"The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest ..." (Luke 12:16-21)

"The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." ' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:16-21)

What does this parable of the abundant harvest mean?

Jesus is continuing his discussion regarding materialism in response to one of his students asking Jesus to arbitrate between him and his brother regarding their inheritance.

Just prior to this parable, Jesus instructed:
"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions." (Luke 12:15)
Now Jesus is utilizing a parable or analogy to communicate the importance of putting the focus of one's life towards one's relationship with the Supreme Being. This relates to a prime question raised by this parable: Should we be focusing our lives upon the things, people, and accomplishments of this world when all of these will be taken from us at the time of death?

Everything of this world - wealth, house, career, reputation, family, investments - everything that has to do with the physical world and this temporary physical body - is lost at the time of death.

This is the nature of Jesus' parable. Jesus is comparing the farmer - who has an abundant harvest and wants to build bigger barns to store his harvest - to focusing our lives upon accumulating wealth and money and accumulating possessions for the future - including what modern society refers to as retirement.

The farmer is convinced that once he has all of his grain stored up, he will reach a state of comfort and satisfaction - where the farmer will supposedly:

"Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."

This is, in fact, the axiom of materialism. But where does it come from and why is it so bad to want to be comfortable and "merry"?

Can materialism ever give us fulfillment?

No. We remain empty regardless of how abundant our harvest is. No matter how much money we have. No matter how young and beautiful our body is. No matter how much fame and power we have. These things will not fulfill us. They will not make us happy.

This is why even the richest people - even the most famous people - even the most powerful people - still get depressed. That's why rich, famous people often become addicted to drugs and alcohol. This is why rich, famous and powerful people sometimes commit suicide: Because wealth, fame and power do not fulfill us.

The real issue relates to our identity. Who are we? Are we these physical bodies? If we are these physical bodies, then certainly materialism would fulfill us. And keeping the body comfortable, keeping it fed, safe and healthy should be of the highest importance - right?

But we are not these physical bodies. And no matter how much focus we give them and how much energy we put into making them comfortable and healthy - they will still get sick and they will still die.

Yes - no matter what we do, our physical body will get sick and die.

And then we will have to leave the body and everything related to the body behind.

How long will the body last?

Most physical bodies were designed to live about 100 years, give or take a decade or so depending upon how well we take care of it. Even those bodies given new hearts, new joints and other new body parts will still only last about 100 years.

If the body was so important to our identity, why does it die? And then why does it decompose - eventually turning into soil?

Yes, these are scientific facts. But we want to avoid these realities. We want to avoid the topic of death. We want to pretend that our bodies will never get sick and die.

We want to pretend that our bodies will last forever.

And for this reason, as our body ages, we don't want to admit the age of our body. As our body ages, we less and less identify with how old the body is. We deny that our body is aging: So we will color our hair so the gray won't show, or try to cover the body's wrinkles with creams.

All of these attempts to deny the age of the body comes from our innate feeling that we are eternal, yet our physical bodies are temporary.

These and many other scientific facts point to the reality that we are not these physical bodies.

Rather, we are each an eternal spirit-person who dwells within a temporary physical body. Each of us is spiritual in essence, yet we are each an individual. We are of a different substance than the physical body, and this is why in clinical death cases, the person will float up above their clinically-dead body and look down upon it.

Even though the body's heart stopped, the brainwaves stopped and every other function of life within the body has stopped, the person will still be alive, and will still be able to observe and have experiences outside of the body - because we are not these physical bodies. Who is seeing the body from above if we are the physical body? With what eyes is the body being looked upon?

These physical bodies are simply vehicles. They are like cars, which require a driver to get in and drive them in order to move around. And just as cars will break down - causing the driver to get out - our bodies will break down and die, causing us to get out.

This reality is also reflected upon by Jesus, as he portrays God saying:

"'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'"

Is this what Jesus really said?

This is actually mistranslated. The word "life" is being translated from the Greek word ψυχή (psychē) - which means, "the vital force which animates the body and shows itself in breathing" and "the soul" according to the lexicon.

And the phrase "will be demanded" is translated from the Greek word ἀπαιτέω (apaiteō), which means "to ask back, demand back, exact something due."

Thus what Jesus is suggesting is that the life of the body - the soul or the spirit-person - is being exacted from - or taken from - the physical body.

Other translations of these verses have reflected this. Consider, for example, the New King James Version:
"'And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry." "But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?'" (Luke 12:19-20 NKJV)
Jesus is stating this because the physical body is on loan to the spirit-person (the soul). It is not a permanent ride.

This might be compared to a rental car. A driver will rent a car from a car rental company and then will drive the car for a predetermined period of time - say a week while on vacation - and then must return the car back to the rental car company.

This situation would perfectly reflect the notion of ἀπαιτέω (apaiteō), because the car is being demanded back by the car rental company. Thus the driver must take the car back to the car rental company and then step away from the car - and leave it behind and go on his way.

This is the precise situation with regard to the spirit-person who is temporarily utilizing a physical body. At the end of the lifetime of the physical body - whether it be several decades or a hundred years - the body is demanded back from us - and we must leave the body behind.

And just as the rental car driver will have to leave all the components of the car - the radio, the GPS system, the steering wheel and anything else that came with the car - the spirit-person must leave behind whatever is attached to the physical body - its name, its family, its wealth, its reputation and so on. Everything will have to be left behind.

But just as a rental car driver will still have to pay for any speeding tickets that occurred while driving the rental car - even after the car is returned - the spirit-person will still be responsible for the consequences of their activities while driving the physical body.

These consequences - together with the consciousness developed during one's physical lifetime - will remain with the spirit-person after the physical body dies.

And this combination of our consciousness and the consequences of our activities - will determine the next destination for the spirit-person.

Isn't this discussing consciousness?

In this parable, Jesus is discussing consciousness. The consciousness we develop while within the physical body relates to the focus of our lives. Are we focused on the accumulation of wealth and the comfort of our bodies? Are we focused on the body's physical sensations - including sex, tasting food, music, and so on? Are we focused on the reputation of the body and its name? Are we focused on the family of this physical body?

It is not that being attentive to the needs of our body or family is bad in itself. But becoming focused upon these as though they will fulfill us produces a certain type of consciousness - related to self-centeredness - the desire to become self-satisfied by the things, names and forms of the world.

Why is this so bad though? Because not only do the things and people of the world dissolve at the time of death of the body; but the things, names and forms of the world simply do not satisfy us. They do not bring us fulfillment.

It is like the driver of a car being hungry and stopping at a gas station to fill up the gas tank - thinking that if the gas tank is full of gas, the driver won't be hungry anymore.

In such a scenario, the driver will still be hungry because the gas only filled up the gas tank - it did not touch the driver's stomach.

This is because the driver is not the car, and the gas tank is not the driver's stomach.

In the same way, we are not these bodies: Filling up the body with material things will not touch the spirit-person within because we are of a different substance. We are spiritual in substance, while the body is physical in substance.

This is why the things of the physical world do not fulfill us and even the wealthiest and most famous people of the world can still be empty inside - unfulfilled. This is why we find many wealthy and famous people committing suicide or overdosing on drugs. They are empty inside despite their wealth and fame:

"This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God."

What fulfills the spirit-person?

What will fulfill each of us? Notice Jesus states "stores things for themselves." This relates directly to self-centeredness. Putting my own self-interests above everything else.

The second key phrase is "but is not rich toward God." What does this mean?

The Greek word translated to "towards" is εἰς (eis), which can mean "into, unto, to, towards, for, among."

These words all indicate the same thing with respect to God: A relationship.

We must remember that Jesus is teaching about a personal God: Not some vague force or booming voice. Jesus is speaking of the Supreme Being who can be loved, served and pleased. Consider, for example, this statement by Jesus:
"By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me." (John 5:30)
Jesus is speaking of having a relationship with the Supreme Being - "who sent me." Jesus is seeking to please the Supreme Being. He wants to please the Supreme Being because he is enjoying a relationship with the Supreme Being. He is loving the Supreme Being and out of that love, Jesus is seeking to please his beloved God.

Jesus also stated something even more clear regarding fulfillment:
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work." (John 4:34)
By "food" Jesus is indicating that this is fulfilling Jesus. Doing what pleases the Supreme Being - doing "the will of Him who sent me" - is Jesus' metaphorical "food" because this is what satisfies him.

This is what Jesus is trying to teach his students. He is trying to tell them that their focus upon the temporary things of the physical world will not bring any fulfillment. He is trying to tell them to focus upon re-developing their innate loving relationship with the Supreme Being as this and only this will make them (and us) happy.

This is because the Supreme Being created us to be His loving servants and friends. He created us to be His loving companions and servants. But because love requires freedom, He also gave each of us the freedom to love Him or not.

And those who chose not to love Him were separated from Him and His spiritual realm and given temporary physical bodies to act out our self-centered desires.

This is because when we abandoned our love for Him, the resulting emptiness was replaced with self-centeredness.

The spiritual realm - our home - is a place of love and kindness: A place of love between the Supreme Being and His children, and no one is fighting to be the top dog.

This is why so many of us try to stop wars and hunger and violence: Because we miss our home. We are trying to make the physical world - the place where all the self-centered people are placed to act out our self-centeredness - into the spiritual realm.

Remember how John Lennon "Imagined" no wars, no countries and so on. He innately missed his home in the spiritual realm and wanted to return there. But John Lennon's song - and many other imaginings of the spiritual realm - imagine heaven without God.

We might be able to "imagine" the spiritual realm without God - but that place will only exist within the mind.

This is because we cannot have peace and self-centeredness at the same time. They are opposing consciousnesses.

We can only return home to the real spiritual realm when our consciousness of self-centeredness replaced with our innate loving relationship with the Supreme Being.

If we re-develop our innate loving relationship with the Supreme Being - we fall in love with God - we will then automatically love His children. Then we will be fit to return to the spiritual realm at the end of this body's lifetime. And we will, in fact, be home in our relationship with the Supreme Being even while we are still driving this temporary physical body.

This is why, when asked by a Jewish teacher: "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 10:25) - Jesus answered:
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27)