The farmer in today’s Gospel story is not called a fool because he is successful: you have to be clever to manage a successful farm and the bumper harvest has not happened by accident. Like all agriculture, it depends partly on natural forces beyond the farmer’s control, especially the weather, but it also depends on shrewd planning, extensive knowledge and hard work. In most senses, this farmer is no fool.
But when it comes to the most important question – what is to be done with all this wealth? – he is a complete fool. He is a fool because he thinks only to himself and of himself. He has forgotten God, who created the earth and who makes everything grow. He has forgotten the poor who are in need of his generosity. And most importantly he has forgotten that this life is short and uncertain.
So he doesn’t thank God for the rich harvest. He doesn’t give any of it away to feed the hungry. All he can think of is finding better ways of keeping it all to himself, for his own enjoyment. He is planning a long and self-indulgent retirement. He has not learned the lesson of today’s Psalm: make us know the shortness of our life, that we may gain wisdom of heart.
There is wisdom in the old saying that we should live each day as if it might be our last on this earth, and there is wisdom in the principle that we should use the gifts God has given us to make the world a better place for everyone, and especially for those who are most in need.