Why do we want what we want? What drives us? What are we striving for? What is the orientation of our hearts in seeking these things? Who/what are we allowing to be the king of our lives?
What does it mean to be rich? This of course depends on our currency of choice–money? number of places traveled to?
But when we look at the life of Jesus, we see neither wealth nor extensive travel. We see a blue collar carpenter until the age of 33, who then went on an unpaid 3 year walk around Palestine until he was crucified at age 36. In relation to our Seattle geography, Jesus’ travels were between Sea-Tac and Whistler (south-north), and the Cascades to the Puget Sound (west-east). He is not what we would call a world traveler, yet by investing in relationships, he changed the world.
THE RICH FOOL
As context, Luke 12:1-12 describes the setting, mood, and audience Jesus is speaking to. He is in the middle of describing the coming kingdom, speaking of those who can kill the body versus those who can kill the soul, when a young man interrupts and asks for Jesus’ assistance.
Luke 12: 13-18 – “Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?’ And he said to them, ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ And he told them a parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.'”
- “the land of a rich man produced plentifully” – God blessed his crop, the extra crops that were produced are a miracle.
- Nowhere does it say that “the man worked extra hard,” or “the man developed a new seeding strategy.”
- The excess quantity would have been seen by Jews as a miraculous event which was intended by God for the blessing of the whole community–to feed the hungry, sold to buy clothes for the poor,
- “I will do this: I will tear down…” – He uses the personal pronoun “my” five times and “I” six times.
- Yet the rich man gives no acknowledgement to God for his bounty.
This parable is a perfect example of how to MISMANAGE A MIRACLE. The man is completely self-interested. It is important to see that it is not the man’s wealth that is condemned, but the excessive accumulation of wealth solely for his own personal enjoyment.
Luke 12:19-21 – “‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
- “my soul” – See here the link to the pre-text about who can kill the soul.
- “eat, drink, be merry” – This language would have been heard by the Greco-Roman world as a jab, as Epicureanism (Greek philosophy of excess and loving good food and drink).
- It would also remind the Jewish audience of Ecclesiastes and the example of a false philosophy exposed in that OT book: “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.”
- “your soul is required of you” – That very night his life was taken from him.
- “the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” – What happens to all we have accumulated once this life is over?
“RICH TOWARD GOD”
What does it mean to be rich toward God? Rather than storing up our goods in barns for our own enjoyment, we are to store our treasures in God’s heavenly barns. But what does He deem worthy of storing up?
- Not grain, gold, cash or any goods. All of that is his already.
- When we look at the story of God, we see that there is one thing that he values above all else: RELATIONSHIP. To be rich toward God is to multiply grace-based
- Grace-based relationships — with God & with those around us, where we invest time, money and creative energy. These are the only things that transfer over to life after death, the only things worthy of His heavenly barns.
GENEROSITY VS. GREED
When God is generous with us, are we generous with the abundance of what He blesses us with? Do we use it to invest in relationships?
The man in the story is a farmer, but he stands for all humans seduced by greed for more possessions. What does our generation get greedy for?
- MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES – This is our currency of choice, this is what guides our hearts. And to be rich translates into having variety & high quantity.
- We expose these riches to the world through social media, by displaying all that is stored up in our barns.
What is driving this mentality? Are we trying to take advantage of our youth, our freedom? Could it be FEAR that this life is as good as it gets?
If Jesus died that we may have eternal life, why are we living as if we’re running out of time to store up earthly treasures?
LIFE WITH GOD IS SUPERIOR
Jesus came to push & challenge us to more full and abundant life. We are told that this life is not as good as it gets, the best is yet to come. We are promised life with God. That is what we have to look forward to! Life with Him is far superior to any combination of memorable experiences we could put together.
Luke 12:22-34 – “And he said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither so nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.'”
What may the farmer from the parable have been anxious about? Having the necessities to live? No! He was anxious about having the luxuries of this life for years to come.
Are we not all anxious about the luxuries we have grown to love and long for? This anxiety reveals that we are missing the mark when it comes to SEEKING FIRST GOD’S REIGN in our patterns of life and in our heart’s motivations.
What if our anxiety shifted away from these issues of comparative wealth, luxury, and experience, and toward the mission of God? What if we began to be more anxious about…
- spreading the good news of Jesus to those in our communities, families, workplaces?
- building better grace-based relationships?
- knowing God more?
- feeding the hungry and giving to the poor?
- the hearts that don’t yet know Jesus?
Now, of course, Jesus would tell us to not be anxious about his mission, but persistent and full of faith, believing that his kingdom will come in his perfect timing, and is not reliant on our success. But again, anxiety is a part of life and perhaps a SHIFT in our anxiety’s focus might signal the beginning of a redemption of our anxiousness.
1. Don’t be a workaholic — If we hold that true wisdom is to be rich toward God, then over-working for the riches of this world should have a limited place in our lives. We shall still work hard, enough to provide the necessities, but leaving the future in God’s hands.
We must not make our working a means of securing our lives against all possible calamities or controlling our future toward some unhealthy vision of luxury or status.
2. Remember Heaven is greater — This life, no matter how good or bad it seems to get for us, is NOT as good as it gets.
Do we spend as much on furthering God’s kingdom as we do on pursuing our earthly treasures, our memorable experiences?
3. Manage your miracles well — Acknowledge God’s hand in the blessings of your life, invest your abundance in grace-based relationships.
1. Look Up:
- What are you reminded of about God’s character when reading this parable?
- What has it looked like in your past for God to meet you halfway?
2. Look In:
- Which son do you most identify with? Is your distance from God because of being in a “far country”? Or being far off in your own heart?
- How does comparison rob you of fear in your daily life?
- Is your community one that celebrates?
- If you’re not yet connected, consider joining a Fellowship Group.
3. Look Out:
- If life after death is a real thing, what does it mean for our life right now?