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The Rich Fool

I want to begin this morning with a question. And I don’t want you to raise your hand – I’m not going to make you discuss this in small groups or anything. But I just want you to think about it. Here’s the question:

Do you consider yourself to be a success? Are you living a successful life?

And that might be a difficult question to answer depending on how you define “success”.

The dictionary defines success as the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose, so when I ask you “Are you living a successful life?”, I imagine you have some sort of check list in your head that you run through.

Have I done this? Have I accomplished that? And you go through to see if you have accomplished your aims and your purposes.

But I guess before we can answer if we are living a successful life, perhaps the real question is, by which aims or purposes do you measure your success? What sort of things need to be on that checklist?

Because by most North American or western standards – success is measured by how much stuff we have and how nice that stuff is.

We look at the house we live in – the salary we make – the car we drive – the vacations we take – and if we’re about at the same level as our neighbours – (maybe a little above) then we’re a success. Right? Isn’t that how it works?

We might not say that out loud – but isn’t that underlying value system that we live by?

In fact, that’s been the underlying value system of mankind pretty much since the beginning of time. We’ve bought into this idea that gathering nice stuff makes us successful.

But this morning, as we continue to look at the parables of Jesus Christ we’re going to see how Jesus completely turns that value system on its head.

The parable that we are going to look at this morning is found in Luke chapter 12 – and we’re going to start at verse 13. On this particular day, Jesus is teaching a massive crowd – verse 1 tells us that there were thousands of people there – so many that they were stepping on each other. I don’t know how Jesus ever taught out in the public spaces like that with 1000s of people milling about – I have a hard enough time focusing simply being outside with 50 of you. I can’t imagine the distractions that would come with 1000s of people. And actually, this whole parable begins with one of those distractions. Jesus has just been talking about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and how we show fear God not man – and how much God values us and how He will take care of us, when we read in verse 13….

13 Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” Luke 12:13

Now this really seems like an out of the blue comment – it doesn’t really seem to fit with what Jesus has been talking about at all.  But this guy just shouts out this request to Jesus. And the Bible doesn’t give us any details on his situation – whether there was some unfair dealings going on – whether the brother was in the right or in the wrong. And I guess it doesn’t really matter.

But Jesus recognized that the motive behind his request was based on that value system that we’ve being talking about – where success is measured by our stuff. And so Jesus replies to the man in verse 14.

14 Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” 15 Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

Luke 12:14-15

Jesus puts it pretty plain and simple: Life is not measure by how much you own. And believing that it is will only lead to greed – which seemed to be the man’s motivation for asking Jesus this in the first place.

So then the natural question might be: Well, if life is not measure by how much we own – then what is it measured by? How do we measure our success? How do we know if we are being successful?

Well, Jesus anticipates that question and so he tells them a little parable. Verse 16.

16 Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. 17 He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ 18 Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. 19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’

21 “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

Luke 12:16-21

A simple little story – as most parables are – but it’s packed with meaning. So let’s work our way through it bit any bit. Jesus starts off by saying…

“A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops.”  Luke 12:16

Now so far, there’s no problem here. It was just a fact that it was a fertile farm and it produced fine crops. The issue isn’t that the man was making good profit from his farming endeavours. Jesus isn’t condemning making a good profit from good, honest, hard work. In fact, throughout the Bible, we see God blessing many people so that their farms or businesses are very profitable. We see that with Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Job, Isreal as a whole at certain times – we even see Jesus helping Peter’s fishing business with a huge catch of fish – twice actually.

So don’t read this parable as a condemnation of financial success. God doesn’t condemn making money. God doesn’t condemn having a good job and earning a good wage.

But God does have a lot to say about what we do with our money. In fact, I didn’t count it up myself, but the statics I read say that there are about 500 verses in the Bible on prayer, about 500 verses on faith – but over 2000 verses about money and possessions. In fact, believe it or not, 1 in every 10 verses in the Gospels deal the subject of money and possessions.

And the reason for that, I think, is this underlying value system that says life is all about getting stuff. Money and possessions can very easily become idols. And that’s why Jesus warns us right off the bat – “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

So this rich man owning a fertile farm that produces fine crop is not the issue. The issue is that he has put his trust in his idol (his wealth) – rather than putting his trust in God. He did not have that rich relationship with God that Jesus talked about at the end.

And we can see this rich man’s lack of that rich relationship with God as we read through the conversation that he has with himself as a result of this bumper crops.

17 He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ 18 Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. 19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ Luke 12:17-19

There’s a couple things in here that show us that this rich man did not have a rich relationship with God.

First of all, notice all the pronouns… His conversation is filled with My and I – my barns, my crops, myself, my wheat… Where’s the recognition of God’s ownership in all this?

Someone with a rich relationship with God would recognize that all that we have is God’s. We read Psalm 24:1 a few weeks ago.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.

    The world and all its people belong to him. Psalm 24:1

Everything we own is actually God’s and we are just the managers. Those were God’s barns – God’s crops – and as the manager, the rich man should have been seeking God’s input as to what to do with them. But the rich man failed to recognize God’s ownership of all he had.

Do we recognize that? Do we treat our money and our possessions as if it belongs to God? Because it does. We are simply the managers. God gave it to us – and God can take it away.

And you know what? When we treat the stuff we have as God’s stuff – it really takes away a lot of stress.

Think about it – when somebody backs into our car – instead of getting all upset and fretting about how much its going to cost to repair… You can just say “Hey God, somebody backed into your car. I’m going to have to spend some of your money to pay for that.” It’s a lot easier to pay with God’s money than your own, isn’t it?

It’s easier to be generous too! If I gave you all $500 and told you to go out and be generous with it – you’d have a blast going around giving away my money! Imagine the fun you could have when you realize that all that money in your wallet and in the bank is all God’s money – and He wants you to be generous with it! Generosity is one of the character traits of God.

That’s actually the second indication that this rich man did not have a rich relationship with God. He was not generous. Instead of building bigger barns, he could have easily shared his excess with those around him. I’m sure there was no shortage of hungry people in need back then. Think of all the good he could have done with what God gave him. But no, he hoarded it all to himself so that He could take it easy – eat, drink, and be merry for years to come.

That’s not the kind of life that God has called us to. He has called us to be generous as He is generous. To share with those in need. To be a blessing to others with all that God has blessed us with. Paul writes about this to the church in Corinth. He says in 2 Corinthians 9:6…

6 Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 9 As the Scriptures say,

“They share freely and give generously to the poor.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”

10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.

11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 12 So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.

13 As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ.

2 Corinthians 9:6-13

There’s a lot of great snippets in there and I’d encourage you to read through that again later today. But this week, I was really stuck by this last verse – that the Corinthians generosity was the proof – the evidence – that they were truly obedient to the Good news of Christ.

And that really made sense to me. If you believe that God loves you enough to allow his Son to die in your place so that you can live, don’t you think God would also provide for your daily, physical needs? When we come to the point where we can trust God fully – so much so that we know He will care for us, that He really will provide for all our needs – regardless of how much or how little we have at the moment – when we trust God that much – then we really can be generous. We don’t have to worry about if we’ll have enough for the future. We don’t have to trust in our savings or our investments – we can trust that God will provide for us and we can generously share with those in need.

Now that’s not to say that we shouldn’t plan for the future – I think that’s part of being wise managers of God’s money – but we need to be careful that we trust and obey God – rather than just our financial advisors.

Paul writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17-19…

“17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.” 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Paul says it’s important to invest for the future. But he’s not talking about stocks and bonds and savings accounts. He’s talking about investing in eternity. And that’s the one investment that the rich man in the parable never made. He had planned well for his life on earth – but he hadn’t made a single investment beyond that.

And as Jesus concluded… A person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.

That’s the one investment that counts! We might have a huge new house, a fancy new car, go on amazing vacations and have all the cool toys – but in 1000 years all of that will be worth nothing. All that will matter then is how you’ve invested in your relationship with God. That’s why Paul says in Philippians 3;8…

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. Philippians 3:8-9a

There really is nothing more important in this life than cultivating a rich relationship with God. When we stand before God to give an account of our life, there’s only one item on the checklist to determine whether or not we’ve been successful. And that is – do you or do you not have a right relationship with God?

And that right relationship with God begins by accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savour. That means trusting that Jesus paid the price for your sin when he died and rose again. It also means trusting God in every area of your life – including, but not limited to, your finances and possessions. We can’t trust him only in some areas of our life – either we trust Him or we don’t.

If you can trust God to forgive your sins and to give you eternal abundant life in an amazing city called heaven – if you believe that God will give you a mansion in glory – then why can’t you believe that He will supply all your needs here on earth? Either God is trustworthy or He is not.

And Paul certainly seemed to believe that God was trustworthy. At the end of his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes:

“18 At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:18-19

As joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, as adopted children of God, we have the same inheritance as Jesus. God’s glorious riches have been given to us. And this includes far more than just simply material blessings. This includes the riches of God’s mercy, the riches of God’s grace, the riches of God’s goodness, the riches of God’s eternal friendship and love!

No wonder Jesus said that…

 “A person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Luke 12:21

So what are you going to put your trust in? How will you measure the success of your life?

By your bank account? Your house? Your car?

Or will you instead find your security in a rich relationship with God?

You can spend your time and energy trying to get more, and bigger, and nicer stuff… and that’ll be nice for a while…

Or your can spend your time and energy getting to know your Creator, becoming more like him, and experiencing God’s glorious riches – his goodness, his love, his peace, and his joy!

I’d sure encourage you, don’t put your trust in your wealth – which Paul says is so unreliable…. It’s here today and gone tomorrow – as most of you already know.

Put your trust in the God of Heaven. Have faith that the One who is willing to die for you is also willing to provide for all your needs. Be generous with His stuff! And invest in a rich relationship with Him.

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