The living God has revealed to us in the holy Scriptures that He inspired that His church will experience difficulties in the days preceding the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. We discover that in Paul’s second letter to Timothy where he says, “But realize this that in the last days difficult times will come.” Christians should, therefore, not be surprised when they find themselves in difficult times. Whether those difficult times include pandemics, economic downturns, or social unrest they are designed to remind God’s people that Jesus will soon return.
I find it interesting that in the very text that warns us to be ready for difficult times that God’s inerrant Word declares that an aspect of those difficult times will be an increase of people who are lovers of money, as we read in Second Timothy 3:2, “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, [and] unholy.” A lover of money is one who spends his or her life willfully and eagerly acquiring and hoarding money and possessions. This person has a singular focus on materialism and the ownership of things–as much as he or she can get. They live by the motto: “The one with the most stuff wins!” It doesn’t matter that they cannot take it with them or that wealth and possessions are only temporary. They want it all and they want it now!
There are abundant references in the Bible about greed and covetousness. The tenth commandment in Exodus 20:17 tells us not to covet. Wisdom from the book of Proverbs says, “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.” (Proverbs 23:4-5) These verses warn against consuming our lives for the sake of money and possessions. This pearl of wisdom is needed in our present day when materialism drives many people to obsession in order to accumulate more money. Wisdom teaches that riches are temporary and unstable. The reality of life is that seeking after wealth results in wealth flying away like an eagle. Just when you think you have security in money and possessions, something changes and they fly away as if they had wings like a bird.
God warned the people of Israel about being consumed by wealth and possessions in Deuteronomy 8:11-14. “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” In Luke 12:13-21, both the man in the crowd and the man in Jesus’ parable were guilty of forgetting the Lord God.
They have forgotten that God is sovereign over all–all people, all time, and all events. He exercises sovereign power because this universe is His creation. He causes all things to proceed to a destiny of His design and His purposes are neither arbitrary nor capricious. A wise person lives in harmony with God’s design. A fool fails to recognize God’s authority and sovereign boundaries.
These verses in Luke’s gospel include a family dispute, Jesus’ warning about greed, His parable of a rich fool, and an application of divine truth. We begin with a warning about greed.
THE PRINCIPLE ABOUT GREED. Luke 12:13-15
A Family Dispute. According to Luke 12:1, a large crowd numbering in the thousands had gathered around Jesus and His disciples to hear Him speak. As Jesus concluded His remarks about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees by saying “the Holy Spirit will teach you what you ought to say,” a man in the crowd audaciously interrupted Jesus. Evidently, the man’s father had recently died and the man’s older brother refused to divide the estate and give him his inheritance. Even in the first century, if the father had left a will, it would have been followed, but if he did not leave a will, then the entire estate became to possession of the eldest brother. For whatever reason, the older brother refused to split the inheritance and so the man complained to Jesus. Family feuds, especially when they involve money, are among the most difficult to reconcile.
It was not unusual for rabbis to give biblical advice when called upon. But this man was asking for more than advice; he wanted Jesus to use His authority to demand that the older brother give the younger his portion of the inheritance. The man was more interested in wealth and possessions than he was about his relationship with his brother–or with Jesus.
Solving the Problem Behind the Problem. Jesus refused to offer judgment or to become an arbitrator in this case. Jesus’ mission on earth was to seek and to save that which was lost and to give His life as a ransom for many. His primary purpose was to provide salvation for souls not to help people become materialistically wealthy. There could be no confusion about that.
But, in this case, Jesus obviously recognized that the complainer was greedy. He wanted money–as much as he could get–and he was willing to do anything, even interrupt Jesus’ message to get it. He clearly had adopted the point of view that the greatest good in life is to acquire material possessions. He may have heard one of the Pharisees’ favorite expressions that “Whom the Lord loves, He makes rich.” Apparently, that was the one religious lesson he remembered. The Bible shows that God does not forbid being wealthy. We find many people in the Bible were people of abundant means. Yet God does forbid loving money, wealth, and possessions. It is this love of money that Jesus warned against. This is the greed we are told to beware.
The Principle: Life Does Not Consist of Possessions. Put simply, Jesus tells us that our lives do not consist of the stuff we possess. In fact, greed is an unquenchable thirst for getting more and more of things we think we need in order to be truly satisfied and happy. It may be difficult for us to believe that people in the first century could be trapped by greed as we can in the twenty-first century, but greed is a universal problem that every person must confront.
One scholar wrote, “Few sayings of Jesus are more relevant to the consumer mentality of the modern world than this statement, for life cannot be measured or judged by the amount of stuff we own, amass, or win.” (James Edwards, 2015) Mark Twain once defined “civilization” as “a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities,” and he was right. Many Christians are infected with greed and do not know it. Jesus pointed directly to the dangers that lurk in the greedy heart. We must ask ourselves the question, “Are we content with what God has given us?” Or, do we covet wealth and possessions believing they will give me security and happiness?
THE PARABLE ABOUT GREED. Luke 12:16-20
A Rich Man’s Problem. We must notice that Jesus draws our attention to the fact that it was the land that was very productive. The man’s surplus wealth was caused by conditions beyond his control. The land was very productive because of God’s sovereign permission. God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. The kindness of God is designed to bring the unsaved to repentance. But this rich fool was too self-centered to see that.
This rich man had a problem. He had too much wealth! If we say, “I wish I had that problem!” we may be revealing the greed in our own hearts. I wonder what you or I would do if we suddenly found ourselves owning a great deal of wealth–would it create a problem for us? Or would we simply praise God and ask Him what He wanted us to do with it?
Like this rich farmer, we are completely dependent on God’s grace in life. He is the One who provides for our needs. He is the One who gave us the skills and training that enable us to earn a living. Instead of being foolishly self-centered, like this rich man, we should offer gratitude and praise to the Lord for His provision.
A Rich Man’s Selfish Solution. The rich man solved his problem by building larger storage barns in order to hoard all of his stuff. He didn’t want to sell his surplus; he wanted to store it in case he could get a better price later. That is the trouble with material possessions. We start out thinking we own them but in reality, they own us. The more stuff we own the more we are servants to stuff. If you’ll notice, the man’s selfishness floats to the surface of the story, he said “I” six times and “my” five more times. He did not care at all what God wanted for him. This was his wealth and his alone. The will of God did not even occur to him.
The rich man’s extreme self-absorption fueled by greed bounded to new limits. Now he had enough to be secure and happy for the rest of his life. He could spend his life eating and drinking and being merry–wrapping himself in worldly and material pleasures. Yet securing his economic future does not mean his future is secure.
By the way, greed can afflict anyone and introduce sin into life. Even pastors are not immune to this evil. I recently heard of a pastor who urged his congregation to help his raise millions of dollars so that he could afford a new jet so that he could fly around the country. He said it was for ministry, but that kind of ministry is not what Jesus commanded. He told us to train others to go into the world to preach the gospel. Rather than an airplane, perhaps that money would be better spent training others to preach and teach God’s truth.
A Rich Man’s Unseen Peril. As soon as the last new barn was built and the last grain stored inside, the Lord determined that the man’s time on earth was complete. And, when God says “Time’s up!” it’s over. We’re done! The rich fool did not foresee that rather than eating, drinking, and being merry, he would fill a grave. His lack of understanding of God’s sovereign control in gaining wealth blinded him to God’s sovereign control over life itself.
All of his wealth and all of his possessions went to someone else. He ended up deriving little benefit from his greed. This is the ultimate “You can’t take it with you” story. This man, like all others before and after, died leaving all of his material possessions behind. Nothing material from this life is transferred to the next.
THE APPLICATION TO LIFE. Luke 12:21
The Universal Application. The phrase “so is the man” indicates that this principle applies to all people. Selfish devotion to material possessions and wealth does nothing but leave any person spiritually bankrupt, unprepared, and unforgiven in eternity. So completely captured by greed, this man and multitudes of others, find no time to be concerned for their eternal soul and end up lost and hopeless forever.
Greed is the excessive focus on possessions and wealth. Greed can create a distortion about what life is, because the definition of life is not found in objects but relationships; especially to the Lord Jesus Christ and His will. Greed becomes idolatry because it tends to become a god that drives one into a sinful life. Real life is tied to the Lord, His offer of forgiveness of sins, His values and His rewards. It is being faithful in response to God’s goodness. Real life, which is truly rich, is rich toward God, not things.
So universal is this principle that we can easily see it in life around us today. Scam artists and hucksters of every kind prey on greedy people who are tempted to find instant wealth in get-rich-quick schemes. The storage business is growing because we covet and hoard stuff and then buy more space so we can keep on coveting and hoarding. The greedy materialism of our day tells us life is defined by what we have. But life isn’t about stuff at all.
We Should Be Rich Toward God. The Bible tells us to “store up for [ourselves] treasures in heaven.” (Matthew 6:20) We do that by recognizing God’s sovereign control over every aspect of life and by choosing to obey His will for our lives. We are to do what He commands us to do. Being rich toward God means to acknowledge with thanksgiving that everything we have comes from our Lord, and then make the effort to use what He gives us for the good of others and for the glory of God. The wealth and possessions God gives us can be enjoyed and employed at the same time if it is our choice to honor the Lord with what we own. To be rich toward God means spiritual enrichment, not just personal enjoyment. It is tragic when people are rich in this world but absolutely lost and poverty stricken in the next.
The rich fool in Jesus’ parable failed to recognize God’s sovereign authority and control. And, that’s the real message, isn’t it? The rich fool was a self-centered man and it is no surprise he looked at his wealth and possessions selfishly. He was greedy because his heart was filled with pride and had no room for God at all. The man lived without God and died without God. I wonder how many others do the same?
The members of High Prairie Church are committed to the mission of proclaiming the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God’s purpose and plans. Jesus’ death was the very reason He came. God for-gives sin only because of the death of Christ. Only when a sinner trusts in the Savior, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to save them from their sins can they be forgiven. The greatest note of victory ever sounded in the ears of this amazed universe was that sounded by the Lord Jesus on Calvary’s cross–“It is finished!” It is the ultimate and final world in forgiveness and redemption. Only in Jesus can you be saved. Trust in Jesus today!
Updated by Pastor Vernon Welkner, 11/23/2020