Jesus was on a roll. He taught people how to pray. He taught in more parables to include the parable of the persistent friend. He talked about how much our heavenly Father wants to give us good things.
If we who are broken can figure out how to give our kids good things, how much more will our Father in heaven give us?
Jesus healed and talked about signs at the end of the age. He talked about not hiding a light under a bushel. I wonder how long it took for someone to compose the song that we grew up singing? Hide it under a bushel…No! I’m gonna let it shine.
Jesus picked on the Pharisees for a while. They were to have been the wise shepherds of Israel but failed miserably. Then he delivered some very powerful words. If you confess me before men, then I will confess you before my Father in heaven and the angels. That’s just cool beans.
Jesus speaking on our behalf before God the Father and before the angels in heaven—that’s just cool beans. Jesus went on to say that if you get dragged in before the authorities because you have professed me, don’t worry. The Holy Spirit will give you the words to say.
Jesus was on a roll. Then here is what I think happened. He took a breath. He paused. He had been teaching and explaining and giving the multitude plenty to think on and so he stopped speaking for a moment. Skilled orators do this to give those who are truly listening and trying to understand a chance to do just that.
But somebody in the crowd saw his opportunity to get his attention. Hey! You! Rabbi! Tell my brother to give me my part of the estate!
Here we see Jesus teaching wonderful lessons about how God’s Spirit will be with us and take care of us and even give us the words to say in difficult situations. He talked about presenting us in the best light to his Father in heaven. He told the multitude just how good that God is, and this guy saw his chance to get Jesus to sort out this very secular problem,
We don’t have any pictures of Jesus. Nobody even took a Polaroid. No paintings from the time. The artists who interpret what they think Jesus looks like and put it on canvas always seem to give him lots of hair. If I had any artistic ability—and you should know that I have been arrested by the art police on occasion—but if I had the talent to put paint to canvas, my picture of Jesus would be one with patches of hair missing.
I can just see Jesus pulling his hair out over and over again. Jesus is talking love and eternity and having God’s own Spirit within us and this guy in the crowd can only see someone who might work out his immediate problem. For people who don’t really know Jesus, that model continues.
Most of the people that we help with food and bills, just want their immediate problem fixed. What they need the most is to know Jesus.
Did this young man have a legitimate issue? Probably. The details are not provided. But of all the things that Jesus came to do, sorting out the day-to-day pettiness of humankind was not among them.
Jesus knew that all of humankind stood condemned in sin. He came to make a way for us to live in right standing with God even though it seemed we could never get much of anything right on our own accord.
Jesus is abrupt with this young man. He said to him, “Man, who made me arbitrator of this matter?” Some translations say, “Mister, who made me the judge here?”
Some soften the abruptness of what Jesus had to say by saying, “Friend, who made me the judge?”
I prefer the stronger, more abrupt language mainly because admonishment follows this rhetorical question. Jesus said “Watch out!” He warned to “Be on guard.”
For what? For all kinds of covetousness—for all kinds of greed—that’s what. Watch out for what? Watch out for what wraps up the Decalogue. Do not covet. Jesus makes this command a warning. Why?
If you are not on your guard, coveting will infiltrate your lines. Coveting uses terrorist tactics. Coveting doesn’t get you head on. It sneaks up on you.
Then he gives us words that I hope we remember until the end of the age. These words put our lives into perspective.
A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.
Hear this in other translations.
Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.
Life is not measured by how much you own.
Watch out and be on guard against all greed because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.
Here’s Tom’s assimilation: Our stuff is not our life! It’s good to have money and stuff as we navigate this life, but what we have is not our life.
Jesus launches into this parable. “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’”
What does this man’s worldly success—his worldly abundance—bring him? It brings worry and anxiety. The man had barns and they were either already full or just not big enough. What would he do with what promised to be a bumper crop?
His thought was that he would tear down his existing barn and build new, larger storage facilities. Trucking it all down to the COOP was not an available option. Selling it all at once and putting the proceeds in his money market account were not first century options, at least not in the form that we know them today. The man was probably shrewd to some extent and didn’t want to sell during harvest but same the crop for later when prices increased.
Why did he need to tear down his existing barns? Maybe he didn’t want to build on his fertile crop land. Maybe this is just a little hubris. He has been driving a Ford for a few years but now he is upgrading to a Mercedes. He doesn’t even want that Ford sitting in his driveway. That’s beneath his status now.
The bottom line is that we don’t know, but what we do know is that nowhere in his heart or mind was the thought of taking a large part of this abundant crop and giving it to the Lord. Feeding the poor and needy was a thing back then too.
Think of the admonishment and promise that came through the prophet Malachi. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.
When most people read this scripture, they key in on God opening the floodgates of heaven and pouring out blessing on them, but there is something else that happens when people tithe. God’s storehouse is full. The means to feed the poor and hungry is provided.
This man that we have come to call the Rich Fool never even engaged this line of thinking. What was he thinking? My ship has come in. I hit the lottery. Life is going to be good—really good—from now on.
He was going to kick back, enjoy his bounty, and feast his way through the rest of his years. Here’s another way to look at his attitude. My life does consist in the abundance of my possessions.
Now that’s a success story. That is exactly what the world is selling. Get rich and enjoy life. That’s all there is to it. The bumper sticker—back in the age of bumper stickers—read: He who dies with the most toys wins!
The parable continues and God informs this man who thinks that he needs to build bigger barns so he can kick back for the rest of his days that his days are numbered and his number is up. The psalmist petitions the Lord to teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
This man whom God called foolish was not in search of wisdom. He wanted comfort and security. He wanted what he thought was rightfully coming to him. This man sounds a lot like the young man who asked Jesus to “Tell my brother to divide the estate.”
Both wanted the things that would let them enjoy life; yet, neither had considered that this life is but a mist. We are here for such a short time.
The life of the man in this parable was at an end. His life was in his possessions and his potential possessions. His riches were his life. Greed and selfishness were his compass. It’s all about me. That wasn’t the end of the story. Jesus asked a question in the context of the parable but it should jump out at us.
Who will get what this foolish man had stored up for himself? Now for us: Who will get what you have stored up for yourselves?
The same proverb answers both questions. The good person—the wise person—will leave an inheritance not only for their children but for their children’s children. We know that the most important part of that is bringing our children and grandchildren up to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior, but there are the tangible things of the world that go with that counsel as well.
The second part of the proverb deals with the foolish or wicked person. Their wealth is stored up for the righteous.
A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children,
but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.
There were probably some who were listening to Jesus who knew this proverb. They had an answer for what seemed like a rhetorical question.
To the man we call the Rich Fool, this was a debilitating question. Not only was his life over but he would have no say in what happened to his riches. His expectations were totally deflated. It was game over. It was just over and what could have been would never be, at least for him.
Now we come to the words that should bring us to reality. Jesus said:
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
Rich is an interesting word. In modern context it is in adjective. He is a rich man. Rich describes a quality of the man.
But in its original context from the Greek, the word that we have translated into rich, plouteó (ploo-teh'-o) is a verb. In very modern semantics, it would be classified as a verb in the present continuous tense. I know that if I do too much grammar and syntax here, I will lose half of you to the aroma of the fellowship meal that is being prepared.
Understand that rich is a verb, and that verb brings us to a question that I hope you will meditate upon, discuss, and find ways to put into practice. What question?
Are we rich towards God?
Have we made our lives all about us?
Is God really first in our lives or do we just work him in when it’s convenient?
If I could meet all of my physical needs—money, a place to live, food, and fun for the rest of my life—would I be willing to give up my relationship with God and just eat, drink, and be merry? Does that appeal to me?
Is my life all about earthy riches, earthly treasure?
Do I believe that life is fullest when I follow Jesus, or do I think that I have been cheated out of something?
Jesus said, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Is our treasure all of this earth. Do we need to build bigger barns? Do our hearts desire to build bigger barns more than they desire the ways of God?
Have we stored up any treasure in heaven?
Are we rich towards God?
A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. A man’s life consists in his relationship with God; but what kind of relationship is that?
Do we have a token relationship? We say a prayer every now and then at meals, but our lives are lived for ourselves. In devouring this thing called life, we manage to throw in a little God for seasoning.
Do we have a growing relationship? We wrestle with the things of this world and the ways of the Lord. If we had a scoreboard, there would have been too many lead changes to keep up with. The old self and the new self, the old creation and the new creation, and trusting God and leaning on our own understanding each taking center stage at different times. We want to be transformed but because we have been conformed to the patterns of this world, it’s a battle.
Do we have a rich relationship with God? We don’t get everything right all the time, but we can’t imagine doing anything without God being first in our lives. We cannot imagine seeking our selfish desires before seeking the Kingdom of God. We still have sins to confess but we are overwhelmed in the righteousness granted us in the blood of Jesus.
Are we rich towards God? That is the question before us. I don’t know where you are at this point in your lives, but my prayer is that one day we will change the question to an affirmation.
I am rich towards God!
This won’t be a boast. It simply affirms that God is first, central in my life. It is more than the tithe. It is more than offerings. It is living our entire lives for God.
Paul called this a living sacrifice. Today, we will use the words of the parable and I hope that we can all affirm, I am rich towards God!
If it is not yet your affirmation, make it your self-talk. I am rich towards God.