Being wealthy is not all that it is cracked up to be! Trust me, I know. Oh, no … did you think I was speaking of vast, personal riches? Not really, but I’ve often observed some wealthy people who have a lot of problems, simply because they are rich.
There is an interesting legal case going on right now with a woman from New Hampshire who is the winner of a $560-million lottery prize. Known only now as “Jane Doe,” she is suing to remain anonymous. One could imagine this desire, though it appears to be against state law. It was also stated in one article that she is losing $14,000 a day in interest by waging this fight. She has to be thinking that her life was a lot happier before all of this happened.
Today’s passage features a person in the crowd who says to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
We don’t know anything about this person beyond his question. He clearly believed himself to be getting the short end of a family inheritance. We may presume his claim to be just and this man to be a victim, though we don’t know his attitude. Did Jesus know his heart and answer in light of that knowledge? Or did Christ just use the incident as a teaching point about temporary material concerns versus eternal spiritual values.
In any event, it was not the role of Jesus to arbitrate such questions (though rabbis of the time would be called upon to adjudicate legal affairs). Christ uses it rather as an opportunity to make a teaching point about greed and true values systems.
The parable is a simple one of a farmer who was very successful and could have a guaranteed income from his abundance for the rest of his life. He could take life easy and, to reference one of the most famous quotes of Scripture (one of those that many people use and don’t even know comes from the Bible and the words of Jesus) … “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”
There has never been anyone who knew for certain the length of his or her life. We have seen in many ways in recent days and months how, for all of us, our lives hang by a thread. So it is foolish to presume upon the future with certainty.
It all comes down to our internal values systems. There is nothing wrong with seeking to be very successful. There is every good reason to prudently plan for the future. It is not sinful to have 401K plans or IRA accounts and other investments.
The error is to trust in them over trusting in God. Beyond that, it is wrong to horde the blessings that have their source ultimately in God’s grace and not be generous is using those resources to bless others in the Lord’s name.
Perhaps the functional question to test our hearts in this matter is to ask what we find ourselves both thinking about, along with what we find ourselves giving our time and treasure toward. Do we find ourselves focused upon accounts, investments, stock futures and closing bell indexes of the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P 500 more than upon our ministering and serving lives? Do we find that we are forever planning and intending to serve God and be more generous someday – after we just get a bit more financially stabilized? These things can become patterns, and the next thing you know, there you are at age 75, still hoping to someday make God and service a frontline value of life.
It is one of those primary life enigmas … one of those counterintuitive truths: the way to GET the most is to GIVE the most. The way to find material world pleasure is through spiritual world investment.
Luke 12:13 – Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “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. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “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?’
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”