On many occasions, the four Gospels reveal Jesus speaking on the topic of money and material wealth. A couple of reasons come to my mind to explain this emphasis. First of all, we are both spiritual and physical beings. As physical beings we are going to need and consume physical resources. In fact, our spiritual and physical lives are so connected that our relationship with God is going to be expressed through how we think about and use the material things of this earth, including money.
Money Has A Spiritual Power Behind It
Secondly, money has a spiritual power behind it. When we look at a $100 paper bill, it represents more than a mere physical reality. It has the ability to mold peoples’ attitudes and lifestyles. Many people will go to great efforts, including jeopardizing their closest relationships, to acquire more of it. Security and a person’s sense of self-worth can become overly reliant on mammon (physical wealth), even to the point of supplanting trust in the LORD.Jesus was well aware of these human tendencies. And he was well aware of Scripture verses like Proverbs 30:8,9:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
Jesus warned his listeners many times on the spiritual dangers of wealth and greed.
Jesus Never Condemned Rich People For Their Wealth
Jesus, however, never condemns wealthy people just because they are wealthy. Abraham was a wealthy man with flocks of sheep and herds of cattle. Jacob had a multitude of sheep, cattle and camels. David was a wealthy king. All you need to do is read how much he set aside from his personal wealth for the building of the Jerusalem Temple.
These wealthy people were not condemned. Why? Because they were rich toward God. They put more trust in the LORD and His faithfulness, than they did in their possessions. In Jesus’ Parable of the Rich Fool that we find in Luke 12:16-21, Jesus didn’t condemn the man for having big barns and bumper crops. He censured him for being greedy.
The Parable Of The Rich Fool
Jesus tells the Parable of the Rich Fool to teach the petitioning brother (Luke 12:13), the original listeners and us, that a greater abundance of goods doesn’t mean an abundance of life (Luke 12:15). We do need a certain minimum amount of material goods for the necessities of life. But a richness of goods doesn’t doesn’t necessarily translate into a richness of life.
Jesus’ Parable begins this way in Luke 12:16,17: “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.” This rich man dialogued with himself. This is noteworthy because in this culture, the men of the village or town love to talk and discuss with one another. Kenneth Bailey writes that even to this day, “the slightest transaction is worthy of hours of discussion…..The elder in such a community makes up his mind in community. He decides what he will do after hours of discussion with his friends.” The man in Jesus’ Parable doesn’t seem to have friends to confide in. His wealth has made him poor in human relationships.
He also doesn’t have a sense that his wealth and bumper crop are God’s gifts to him. In verses 17 and 18, he talks of what he is going to do with “my” crops, “my” barns and “my” goods. There are a lot of references to “I” and “my” but their is a deafening absence of reference to God in his self-dialogue. And then when he comes up with his solution of building bigger barns to store his bumper crops, look what he says in verse 19: “And (then) I will say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink and be merry.”
He has left other people and His Creator God entirely out of the picture. He has no idea that his wealth and even his very soul and life are gifts from God. They are on loan to him from his Maker. That very night, God asks for his very soul to be returned back to Him. In Luke 12:20 we read these words: “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?”
In conclusion, Jesus says: “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). This rich man assumed that he was the ultimate owner of his crops and barns and the ultimate owner of his soul. Jesus’ Parable presents him wrong on both counts.
The Parable also teaches that the person who thinks security and the good life are to be found in material things is sheer stupidity (“You fool”, verse 20a). Jesus teaches us that our security and sense of well being cannot depend on material goods or on ideal external circumstances. These are too variable. Besides, every good thing we enjoy in life ultimately comes from our heavenly Father. And it is He who doesn’t change like shifting shadows (James 1:17). It is to Him our worship and ultimate trust needs to rest in.
QOTD: Is my ultimate security and sense of well being in material goods and in ideal circumstances, or is it in the LORD?