Outline for "What Does It Mean to be Successful?"

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

Preface: The dictionary has a few definitions of success, mostly with the idea of accomplishing something or acquiring something (you either do something or get something you want to do). Jesus has been engaged in teaching and conversation with others (see chapter 11 and 12:1-12) but some of the religious leaders are trying to pick a verbal fight with Him!


Text: Luke 12:13-21

Introduction: A bystander in the crowd blurts out that he wants Jesus to tell the man’s brother to divide the inheritance. This was not part of our Lord’s ministry: now, He was the Prophet, mighty in word and deed (Luke 24:19); soon, He will be the Great High Priest ever interceding for the saints (Hebrews 7:25); and later, King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16). But nowhere did He come as a judge or divider of property. He then gives this story about a rich fool, after He warns the listeners about the danger of greed and the reality that life is more than anyone has in their possessions.

16 “The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully . . .”

He owned a great deal of ground, apparently, not just a “family farm”. Nothing wrong here.

He received a “bumper crop”, something that only happens occasionally. God’s blessings!

Israel/Canaan was indeed once a land “flowing with milk and honey” but not in that day. Judea (area near Jerusalem) wasn’t nearly so fertile as Galilee, 80 or so miles north.

But the man could do nothing except wait for the harvest to see what would happen. He had absolutely no control over the crop except to plant seed, till the ground, remove weeds, etc.

17 “And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?’”

He must not have had a plan, or was not expecting such a great harvest. But, couldn’t he had seen the results on visits, or heard by reports, etc.?

He made a huge mistake, not asking God for what to do. John Wesley’s “Notes” says this, “Do? Why, lay up treasure in heaven.”

No place to bestow or keep his “fruits” or produce? Did he bring his tithes to the storehouse? Did he leave portions for the less fortunate, per the Law of Moses (Lev. 19:9, 23:22, etc.)?

“Bestow” here probably means “to gather together”, not the sense of “bestowing” or giving something away to someone else. This man wanted to keep it all to himself.


18 “And he said, ‘This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.’”

So he came to a decision. Had anyone helped him think this through?

Why didn’t he build the barns first? What was he going to do with his “stuff” already in the barn? How

long would it take to even build a barn?

Note he says barns, plural. How many did he have? He’s planning on keeping this for some time, apparently: but did he forget that grain doesn’t last forever?

He uses the word “bestow” again, not to give something away, but to keep it for himself.

This wasn’t just for the crops. He also had plans to keep his “goods” or stuff in these barns.

Some commentators make a note that the word translated “barns” could mean a storage pit in the ground (examples: Deut. 33:19, Jeremiah 41:8). But how could one of these be “torn down”?

19 “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.’”

“Soul” usually means “self”. Thus, he’s making a statement about his future plans (he was already rich, so this harvest made it more so!).

He’s planning on taking it easy for a long time. His plans were to relax, eat and drink continually, and being merry. But where was God in his thinking?

His age is never given in this story. Was he thinking he could “retire”, even at an early age?

20 “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?’”

“Fool” is a very strong word. This is the only time God called anyone a fool in the Bible. The man’s actions are clear enough to show how much of a fool he really was.

Several words are translated “fool” in the Bible. The one used here has nothing to do with the rich man’s intelligence. The problem wasn’t his brain but his heart.

He thought he had many years to live it up or “party hearty”. God said he was going to die that very night. We’re all alive today—will we be living on this earth next week?

The rich man seems to have forgotten that you can’t take it with you. He came into this world with nothing and would leave with nothing except the deeds he had done for God (if any),

Who was going to get what he left behind? Solomon wondered about this! (Eccles. 2:16, 19)

Story of a rich man who died: “How much did he leave behind?” “Everything.”

But compare this with the life of Paul. He went from Saul of Tarsus to Paul the Apostle. Left much and risked more to follow Christ. Died with only the clothes on his back and the writings in his possession. But he was a success in God’s eyes and it didn’t matter what the world thought.

God is calling us to follow Him. If we don’t do what He wants, it will never get done.

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).

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