Faithlife Sermons

7 April 2018 — El rico necio

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A story that my college English professor related to the freshman English class sounded like it had been scripted by Tennessee Williams, but it was her own real-life drama. She and her five sisters had grown up in a small Midwestern town during the Depression where her father, despite the difficulties of the time, rose to become a successful banker. She had gone off to a university, but her sisters stayed close to home, married, and settled down. She likewise married and taught on the West Coast.
When her aging father died, she and her husband hurried home for the funeral. As they comforted her poor mother, they noticed in mute amazement that everything in the house had been tagged by the other sisters with their names—Judy’s, Margaret’s, Annie’s. She and her husband were appalled but said nothing.
The table was set, and dinner was served amidst mounting tension and awkward conversation. There were long periods of acrimonious silence. Then her husband stood, stepped behind their mother’s chair, and said, “Everyone’s tagged what they want. We’re placing our tag on what we want.” And he placed his hands on their poor mother’s shoulders.
Greed is always ugly. Covetousness can turn a family’s mutual mourning into an orgy of hatred.
MacArthur
This text provides an opportunity to introduce, in general, the biblical perspective on money, about which the Lord Jesus Christ had much to say. He taught that it is an index to a person’s character, so much so that people’s view of money is evidence of whether or not their salvation is genuine. After his conversion Zaccheus said,
Lucas 19.8 RVR60
Entonces Zaqueo, puesto en pie, dijo al Señor: He aquí, Señor, la mitad de mis bienes doy a los pobres; y si en algo he defraudado a alguno, se lo devuelvo cuadruplicado.
In response Jesus declared,
Lucas 19.9 RVR60
Jesús le dijo: Hoy ha venido la salvación a esta casa; por cuanto él también es hijo de Abraham.
The immediate change in his attitude toward money was evidence of his spiritual transformation. Jesus affirmed the reality of Zaccheus’s salvation based on his willingness to part with his money for the glory of God and to help others.
“Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much” (). In response Jesus declared, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham” (v. 9). The immediate change in his attitude toward money was evidence of his spiritual transformation. Jesus affirmed the reality of Zaccheus’s salvation based on his willingness to part with his money for the glory of God and to help others.
“Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham” (v. 9). The immediate change in his attitude toward money was evidence of his spiritual transformation. Jesus affirmed the reality of Zaccheus’s salvation based on his willingness to part with his money for the glory of God and to help others.
On the other hand, the rich young synagogue ruler who sought eternal life also heard Jesus’ call to repent and follow Him. But when the Lord tested his willingness to give all his possessions to the poor (), this man’s reaction was the opposite of Zaccheus’s. Instead of responding eagerly at any cost to receive the life he sought by obedient faith as Zaccheus had,
Mateo 19.22 RVR60
Oyendo el joven esta palabra, se fue triste, porque tenía muchas posesiones.
Zaccheus’s changed attitude toward money was evidence of spiritual transformation and true repentance; the rich young ruler’s refusal to abandon his materialism manifested his lack of repentance and superficial interest in the spiritual realm.
“he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property” (v. 22). Zaccheus’s changed attitude toward money was evidence of spiritual transformation and true repentance; the rich young ruler’s refusal to abandon his materialism manifested his lack of repentance and superficial interest in the spiritual realm.
How people view money is thus an effective barometer of their spirituality. Money is neither good nor bad in itself; corrupt people can put it to evil uses, while good people can put it to righteous uses. Though it is morally neutral, what people do with their money reflects their life priorities. In the words of Jesus,
Lucas 12.34 RVR60
Porque donde está vuestro tesoro, allí estará también vuestro corazón.
The Bible does not forbid the possession of money; in fact, it teaches that God give wealth
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” ().
Deuteronomio 8.18 RVR60
Sino acuérdate de Jehová tu Dios, porque él te da el poder para hacer las riquezas, a fin de confirmar su pacto que juró a tus padres, como en este día.
The Bible does not forbid the possession of money; in fact, it teaches that “God [gives the] power to make wealth” (), and “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (). That blessing made many godly men in Scripture, such as Job (), Abraham (), Isaac (), Jacob (), Boaz (), Solomon (), and Joseph of Arimathea () extremely wealthy. God promised His people that their obedience to Him would result in necessary material, as well as abundant spiritual blessings (; ; ).
1 Timoteo 6.17 RVR60
A los ricos de este siglo manda que no sean altivos, ni pongan la esperanza en las riquezas, las cuales son inciertas, sino en el Dios vivo, que nos da todas las cosas en abundancia para que las disfrutemos.
[Begin with ....el Dios vivo....]
That blessing made many godly men in Scripture, such as Job (), Abraham (), Isaac (), Jacob (), Boaz (), Solomon (), and Joseph of Arimathea Arimatea () extremely wealthy. God promised His people that their obedience to Him would result in necessary material, as well as abundant spiritual blessings (; ; ).
But while the Bible does not forbid possessing money, it does forbid loving it, warning that
1 Timoteo 6.10 RVR60
porque raíz de todos los males es el amor al dinero, el cual codiciando algunos, se extraviaron de la fe, y fueron traspasados de muchos dolores.
Later in that chapter, Paul exhorted Timothy to
1 Timoteo 6.17 RVR60
A los ricos de este siglo manda que no sean altivos, ni pongan la esperanza en las riquezas, las cuales son inciertas, sino en el Dios vivo, que nos da todas las cosas en abundancia para que las disfrutemos.
[End in ....en las riquezas…]
“the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (). Later in that chapter, Paul exhorted Timothy to “instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches” (v. 17). To love money is idolatry.
To love money is idolatry.
As such, it is also futile and foolish.
Proverbios 23.4–5 RVR60
No te afanes por hacerte rico; Sé prudente, y desiste. ¿Has de poner tus ojos en las riquezas, siendo ningunas? Porque se harán alas Como alas de águila, y volarán al cielo.
Solomon, one of the wealthiest men who ever lived, was wise enough to know that
Eclesiastés 5.10 RVR60
El que ama el dinero, no se saciará de dinero; y el que ama el mucho tener, no sacará fruto. También esto es vanidad.
“Do not weary yourself to gain wealth,” the book of Proverbs counsels, “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” (). Solomon, one of the wealthiest men who ever lived, was wise enough to know that “he who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income” (Eccl. 5:10).
Loving money leads to all kinds of problems. Achan’s love of money brought disaster to himself, his family, and his people (). Balaam’s love of money prompted his foolish attempt to curse God’s people (), which in turn cost him his life (). Delilah’s love of money led her to betray Samson (), which ultimately led to the death of thousands (). Judas’s love of money caused him to betray the Lord Jesus Christ () and suffer eternal torment in hell (; ). Ananias’s and Saphira’s love of money led them to lie to God (), and brought about their executions through instant divine judgment (, ).
“he who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income” (Eccl. 5:10).
Loving money leads to all kinds of problems. Achan’s love of money brought disaster to himself, his family, and his people (). Balaam’s love of money prompted his foolish attempt to curse God’s people (), which in turn cost him his life (). Delilah’s love of money led her to betray Samson (), which ultimately led to the death of thousands (). Judas’s love of money caused him to betray the Lord Jesus Christ () and suffer eternal torment in hell (; ). Ananias’s and Saphira’s love of money led them to lie to God (), and brought about their executions through instant divine judgment (, ).
The love of money causes people to forget God. Aware of that dangerous reality Agur wisely prayed,
Proverbios 30.8–9 RVR60
Vanidad y palabra mentirosa aparta de mí; No me des pobreza ni riquezas; Manténme del pan necesario; No sea que me sacie, y te niegue, y diga: ¿Quién es Jehová? O que siendo pobre, hurte, Y blasfeme el nombre de mi Dios.
Idolizing money causes people to trust in their riches rather than God. Despite his great wealth Job proclaimed that he was innocent of such perverse trust:
“Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say,‘Who is the Lord?’ ” ().
Job 31.24–25 RVR60
Si puse en el oro mi esperanza, Y dije al oro: Mi confianza eres tú; Si me alegré de que mis riquezas se multiplicasen, Y de que mi mano hallase mucho;
Idolizing money causes people to trust in their riches rather than God. Despite his great wealth Job proclaimed that he was innocent of such perverse trust:
Job 31.28 RVR60
Esto también sería maldad juzgada; Porque habría negado al Dios soberano.
Loving money causes people to be deceived. In Jesus warned of
If I have put my confidence in gold,
If I have put my confidence in gold,
And called fine gold my trust,
Marcos 4.19 RVR60
pero los afanes de este siglo, y el engaño de las riquezas, y las codicias de otras cosas, entran y ahogan la palabra, y se hace infructuosa.
If I have gloated because my wealth was great,
And because my hand had secured so much …
Money can produce a deadly spiritual deception. It can be a barrier to people believing the gospel. It can deceive unsaved people who possess it into thinking that all is well in their lives. Such people wrongly assume that their wealth is a sign of God’s blessing and favor.
That too would have been an iniquity calling for judgment,
For I would have denied God above.
“the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things,” which “enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” Money can produce a deadly spiritual deception. It can be a barrier to people believing the gospel. It can deceive unsaved people who possess it into thinking that all is well in their lives. Such people wrongly assume that their wealth is a sign of God’s blessing and favor.
(, ; cf. ; )
Loving money causes people to be deceived. In Jesus warned of “the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things,” which “enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” Money can produce a deadly spiritual deception. It can be a barrier to people believing the gospel. It can deceive unsaved people who possess it into thinking that all is well in their lives. Such people wrongly assume that their wealth is a sign of God’s blessing and favor.
Loving money can cause people to lie, steal, and cheat, compromising their professed convictions rather than resting in God’s gracious promises (; ).
Loving money is linked to pride. As they were poised to enter the Promised Land Moses cautioned the children of Israel,
Deuteronomio 8.11–14 RVR60
Cuídate de no olvidarte de Jehová tu Dios, para cumplir sus mandamientos, sus decretos y sus estatutos que yo te ordeno hoy;no suceda que comas y te sacies, y edifiques buenas casas en que habites,y tus vacas y tus ovejas se aumenten, y la plata y el oro se te multipliquen, y todo lo que tuvieres se aumente;y se enorgullezca tu corazón, y te olvides de Jehová tu Dios, que te sacó de tierra de Egipto, de casa de servidumbre;
In summation, loving money can cause people to be unfaithful to God (), and ignore the needs of others (; cf. ).
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. ()
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 summation, loving money can cause people to be unfaithful to God (), and ignore the needs of others (; cf. ).
The Bible condemns obtaining money illegitimately, such as by stealing (whether directly [; ], or by fraud [; ; ; ]), charging exorbitant interest (; ; , ; ; ) or gambling, which foolishly and wastefully trusts in chance rather than in the providence of God.
In contrast, the Bible lists several legitimate ways to obtain money, including gifts (; ), investments (), saving (; ), wise planning (), and, primarily, work (; ; ; ; ; ; ; ).
Those who love money may feel that they never have enough of it. Those who love material things usually abuse credit (cf. ; ; ; ; )—leading to an eventual lack of resources. People may also lack money because of stinginess (), impulsiveness (hastiness; ), lack of discipline (; ), laziness (; ; ; ), indulgence (; ), and craftiness or scheming ().
In the opening verses of this chapter Jesus had warned the largely hostile crowd against the deadly danger of hypocritical false religion (vv. 1–12). As He continued his message, the Lord issued a second warning, against materialistic greed. These were by no means randomly chosen sample sins. Rather, they reflect the two essential realms that exist: the material realm, and the spiritual realm. Hypocrisy relates to the spiritual realm; greed codicia to the material world. Those two sins are closely linked. False religion is the love of error; materialism is the love of wealth. People can be deceived by the material world as well as by false religion. Further connecting the two sins, false teachers are inevitably after money (cf. ; , ). The Pharisees, for instance, were models of the union of both sins. Not only were they the leading purveyors of false religion in Israel, but they were also “lovers of money” avaros (). Both their teaching and motive were corrupt.
Christ’s instruction on the danger of hypocritical false religion, His solemn warning against blaspheming the Holy Spirit, and His revelation of elevated truths regarding the Trinity was suddenly and surprisingly interrupted. While He was speaking on those topics someone in the crowd blurted out, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” comparta la herencia conmigo This man was indifferent to the profound spiritual truths which the Lord was communicating and eager only to fulfill his own selfish desires. Driven by his crass materialism and growing tired of waiting impatiently for Jesus to finish, he interrupted Him.
His request, although inappropriate under the circumstances, was not unusual. By calling Jesus teacher (didaskale) the man acknowledged Him to be a rabbi, and rabbis routinely arbitrated such civil and family disputes. His request that the Lord tell his brother to divide the family inheritance with him suggests that his brother was also present. No details are given about the man’s motives or the legitimacy of his claim under the Old Testament laws of inheritance (cf. ; ). In any case, he was not asking Jesus to weigh his claim on its merits, but rather to arbitrarily rule in his favor.
Jesus refused to intervene. Though all spiritual judgment has been granted to Him by the Father (, ), Jesus did not come to judge mundane matters involving earthly possessions, but for a far more significant purpose: “He came to bring men to God, not to bring property to men” (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to St. Luke, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975], 212).
Jesus seized the opportunity offered by the man’s request to warn of the danger of greed.
MacArthur, J. (2013). (pp. 128–132). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
Body
THE WOULD-BE FOOL (VV. 13–15)
Lucas 12.13 RVR60
Le dijo uno de la multitud: Maestro, di a mi hermano que parta conmigo la herencia.
The demand here came from an anonymous individual who was so obsessed with getting what he considered his rightful portion of the family inheritance that he rudely accosted Jesus right after Jesus’ passionate call to confess him before men. His interjection was out of sync and disruptive. He didn’t ask Jesus for a reasoned decision regarding the fairness of his claim but just demanded, “Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Lucas
“Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me’ ” (v. 13). The demand here came from an anonymous individual who was so obsessed with getting what he considered his rightful portion of the family inheritance that he rudely accosted Jesus right after Jesus’ passionate call to confess him before men. His interjection was out of sync and disruptive. He didn’t ask Jesus for a reasoned decision regarding the fairness of his claim but just demanded, “Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Jesus didn’t like his impertinence at all because he addressed him as “man,” as if he were a stranger—
Lucas 12.14 RVR60
Mas él le dijo: Hombre, ¿quién me ha puesto sobre vosotros como juez o partidor?
Jesus would not be drawn into settling domestic accounts. He was not interested in being a divine Judge Wapner in a “People’s Court.” One day, of course, he will be the ultimate judge and arbiter when he returns to judge the quick and the dead, but that was not his task during his three years of earthly ministry. Besides, getting one’s legal fair share is not a good thing if one is motivated by a covetous spirit, and Jesus sensed such a spirit here.
“Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” (v. 14). Jesus would not be drawn into settling domestic accounts. He was not interested in being a divine Judge Wapner in a “People’s Court.” One day, of course, he will be the ultimate judge and arbiter when he returns to judge the quick and the dead, but that was not his task during his three years of earthly ministry. Besides, getting one’s legal fair share is not a good thing if one is motivated by a covetous spirit, and Jesus sensed such a spirit here.
A Warning
So Jesus issued a warning, which applies to us all:
Lucas 12.15 RVR60
Y les dijo: Mirad, y guardaos de toda avaricia; porque la vida del hombre no consiste en la abundancia de los bienes que posee.
[end with ....toda avaricia....]
The word translated “greed” here is sometimes translated “covetousness” codicia and means the lust to have more than one’s fair share, a boundless grasping after more. It describes one who lives in perpetual transgression of the Tenth Commandment (). The book of Proverbs views greed as the dividing line between righteous and evil people:
Proverbios 21.26 RVR60
Hay quien todo el día codicia; Pero el justo da, y no detiene su mano.
The apostle Paul repeatedly condemned greed:
Efesios 5.3 RVR60
Pero fornicación y toda inmundicia, o avaricia, ni aun se nombre entre vosotros, como conviene a santos;
To the Ephesian elders he proclaimed,
“All day long he craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing” (21:26). The apostle Paul repeatedly condemned greed: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” (). To the Ephesian elders he proclaimed, “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing” (). He exhorted the Colossians, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” ().
Hechos de los Apóstoles 20.33 RVR60
Ni plata ni oro ni vestido de nadie he codiciado.
Hechos 20
He exhorted the Colossians,
“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” (). To the Ephesian elders he proclaimed, “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing” (). He exhorted the Colossians, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” ().
Colosenses 3.5 RVR60
Haced morir, pues, lo terrenal en vosotros: fornicación, impureza, pasiones desordenadas, malos deseos y avaricia, que es idolatría;
“I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing” (). He exhorted the Colossians, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” ().
Jesus specifically warned the “wanna-be” inheritor—in reality, the would-be fool—about material greed. Such a pursuit is a dead-end road. The Bible is clear:
Jesus specifically warned the “wanna-be” inheritor—in reality, the would-be fool—about material greed. Such a pursuit is a dead-end road. The Bible is clear: “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless” (). And as Paul said, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (). “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.” Guard yourself against the lust for more and more money, against coveting your neighbor’s clothing, his house, his car, his wife, his education, his position, his children. We must heed the divine warning against “all kinds of greed.”
Eclesiastés 5.10 RVR60
El que ama el dinero, no se saciará de dinero; y el que ama el mucho tener, no sacará fruto. También esto es vanidad.
And as Paul said,
1 Timoteo 6.10 RVR60
porque raíz de todos los males es el amor al dinero, el cual codiciando algunos, se extraviaron de la fe, y fueron traspasados de muchos dolores.
1 Te
“Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.” Guard yourself against the lust for more and more money, against coveting your neighbor’s clothing, his house, his car, his wife, his education, his position, his children. We must heed the divine warning against “all kinds of greed.”
“Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless” (). And as Paul said, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (). “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.” Guard yourself against the lust for more and more money, against coveting your neighbor’s clothing, his house, his car, his wife, his education, his position, his children. We must heed the divine warning against “all kinds of greed.”
“The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (). “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.” Guard yourself against the lust for more and more money, against coveting your neighbor’s clothing, his house, his car, his wife, his education, his position, his children. We must heed the divine warning against “all kinds of greed.”
A Principle
Jesus crowned his warning with a life-giving principle:
Lucas 12.15 RVR60
Y les dijo: Mirad, y guardaos de toda avaricia; porque la vida del hombre no consiste en la abundancia de los bienes que posee.
Lucas 12:
[Begin with …porque la vida …]
I grew up in the 1950s, graduating from high school in 1959. I remember my friend Richard Smith’s ‘57 Chevy with idolatrous accuracy. Richard lived three doors down the street from me and was four years older than the rest of us. That Chevy was so beautiful—Campbell soup red—its fins sided with a gorgeous swath of etched chrome—its dual exhausts rumbling with that big Chevy V8—white angora-covered dice hanging from the rearview mirror. And Richard made such a cool profile behind the wheel—his perfect flattop haircut, his arm hung nonchalantly over the wheel, his imperial nod as he floated by. After school in the spring when my buddies and I played baseball in the street, Richard Smith would drive home from work, his fine Chevrolet gleaming, and we stood aside reverently as he passed by.
I grew up in the 1950s, graduating from high school in 1959. I remember my friend Richard Smith’s ‘57 Chevy with idolatrous accuracy. Richard lived three doors down the street from me and was four years older than the rest of us. That Chevy was so beautiful—Campbell soup red—its fins sided with a gorgeous swath of etched chrome—its dual exhausts rumbling with that big Chevy V8—white angora-covered dice hanging from the rearview mirror. And Richard made such a cool profile behind the wheel—his perfect flattop haircut, his arm hung nonchalantly over the wheel, his imperial nod as he floated by. After school in the spring when my buddies and I played baseball in the street, Richard Smith would drive home from work, his fine Chevrolet gleaming, and we stood aside reverently as he passed by.
I was sure that life consisted, if not in the “abundance of … possessions,” at least in one possession—a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Aire coupe! If I owned one of those, I would be significant, important, and certainly cool.
At age fifteen my soul bought into the great materialistic delusion that grips many souls their entire three score and ten years—right to the grave. Flattopped adolescents in ‘57 Chevys become graying old men in European coupes. Life for them is about an abundance of possessions. Designer clothing to effect the impression of originality and brilliance, significant architecture to house a shrinking frame, imposing porticoes to impress one’s guests with one’s importance, and a coffin that demonstrates that you knew how to live!
The greedy person lives as if the most important things of life are assured when they have amassed the superfluous. But Jesus said, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” porque la vida del hombre no consiste en la abundancia de los bienes que posee. Material excess will never make one alive or happy or fulfilled. It is perhaps understandable to be fooled when you are fifteen. But at fifty, or seventy-five? How utterly foolish!
THE RICH FOOL (VV. 16–21)
Lucas 12.16 RVR60
También les refirió una parábola, diciendo: La heredad de un hombre rico había producido mucho.
Jesus then told the would-be fool, and all who would listen, a parable about a rich fool:
Lucas 12.16 RVR60
También les refirió una parábola, diciendo: La heredad de un hombre rico había producido mucho.
Jesus then told the would-be fool, and all who would listen, a parable about a rich fool: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop,” he began (v. 16). The rich man was a farmer, but he represents all human beings who are seduced by “all kinds of greed,” whether statesmen or craftsmen or peasants or lawyers or nurses or doctors or secretaries or professors or mechanics or students. He had come by his wealth honestly, like so many of us. He did not cheat to get his fields, he did not devour widows’ homes, he was not an abuser of employees. And God had blessed him materially—just the right amount of rain and sun, no disease or pestilence—and huge yields. He was a success in everyone’s eyes. New respect came his way. But unknowingly he, like some of us, was in great danger.
The rich man was a farmer, but he represents all human beings who are seduced by “all kinds of greed,” whether statesmen or craftsmen or peasants or lawyers or nurses or doctors or secretaries or professors or mechanics or students. He had come by his wealth honestly, like so many of us. He did not cheat to get his fields, he did not devour widows’ homes, he was not an abuser of employees. And God had blessed him materially—just the right amount of rain and sun, no disease or pestilence—and huge yields. He was a success in everyone’s eyes. New respect came his way. But unknowingly he, like some of us, was in great danger.
“The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop,” he began (v. 16). The rich man was a farmer, but he represents all human beings who are seduced by “all kinds of greed,” whether statesmen or craftsmen or peasants or lawyers or nurses or doctors or secretaries or professors or mechanics or students. He had come by his wealth honestly, like so many of us. He did not cheat to get his fields, he did not devour widows’ homes, he was not an abuser of employees. And God had blessed him materially—just the right amount of rain and sun, no disease or pestilence—and huge yields. He was a success in everyone’s eyes. New respect came his way. But unknowingly he, like some of us, was in great danger.
Foolish Reasoning
Having a false sense of security because of his financial success, he fell prey to some foolish reasoning:
Lucas 12.17–18 RVR60
Y él pensaba dentro de sí, diciendo: ¿Qué haré, porque no tengo dónde guardar mis frutos?Y dijo: Esto haré: derribaré mis graneros, y los edificaré mayores, y allí guardaré todos mis frutos y mis bienes;
Building new barns was logical and prudent. It was a good idea. But the danger lay in what was missing. There was no thought of sharing, and no thought of stewardship. There was no thought for the poor, the ill, and the naked who were all around him. The language in verses 17–19 reveals an ingrained selfishness. In the Greek the personal pronoun “my” occurs four times and “I” eight times. He was completely self-absorbed. That is why he reached the fateful conclusion,
Lucas 12.19 RVR60
y diré a mi alma: Alma, muchos bienes tienes guardados para muchos años; repósate, come, bebe, regocíjate.
“He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods’ ” (vv. 17, 18). Building new barns was logical and prudent. It was a good idea. But the danger lay in what was missing. There was no thought of sharing, and no thought of stewardship. There was no thought for the poor, the ill, and the naked who were all around him. The language in verses 17–19 reveals an ingrained selfishness. In the Greek the personal pronoun “my” occurs four times and “I” eight times. He was completely self-absorbed. That is why he reached the fateful conclusion, “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’ ” (v. 19).
Building new barns was logical and prudent. It was a good idea. But the danger lay in what was missing. There was no thought of sharing, and no thought of stewardship. There was no thought for the poor, the ill, and the naked who were all around him. The language in verses 17–19 reveals an ingrained selfishness. In the Greek the personal pronoun “my” occurs four times and “I” eight times. He was completely self-absorbed. That is why he reached the fateful conclusion, “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’ ” (v. 19).
This is the only place in the Bible where retirement is spoken of, and here it is in the context of disapproval. Of course, the Bible recognizes aging and slowing down. But retiring to a life of self-indulgence finds no favor with God.
“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’ ” (v. 19).
This is the only place in the Bible where retirement is spoken of, and here it is in the context of disapproval. Of course, the Bible recognizes aging and slowing down. But retiring to a life of self-indulgence finds no favor with God.
The problem with this man’s retirement package is that it was a ticket to hedonism. In the Scriptures, to “eat, drink and be merry” is a description of dissipation (cf. ; ; ). A retirement that lives for self is unbiblical and immoral. If the rich man had survived that night, he would have gone on to live a life of bored hedonism and perhaps would have ended up like the despairing young woman, exhausted by pleasure, who when told she should simply stop, responded with relief, “You mean I don’t have to do what I want to do?”
Hedonism aside, the glaring fault of this foolish man was that he was living as if there was no God.
Salmo 14.1 RVR60
Dice el necio en su corazón: No hay Dios. Se han corrompido, hacen obras abominables; No hay quien haga el bien.
[end with ....hay Dios....]
The man had no fear of God, the grand, liberating fear that Jesus commended in verses 4, 5. And since “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” and “wisdom” (; ), he was singularly unequipped for living. This successful man had arrived without ever thinking where his life was heading. He was a parable of modern man.
Moderns do not like to think, and they especially do not like to think metaphysically. A man’s thoughts about life are disquieting, so he switches the channel. The thoughts begin again, so he pours a second and third drink. The disquiet creeps in again, and he calls a friend to chat. Again thoughts about life assail him, so he gets out the hunting rifle and polishes it. Nothing like “real life” to clear the mind.
Like so many, the rich man was like an old tree—he was dead inside, even while displaying the vestiges of life.
“And because we know we have breath in our mouth
and think we have thought in our head,
We shall assume that we are alive, whereas we are
really dead.… ”
“The Lamp of our Youth will be utterly out, but we
shall subsist on the smell of it,
And whatever we do, we shall fold our hands and
suck our gums and think well of it.
Yes, we shall be perfectly pleased with our work,
And that is the perfectest Hell of it!”
—RUDYARD KIPLING
Wisdom’s Answer
Lucas 12.20 RVR60
Pero Dios le dijo: Necio, esta noche vienen a pedirte tu alma; y lo que has provisto, ¿de quién será?
God called him a “fool.”
Lucas 12:
“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?’ ” (v. 20). God called him a “fool.”
He was a fool because life is short. A sensible person will choose what is best for the long run. He will consider what will be best for him between his twenty-thousandth year and his seventy-thousandth year, not just his three score and ten. The man was a fool because he did not reckon with the fragility of life. This is understandable when you are a child, but when you are thirty, or fifty, or seventy and you live as if what is now will always be, you are a fool and will, Jesus said with certainty, receive “what you have prepared for yourself.”
CLOSING REFLECTIONS
Jesus, the wisdom of God, says to us all:
Lucas 12.21 RVR60
Así es el que hace para sí tesoro, y no es rico para con Dios.
So often the rich, like the wealthy farmer, are lovers of money but are not rich toward God. Indeed, that is precisely why they are rich—every dream and every waking moment is filled with dollar signs. They are greedy. They amass money the old-fashioned way—they hoard it! And very often the rich are not rich toward God because they have built their fortune by taking it from others.
“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” (v. 21). So often the rich, like the wealthy farmer, are lovers of money but are not rich toward God. Indeed, that is precisely why they are rich—every dream and every waking moment is filled with dollar signs. They are greedy. They amass money the old-fashioned way—they hoard it! And very often the rich are not rich toward God because they have built their fortune by taking it from others.
But there are also rich (and poor too) who are “rich toward God” because they use what God has given them for others. The Scriptures celebrate such people—the well-to-do centurion who built a synagogue for God’s people—the hospitable home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus where Jesus found respite—the well-connected women who supported Jesus’ ministry. All these wealthy people were rich toward God. The way to become rich toward God is to invest in Christ’s church and in the lives of his people.
We can enlarge our savings and build huge accounts to hold it all. We can plan our retirement so we will have nothing to do but change positions in the sun. We can plan our menus for the twilight years so that nothing but the finest cuisine crosses our lips. We can live as if this is all of life. We can laugh our way to the grave—only to discover at the end that we have nothing and are in God’s eyes fools.
Or we can be rich toward God because we gave and gave and gave. How are your investments—your heavenly portfolio? Where are your riches? Are you rich toward God?
The domestic concern that elicited the parable suggests a particular warning regarding an overweening demand to get our “fair share.” It is so much better to take less than our fair share or to give it away. Squabbling over an inheritance is not worth it. Many, in retrospect, would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to forego the miseries that came as a result of insisting on their rightful portion. As Christians, we can and should avoid such deadly errors.
The key to all of this is not the adoption of a particular lifestyle, but to give and give and give and give. Because to do so is to invest and invest and invest and invest—to become “rich toward God.”
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