Passage: Luke 12:13-21
Luke chapter 12 begins with many thousands listening to Jesus teach. Then someone in the crowd asks Jesus to do something for him- “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” (v13) It seems like a parent or close relative has died and the children have fallen out over the inheritance. Sadly, this happens all too often. As someone once quipped, “where there’s a will, there’s a relative!” Jesus refrains from stepping in to sort out this family argument- “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” – but he doesn’t let the moment pass because there is a much bigger issue at stake- the issue of greed. There are as Jesus says “all kinds of greed” (eg- having lots and always wanting more; having a little but always wanting a lot; obsessed with comfort; taking and never giving; always jealous for what others have; everything in life has a £ sign attached.) So he tells the crowd a story.
Living the Dream (v16-19)
“The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.” (v16) This man is already wealthy and he then enjoys a bumper harvest but faces capacity constraints. There’s no indication that he’d grown wealthy by illegitimate means, but rather, he’d been blessed by God. In the Old Testament good harvests were a sign of God’s favour. “Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.” (v18) Surely this was a sensible business decision. Then once his harvest is safely stored away, he’ll say to himself- “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” (v19) The content of those barns is like a life annuity for him as he’d never need to work again. He’s achieved total financial independence. He can simply sit back and enjoy the fruits of his labour lavishly. Isn’t this the carrot that is dangled in front of us every day? Isn’t it people like him who fill the glossy in-flight magazines as an inspiration to work harder and amass more and more? As the adage goes- ‘He who dies with the most toys wins!’ And this guy is certainly a winner. He’s living the dream.
The Dream becomes a Nightmare (v20)
“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?” (v20) The world would hail the man a success, but God says, he’s a fool. Why? Well the first thing that God informs him about is the imminency of his death- “this very night”. Materially it looked like the man was in complete control of things, but he had no control over the length of his life. As the psalmist reminds us- “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (139:16) Secondly, Jesus poses the man a simple question- “then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” Jesus is not inviting the man to list his relatives and heirs. The answer to Jesus’ question is a very simple one- Not You!! To devote your entire life to the accumulation of a whole load of stuff and not get to enjoy it for even one day, how foolish is that? It’s a total waste. So the adage could be changed- ‘He who dies with the most toys, is still dead!’ This is why Jesus issues this warning- “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (v15) Jesus would only warn us of this because it is a trap that we can easily fall into.
A Lesson to Learn (v21)
“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God.” (v21) What does it mean to be rich towards God? Does it mean that what the man should have done is just given some of his money away? If it were that simple, then why didn’t Jesus just say that? What we need to see in the story is the man’s real problem. It wasn’t his greed, his foolishness or his delusion that he was in complete control of his life and future. These were all symptoms of a deeper problem. Just re-read part of the story from v17-19 and underline every reference the man makes to himself. All the I’s, my’s, myself, himself. Do you get the picture? The man’s problem is that his life is all about him. He’s having a conversation totally with himself. He’s at the very centre and there’s no room for God at all. Let’s be honest, it so easy to be just like the rich fool isn’t it? Although God made each one of us and knows best what is good for us, we all want to run our lives our way. But “to be rich towards God” as Jesus tells us to be is to live with God at the Centre. We have to change. But how?
Putting God at the centre of our lives is not down to self-will or self-discipline on our part, but instead accepting what God has done for us. Paul says this to the Corinthians- “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor 8:9) Jesus gave up the glorious riches of heaven to come to this earth, taking on human flesh, becoming our servant and dying on the Cross for our sins. By turning and putting our faith in Christ, we are transformed from God’s enemies to his beloved children. We are adopted into God’s family, becoming his heirs and co-heirs with Christ, sharing in his suffering now but looking forward to the eternal glory to come. This is the Real Treasure that is ours by faith. We can’t earn it and we don’t deserve it. It’s through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. To trust the Lord Jesus is to be rich towards God because it will no longer be me at the centre of my life but Him. This is to know and experience real treasure. Treasure in heaven. Treasur e that changes us!
Dear Lord God. Please help us to see the temporal nature of much around us and delight afresh in the eternal nature of a relationship with you through your Son and sealed by your Spirit. May the grasp of such real treasure make us more generous than we could ever imagine with what you’ve entrusted to us in this life. Amen