Where is your greatest treasure?
A popular song released in the 70’s contained the lyrics, “Money, get away. Get a good job with good pay and you're okay. New car, caviar, four star daydream.” The artist of this song was expressing the feelings of many people of their time. In fact, this thinking is still prevalent today. How many times don’t we hear that having money and the nicest possessions will give us a perfect life? Jesus has something to teach us in today’s lesson regarding earthly possessions. His parable asks us, Where is your greatest treasure? Is it In earthly storehouses? Or is it Stored in heaven?
Jesus was in his last few months on this earth before his death on the cross. He was spending his time teaching his disciples the things they needed to know before he would visibly be with them. In fact, there was a great crowd that was surrounding him. As Jesus was teaching those listening to him, a man pushes his way to the front of the crowd. He had something very important to ask the Teacher. “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Just think about that for a moment. This man had one chance to ask anything he wanted to know. One chance to ask the Son of God a question! Of all the questions he could have asked, and this is what he asked? He could have asked about the end of the world. He could have asked about heaven. He could have asked about God’s plan of salvation! But he doesn’t even ask a question. Instead he demands that the Savior of the world settle a matter of inheritance between him and his brother.
Every analogy limps, but consider this. You are attending a presidential convention. As you are listening to the candidate speak, one individual steps forward. This individual has the chance to ask a question. He could ask about anything! He could ask what the candidate would do about a hot issue. He could ask what the candidate would have done if he were in office during a particular time period. Instead, the individual demands that the candidate settle a disagreement he has regarding a bank statement.
Jesus’ response probably wasn’t the one that the man wanted to hear. Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Jesus responded to the man’s concern with a question. The Savior’s intention was to beg the man to realize his motivation. Jesus was using a question, as he so often does, to bring the man to repentance. Jesus knew that the man was more concerned about earthly possessions than he was about eternal life. Jesus was also trying to point out what he had really come to earth for. Had he come to be some judge who decides trivial matters? No, he had come to be something so much greater. He had come to be our Savior from sin.
Jesus follows up his question with a stern warning. This warning wasn’t just addressed to the man, but it was also addressed to the whole crowd listening to him. “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Jesus knew the hearts of those listening to him. He knew the man who spoke out was struggling with greed. He knew that every last person in the crowd was most certainly struggling with it. Our Savior used the man’s disappointing command and turned it into an object lesson. What Jesus’ was warning against was not something that the crowd was supposed to do just once, or even just a few times. Translated very literally, Jesus said “Keep on watching out” and “keep on guarding yourselves.” Colossians 3:5 tells us why we need to do this. “Put to death, therefore, greed, which is idolatry.”
What was the crowd’s reaction to Jesus’ statement? Can’t you just hear them possibly murmuring under their breath, “Well, if earthly possession’s don’t make up a man’s life, then what does?”
In order to make sure his point was not lost, Jesus tells a parable. “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop.” Notice the main character in the parable. It was not someone who was down on his luck, or even a middle class man. The main character was a rich man. This man had planted his fields. An even better possibility was that he had had his servants plant his fields for him. The ground produced a good crop for the rich man. Notice, however, that it does not say that the rich man grew a good crop. The credit for the crop goes to the land. God had allowed the land to produce a bountiful harvest.
However, this good crop posed a problem for the rich man. He had nowhere to store all his harvest. Where would he put it all? His storehouses weren’t big enough to put it all in. So, “He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’” The rich man’s first question was not, “How can I glorify God for this tremendous gift? It was, “How can I hold onto all of this?” The rich man considered these crops to be his own. God had blessed the man with a bountiful harvest through the land. And yet, the man could think of no one but himself! Notice also, that the rich man consults his favorite person. He doesn’t knock on the door of his neighbor’s house. He stops what he’s doing and thinks to himself. No one else is mentioned in this parable but the rich man. It is interesting to note that the word “synagogue” comes from the Greek word for “to store.” I bring this up because the crops and his possession’s were the rich man’s god.
Suddenly, a brilliant idea came to the rich man. “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. The rich man wasn’t satisfied with what he had. He could have easily given some of his crops away, helped some less fortunate individuals. However, his greed was constantly craving more. It probably wouldn’t have mattered what it was. It could have been a bigger house, more servants, more land. The crops were what was in front of him, and he wanted to make sure that he found a way to keep every last kernel of grain. The rich man is still only concerned with himself and holding onto his possessions.
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.” Isn’t it amazing that the man only talks to himself? Eleven times in this parable the rich man talks about himself and his own desires. Consider for a moment the phrase, take life easy. This is the same way that God speaks about heaven. God speaks of heaven as a rest, a place where we can take life easy. However, the rich man perverts it. He is basically saying, “Look at all that I own, I can just sit back, kick my feet up, and enjoy how good I have it.” This wasn’t just a one-time thing that the rich man was planning. He was saying that he intended to just relax and enjoy his possessions for the rest of his life. How ironic, then, what God was about to tell the man.
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? God addresses the rich man in one word. FOOL! For believers in Old Testament times, fool was a powerful word. It was not a word that meant having a low IQ. Fool was used only when someone didn’t know God, or when they knew God but chose to ignore him.
Do you see what’s going one here? The rich fool was intending to enjoy his harvest for the rest of his life. But God had other plans. God told the rich fool that he wouldn’t even enjoy them through the whole night. In fact, God uses banking terminology here. When he says that he will demand the life of the rich fool, he is saying that he is calling back the “loan of life” that he has granted the rich fool. God gave the rich fool his life and possessions, and he can take them away whenever he wants. Can you see the irony here? The rich fool had planned to be the only one to enjoy his harvest. However, he would be the only one who wouldn’t enjoy it. Other people, even creatures of the earth would enjoy the crops instead of the rich fool.
Jesus sums up the meaning for the parable in one sentence. “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” Jesus again delivers a stern and serious warning to those listening to him. This condemnation against those who put earthly possessions above God isn’t just for the rich fool. It is for all who let greed control their lives.
Did you hear what he said? Jesus uses the word “anyone.” What does this mean for us, brothers and sister? Doesn’t that mean that he is talking to us today? Isn’t he asking us, where is your treasure? The fact remains that greed is a temptation for us today as well. For instance, think about your prayers. Are they gimme prayers? Do we pray for more and more earthly possessions? Maybe we don’t pray for more possessions, but just better ones. What has our greatest attention? Do we put a high emphasis on having a large balance in our savings account? Do we treasure a delicious feast for every meal? What about having the nicest suits? And who among us hasn’t desired to have the nicest car? Don’t we constantly desire to have more and more of what the world has labeled as important?
Martin Luther once said something similar. He said, “Whatever man loves, that is his god. For he carries it in his heart; he goes about with it night and day; he sleeps and wakes with it, be it what it may – wealth or self, pleasure or renown.” How true that statement is!
To the ancient Greeks, greediness was something that was a desired attitude. The word greediness had a positive ring in their ears. Isn’t it the same today? Who are the individuals who are looked well upon? It isn’t the homeless person on the street corner, is it? We look up to those who have made it big, who are successful in business, and are financially stable. The rich fool’s motto has a nice ring to our sinful natures. We desire to kick back in our Lay-Z-Boy, watch our favorite TV program on the latest HD-TV, and then blow off some steam in an extravagant spa. And when we go out, our sinful nature desires to be noticed driving a Ferrari.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with being wealthy. God blesses each person differently, and some he blesses with earthly possessions. We should thank him for the blessings he has given us. But just in case some of you are starting to tune me out, remember this. Jesus didn’t speak these words only against those who have earthly wealth. No! He spoke these words to everyone in the crowd. That means he is talking to those of us who have wealth, as well as those who don’t have wealth. Jesus’ point was not about the abundance of one’s possessions. It is about the attitude of our hearts. He knows that we constantly desire more and more. He reminds us that our life does not consist in the abundance of [our] possessions.
What will happen to us if we were to die tonight, and our greatest treasure was here in earthly storehouses? Those earthly possessions cannot come with us. They will be left behind for others to enjoy. But most importantly, if our greatest treasure is earthly possessions, we will not have eternal life. Where is our greatest treasure? Is it in earthly storehouses?
The parable of the rich fool makes us ask ourselves, is our greatest treasure in earthly storehouses? But did you catch what Jesus said? He mentions those “who are not rich towards God.” The very fact that he mentions this means that there are those who can be rich towards God. Therefore, Where is your greatest treasure? Is it stored in heaven?
We do have a treasure better than earthly possessions. Colossians 3:1 encourages us to set [our] hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. It is there that our greatest treasure is. Through the Gospel, our attention is drawn heavenward, towards Christ, the author and perfecter of our salvation.
Christ did not store up things for himself on earth, but was rich towards God. He lived the perfect life. He came down to earth as our substitute. Christ obeyed the first commandment perfectly, since we could not. He did not consider his life to be in the abundance of his possessions. Compared to the Rich Fool, Christ was the exact opposite. He gave up the glories and riches of heaven. He took up our sins and endured the agony of hell itself. All this he did for our sake! Through his death he paid the punishment for all sins. His death paid the punishment we deserve for placing our earthly possessions above a treasure in heaven. We are assured that our treasure in heaven is real because of Christ’s resurrection.
In fact, Christ was the opposite of the rich fool in another way. All of the rich fool’s thoughts were on himself. 11 times in these few short verses the rich fool focused on himself. Why did Christ come to live among us? Wasn’t it because his every thought for each one of us? He loved us more than anything. He loved so much that he gave his very life that we could live. Matthew tells us, the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Our heavenly treasure is the complete opposite of the rich fool’s treasure. His treasure could do nothing for him when he needed it most. Our heavenly treasure is by far the greatest treasure of all. It is an everlasting treasure. Our heavenly treasure is where neither moth nor rust can destroy.
The rich fool had to leave his treasure behind when he died. When we die, our heavenly treasure will come to completion – we will be in the presence of our Almighty God forever! Through faith in Christ, we are rich towards God. We can whole-heartily say A-men to what Paul wrote in Colossians 3:4. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Through faith in Christ, we are able to overcome the sin of greed. Christ has made us rich towards God. We are no longer concerned with building bigger and bigger storehouses for our possessions, because we have a better and everlasting treasure. We are content with whatever situation we are placed in, whether God chooses to make us rich or poor. We rejoice throughout our life, because our attention is on Christ.
This heavenly treasure is boundless. It is not like the rich fool’s crops, which would have diminished if he had shared them. No, our heavenly treasure we can share with others. Our sharing of this treasure will not decrease our share. Rather, when we share our heavenly treasure, others will join in having the greatest treasure of all – one that is stored in heaven. We can use those earthly blessings that God has given us. They can be used to help spread that Gospel treasure. We consider nothing more important that the treasure we have in his Gospel. Because of this, and out of love for God, we want to use our earthly blessing to spread his Gospel.
The world will continue to contend that you must have more and more of earthly possessions to be happy. Songs will continue to be written. Movies about the wealthy will continue to be produced. We know better. God has given us the greatest treasure. He has given us the forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ death. He has given us faith in Jesus Christ. He has given us eternal life in glory through that faith. Our greatest treasure is not stored in earthly storehouses, but it is stored in heaven.