having large amounts of money and possessions stored up will make us secure. Sooner or later, we realise that no amount of wealth can secure our lives. No amount of wealth can protect us from a tragic accident or a genetically inherited disease. Nor can it keep our relationships healthy and our families from falling apart. In fact, wealth and property can easily drive a wedge between family members, as in the case of the brothers fighting over their inheritance in this Gospel reading. Priorities More importantly, no amount of wealth can secure our lives with God. Jesus repeatedly warns us that wealth can get in the way of our relationship with God. Pope Francis, in one of his addresses said “There are no pockets in a shroud”. Basically, worldly wealth cannot be kept and used after death. It is not that God does not want us to save for retirement or future needs. It is not that God does not want us to “eat, drink and be merry” and enjoy what He has given us. Indeed, we know from the Gospels that Jesus spent time eating and drinking with people and enjoying life. But He was also clear about where his true security lay. It is all about priorities. It is about who is truly God in our lives. Me, me, me When we are totally absorbed with ourselves, it is a recipe for disaster because outside of our imaginations, we are not the ultimate being on the planet. Our whole world becomes superficial and we discard the rest of humanity, and those who love us most, because we either cannot or choose not to see beyond the end of our noses. We break all the commands of loving our neighbour, being good stewards, not being jealous of others and loving God with all our heart and soul. Why? Because there is only room in my heart for me, me, me. Reflections If the entire population operated on that basis, there would be no acts of kindness, no works of mercy and no cause for hope. The idea of a world where everyone is totally absorbed in themselves is a world that none of us would like to inhabit. This is because humanity has been designed to love and to desire to be loved. A world where everyone was storing up things for themselves would have no room for love. If I do not think love is our most central desire, then I should stop and look back on my life - pick out the most important points in my life. They would probably involve acts of kindness, love, family moments or times of bereavement, broken hearts or regret … . All these can be traced back to the need for love and anyone storing things up for themselves has no room for love because they are busy grabbing everything they can for themselves! Nobody on their deathbed says “I wish I had not given so much away”. Death has a way of clarifying what really matters. Our lives and possessions are not our own. They belong to God. We are merely stewards of them for the time God has given us here on earth.
Oratio “When we were born with no possession,
The love received was our concession.
No worries, no fears, no troubles, no fuss,
In mother's arms we put our trust.
But as we grew, we looked and craved,
and all too soon became enslaved.
The more we saw, the more we wanted.
Our quest for more became undaunted.
Our thirst for more could not be quenched.
The more we grasped, the tighter we clenched.
We scampered and gathered and gathered to hoard.
Possessions became our master and lord.
And when we're old with our treasures all heaped,
a sad example of what greed has reaped.
Our fists still clenched in a grasping motion,
till at our death, when our hands are opened”.
* The Dalai Lama reminds us that “We are human beings, not human doings”. On our last day we will truly understand what perishes and what remains imperishable.
Lord, grant that that knowledge will not come too late for me.
* In our Western society, we are driven to acquire more wealth, more possessions, more status. Today, Jesus reminds us that, when we leave all this behind, we will be asked what spiritual riches we have accumulated.
Our good deeds are the only thing that will outlive us.
* All the rich man’s planning is in vain because that same night he was to die. Who would inherit his substantial fortune since he cannot take it with him, though he lived as if he could?
I ask Jesus to show me what the real values and riches in my own life are.
* Lord, give us imagination big enough to reach up to yours. But make us grounded enough to want only to love and humbly serve others as best we can.
Help us to do everything for the greater glory of God.
 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains”.  Luke 12:15: “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions”.  “No hay bolsillos en un sudario”.