(Please read Luke 12:13-21 in your preferred version of the Bible. I used the NIV to prepare these remarks.)
Today we’ll start with a simple quiz: Who said the following? “I TELL YOU, USE WORLDLY WEALTH TO GAIN FRIENDS FOR YOURSELVES, SO THAT WHEN IT IS GONE, YOU WILL BE WELCOMED INTO ETERNAL DWELLINGS.”
It may surprise you to know that these are the words of Jesus. Look it up: he said this in Luke 16:9. As is the case with many of the things Jesus taught, this is contrary to worldly wisdom. I’m sure you’d have a hard time finding a financial advisor who will recommend using money to GAIN FRIENDS. Note that Jesus did not suggest “buying” friends. Instead, He’s suggesting that generosity is a way of showing grace and making friends.
That part shows an understanding of human nature. Nothing very surprising here. It’s the concluding statement that is particularly radical as Jesus connects generosity with eternal life. Of course Jesus is NOT saying that we can spend our way into heaven. What He is affirming is that people who are saved, who will be WELCOMED INTO ETERNAL DWELLINGS, are marked by a generous nature.
Some folks want to draw a dark line between money and faith, but that is not biblical teaching. The Bible teaches that all of the resources God entrusts to us are to be used in obedience to God. This is called “stewardship” and is an important part of being a follower of Jesus Christ.
MESSAGE: It is foolish to put your trust in any worldly thing.
- Jesus the Unwilling Judge (vs. 13-15).
The man in the crowd asked Jesus to act as a rabbi, but he had an ulterior motive: GREED (13). He called Jesus “TEACHER.” In that culture, rabbis were often asked to settle disputes like this. The rabbi’s authority would be ethical, not legal.
The man was not at all subtle. He practically orders Jesus to take his side in the dispute about an estate; “TELL MY BROTHER TO DIVIDE THE INHERITANCE WITH ME.”
Jesus was unwilling to judge between them (14). Jesus did not disagree with the man about His being a teacher, but protests that no one has agree to Him acting as a JUDGE OR ARBITER between this man and his brother. No agreement of arbitration has been struck. The man’s request is entirely one-sided. He’s asking Jesus to use his authority to come down on his side.
Instead, Jesus turned the moment into a teaching as He turned from the man to address the CROWD (15). He warned the man; “WATCH OUT! BE ON YOUR GUARD AGAINST ALL KINDS OF GREED.” In so doing, Jesus exposed the man’s true motive. This is an emphatic, emotional appeal on Jesus’ part: “WATCH OUT! BE ON YOUR GUARD.” He kept it universal: “ALL KINDS OF GREED.” GREED is a sin.
– It is defined in the Bible as an insatiable desire for any earthly thing.
– Its flaw is that earthly things take t place of God in our life.
– In Colossians 3:5, GREED is listed among other sins that come from a person’s EARTHLY NATURE and is condemned as IDOLATRY.
GREED can quickly ruin relationships. Indeed, the experience is so common that I would not be surprised if everyone in this room has observed it personally. It often happens in situations just like this one; disputes over inheritance drive grieving family members apart.
I believe that is what Jesus implied in the condemnation of the rich man in v. 20; “WHO WILL GET WHAT YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR YOURSELF?” Jesus didn’t just lay down the law; He instructed the man in the moral reason why he should guard against greed. He said, “A MAN’S LIFE DOES NOT CONSIST IN THE ABUNDANCE OF HIS POSSESSIONS.”
- Jesus the Story-teller (vs. 16-21).
A parable is a story told to make a point. The details are only important as they contribute to that one main point. The main point of the parable is that it is foolish to put your trust in anything from this world. Let’s take a look at how the parable develops that theme.
Externally, the rich man did nothing wrong. From a moral standpoint, he did not steal to become wealthy. V. 16: THE GROUND…PRODUCED A GOOD CROP. From a business standpoint, the rich man’s decisions make a certain amount of sense. Vs. 17-18: I WILL TEAR DOWN MY BARNS AND BUILD BIGGER ONES. From a worldly standpoint, you can’t blame him for his confidence about the future. V. 19: “TAKE LIFE EASY; EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY” sounds an awful lot like the goal of retirement planning. In fact, I expect that by this point in the story, people in the audience are smiling, nodding in agreement, may be saying “AMEN!”
But internally, God knows our hearts and He knew that the rich man was not merely a good businessman; he was a practical – if not actual – atheist. The rich man makes no mention of God in vs. 17-19. He neither expresses gratitude to God, nor does he make plans to share his wealth with God or with people in need. The rich man in this parable acts in line with his sin nature; he is only concerned about himself. There is no accountability to God or even tradition, much less others.
This character is condemned in v. 20. God called him a FOOL. In the Old Testament, a fool is a person who rejects God and does self-destructive things (for example, Psalm 14:1). It is a very strong condemnation with the word only used twice in the New Testament.
God warned him that his wealth could not save him from imminent death. The word for LIFE here is psyche i/t Gk and is often translated as “soul.” Jesus has set up a contrast between the inner life of the man and the outward life. He’s saying, “Your attention is all focused on your external life, but your internal life will soon be taken away and you will die!”
God condemned his selfishness, asking him who would end up possessing the wealth he thought was his. This man thought he had created his own future, but God appeared to remind him who was really in charge.
Jesus made His point plain in v. 21: anyone who shares the rich man’s attitude will also share his outcome. The problem is not wealth. The Bible does not commend or condemn having material things. Instead, the rich man condemned in the parable was judged guilty of having sought wealth over God.
In MTW 6:19-21, Jesus made it clear where our priorities should lie: “DO NOT STORE UP FOR YOURSELVES TREASURES ON EARTH, WHERE MOTH AND RUST DESTROY, AND WHERE THIEVES BREAK IN AND STEAL. BUT STORE UP FOR YOURSELVES TREASURES IN HEAVEN, WHERE MOTH AND RUST DO NOT DESTROY AND WHERE THIEVES DO NOT BREAK IN AND STEAL. FOR WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS, THERE YOUR HEART WILL BE ALSO.”
This Bible passage was written for everyone who ever thought, “If I just had more money.” It’s for people who look for security in a bank account or compounding their possessions.
And we’re not just talking about the obvious ones, the hoarders, the greedy, the thieves and cheats. We’re talking about the folks who may have legitimate-sounding goals like providing for their retirement or their family. Whether obvious or not, the point is that you can’t trust worldly things to provide security or happiness or peace. The man’s prudence is not condemned, only his godlessness.
Trust in God only.
Let me tell you what money is. It is a tool. Like a hammer, money is a tool. It has a specific purpose but it has absolutely no ethical nature. It is a thing that can be used to build or to destroy. The only ethical part of it is how it is used.
If you want to drive a nail, then a hammer is the right choice of tools. If you want to paint a wall, then I doubt it’s going to work very well for you.
Here’s the thing: If someone told you they absolutely loved hammers, that they collected hammers and wanted as many hammers as they could get, that they researched hammers on Google and Ebay, that they felt most secure in their showroom of hammers, then I don’t think you’d wait too long to wonder if they were nuts. If they told you that the person with the most hammers will live eternally, you’d stop wondering and conclude they were nuts!
Darrell L. Bock wrote, “The fundamental test for the use of resources is whether they become tools of service that benefit others and enable them to be in a position to serve God better.” (Bock, the NIV Application Commentary on Luke, Zondervan Publishing House, 1996, pp. 345-346.)
So why take that same approach to another tool, money? Why covet it, collect it, try to be consoled by having lots of it, why waste your life worrying about it? It’s just a tool, one of many God has placed in your tool box.
Get over it.
Here’s the attitude God wants us to have toward money and all material things:
#1 = Agree with God that everything is HIS. The notion that we’ve earned it or otherwise deserve it is an illusion.
#2 = Trust God that He will provide what you need when you need it. Find your security – true security – in Him.
#3 = Give to God first, not the leftovers.
– Start with a cheerful and worshipful attitude.
– Give proportionately. Set a percentage; that is your TITHE.
– Give generously. In addition to your TITHE, make GIFTS or OFFERINGS that provide for organizational & individual need.
– Give sacrificially. Anyone can give leftovers or out of their excess, but only sacrificial giving – giving when it is not convenient or even hurts a bit – that is the only kind of giving that shows our love is real.
#4 = Be careful. Jesus spoke more often about money than any other subject because he knew it is a window into the soul of a person. Their attitude about money quickly reveals what’s truly most important to us.