The Illusion of Wealth and the Futility of Worry
(Luke chapter 12, verses 13-34)
Last week when we concluded our study of part 1 of Luke chapter 12, Jesus had just finished stating that when any of his followers are brought before the ruling authorities for their faith, the Holy Spirit will prompt them what to say and how to say it. Since Jesus' ministry was still ongoing at this time, he was prophesying about the early 1st century church and the persecution they would endure. As you can see from reading the text, the apostles and the others all around them did not understand what Jesus meant because he was talking about the future. But just then, an unidentified man speaks up and makes a request to our Lord and Savior, and we'll begin our study right there, beginning at verse thirteen.
“Someone in the crowd said to him, 'Teacher, tell my brother to divide my inheritance with me.' Jesus replied, 'Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?' Then he said to them, 'Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions.' And he told them this parable: 'The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'what should I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I'll do; I'll tear down my old barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, 'You have plenty of good things 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 for anyone who stores up things for himself, but is not rich toward God.'” (Luke 12, verses 13-21)
Jesus had nothing to do with earthly matters such as civil disputes like the one mentioned in verses 13-15, and our Lord and Kinsman Redeemer wasn't the least bit shy about letting anybody know that. Jesus called the man's request exactly what it was – greed. He then used that as a teaching moment when he said to them all, “'Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions.'” Notice how our Lord didn't care about whether he offended the man or not. The truth, no matter how painful it can sometimes seem to us, reigns paramount when Jesus takes charge. And why shouldn't he take charge? He's the Son of the living God, so calling out evil in any of its forms was not only his job description, it was his calling too. His teaching subject here is greed and materialistic people, and why they're both morally wrong. He then cites an example of what he means.
The “Parable of the Rich Fool”, as the Bible calls it, is a lesson on establishing proper priorities in our lives. Notice the parable Jesus told the apostles and the crowd around them, and how the wealthy old fool's perfect human logic was his Spiritual undoing. As Jesus relates this little story of his, a certain farmer who had had a large bumper crop had been blessed with so much he didn't know what to do with it all. So he makes a wrong choice by building bigger barns, assuming he will have a long and prosperous life thanks to his success. He does things his way without bothering to consult the Lord in prayer about it as he should have. This farmer should have sold off as much of the excess as he could and given a generous portion to the poor and needy before storing the remainder. Instead, he thought of only himself, and he then dies in his sleep on the very night his new barns are completed. How pathetic! This, my dear readers, is the folly of being materialistic. It also shows how making assumptions can back fire on anybody in the worst possible way, and always at the worst possible moment, when it comes to our relationship with God through Christ.
“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 for anyone who stores up things for himself, but is not rich toward God.” Death often comes without warning, very suddenly. It is therefore imperative that we live our lives as if each day will be our last. Reject materialism! Despise the pursuit of wealth and goods for their own sake, and call out those who love these things. Make a stand against greed in all its forms and those who promote it as if greed were some kind of virtue. You know; like large multinational corporations and national governments? Place your faith only in the blood of Jesus, which was shed on a cross for you and I. It's the only thing that lasts forever, and it's the only thing that doesn't get left behind when we die. Even when the blood of Jesus is all we have, the blood of Jesus is all we need. And now let's move on to the 2nd part of our study, beginning at verse 22.
“Jesus then said to his disciples, 'Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what will you wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you, by worrying, can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, oh you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you as well.” (Luke 12, verses 22-31)
“....do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what will you wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.” Does this mean it's a sin to worry? While a certain level of concern for our safety and well being is normal, Jesus was talking about those who worry excessively or compulsively about money and material goods, not to mention investments and debts of all kinds. If any of those who have a lot of investments, for example, worries constantly about them or spends their days stressing out over a bunch of money that they will leave behind when they die anyway, then all their worrying is pointless, to put it simply. “Who of you, by worrying, can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very thing, why do you worry about the rest?” There's more to our lives than our money, our houses and everything in them, or our cars and other possessions, not to mention our careers. Our relationship with Jesus Christ as the Lord of our lives should always have the highest priority. Everything else comes second, including our careers and our families.
“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, oh you of little faith!” Quit worrying about your clothes, especially concerning whether they are in style or not. If you need clothes but can't afford them, try buying at least some of them from thrift stores. If that offends anyone, they have too much pride and those individuals need to correct that, whomever they may be. Pride gets in the way of our relationship with Christ, and if pride is in the way then our faith has become compromised. It won't cost us our salvation unless pride gets completely out of hand, but our walk with Jesus throughout our lives will be more distant and Spiritually diminished. Who wants that? Not me.
“And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after such things, and your father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you as well.” Quit worrying about all that stuff. It's a complete waste of time. If we all had sufficient faith, we would already know that our needs will be provided for in advance. It's not our job to know exactly how this will take place, so stop worrying about that. We can't control it anyway. We can be absolutely sure about this – the Lord God Almighty will supply all your needs, and his timing is always perfect. But this does not necessarily mean we will get everything we ask for, but if our requests and prayers are in line with God's will for our lives, we will receive all we need. Not always everything we want, mind you, but we will get all our needs met, and that includes the state of our stomachs as well as the state of our wardrobes. And now let's have a look at the last part of our study, starting at verse 32.
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to bring you the Kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and where no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, your heart will be also.” Luke 12, verses 32-34)
“Seek His kingdom,” Jesus had just said, followed by an encouragement, since seeking God directly was unheard of until our Lord and Savior came along. 'Don't be afraid to approach God', Jesus was telling them, 'because he will be happier to see you than you can possibly imagine'. But what did Jesus mean by “little flock”? Was he comparing the crowd around him to farm animals? Not at all! This was a reference to the 23rd Psalm (“he leads me to green pastures, besides still waters”, and, “his rod and his staff comfort me”), but he apparently left its interpretation up to his apostles and the crowd of listeners and followers who were gathered around them. But then he said something whose interpretation was abundantly clear. “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” Of course, today we have charities large and small that will gladly take our donations, but this was not the case in Jesus' time. Unneeded items were either given away to someone the owner knew or they were thrown out. The whole idea of giving to complete strangers was not all that popular up until the time of Christ. Today, with so many people in serious economic distress, all of us need to step up our efforts to care for those less fortunate than ourselves.
“Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and where no moth destroys.” If anyone wants to store up treasure for themselves, stash it all in heaven where no one can get to it. Don't worry about that, either. God lives there, and there's a multitude of angels guarding all that treasure that people like ourselves have been storing, and will continue to store up, for the rest of our lives, and ultimately for all eternity. As before, none of us has any reason to be fearful about our stuff, our homes or apartments and everything in them, or about transportation or even whether you own a car or not (personally, I don't own one). God is still seated on his throne, and he's not going anywhere – forever! Moreover, Jesus is there waiting for us, for all who call upon his name, and the only time he will leave that place is when he comes to take us home – all of us who worship him in Spirit and in Truth. So let's anticipate this day, which is coming soon, and which will arrive at an unexpected time. Therefore let's make ourselves ready to be received by Him. At that moment is when we'll all know it was worth the wait. And next week, we'll move on to part 3 of Luke chapter 12.