Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”
Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” Luke 12:13-21
At this point, a man in the crowd interrupted Jesus and asked Him to solve a family problem (feud). Rabbis were expected to help settle legal matters, but Jesus refused to get involved. Why? Because He knew that no answer He gave would solve the real problem, which was covetousness in the hearts of the two brothers. As long as both men were greedy no settlement would be satisfactory. Their greatest need was to have their hearts changed. Like too many people today, they wanted Jesus to serve them, but not save them.
Covetousness is an unquenchable thirst for getting more and more of something we think we need in order to be truly satisfied. It may be a thirst for money or the things that money can buy, or even a thirst for position and power. Jesus made it clear that true life does not depend on an abundance of possessions. He did not deny that we have certain basic needs. He only affirmed that we will not make life richer by acquiring more of these things.
Mark Twain once defined ‘civilization’ as ‘a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities,” and he was right. In fact, many Christians are infected with covetousness and do not know it. They think that Paul’s admonition in 1 Timothy 6 applies only to the ‘rich and famous.’ Measured by the living standards of the rest of the world, most believers in America are indeed wealthy people.
Jesus told this parable to reveal the dangers that lurk in a covetous heart. As you read it, test your own responses to this farmer’s various experience.
How do you respond to the wealthy farmer’s dilemma? Here was a man who had a problem with too much wealth! If we say, “I certainly wish I had that problem! we may be revealing covetousness in our hearts. If suddenly you inherited a great deal of wealth, would it create a problem for you? Or would you simply praise God and ask Him what He wanted you to do with it?
There are perils to prosperity. Wealth can choke the Word of God, create sinners and temptations, and give you a false sense of security. People say that money does not satisfy, but it does satisfy if you want to live on that level. People who are satisfied only with the things that money can buy are in great danger of losing the things that money cannot buy.
This farmer saw his wealth as an opportunity to please himself. He had no thoughts of others or of God.
How do you respond to the decisions of the rich man? Are you saying, “Now that is a shrewd business!”Save and have it ready for the future!” But Jesus saw selfishness in all that this man did, and He said the man was a fool. The world’s philosophy is “Take care of Number One!” But Jesus does not endorse that philosophy.
There is certainly nothing wrong with following good business principles, or even with saving for the future. Jesus does not encourage waste. But neither does Jesus encourage selfishness motivated by covetousness.
How do you respond to the farmer’s desires? Are you saying, “This is the life! The man has success, satisfaction, and security! What more could he want?” But Jesus did not see this farmer enjoying life; He saw him facing death! Wealth cannot keep us alive when our time comes to die, nor can it buy back the opportunities we missed while we were thinking of ourselves and ignoring God and others.
Jesus has made it clear that true life does not come from an abundance of things, nor does true success or security. This man had a false view of both life and death. He thought that life came from accumulating things and that death was far away.
Finally, how do you respond to the death of the boastful farmer? We are prone to say, “Too bad this fellow died just when he had everything going for him! How tragic that he could not finish his great plans.” But the greatest tragedy is not what the man left behind, but what lay before him; eternity without God! The man lived without God and died without God, and his wealth was but an incident in his life. God is not impressed with our money.