Have you noticed that the pursuit for more money and possessions is usually motivated by worry? For example, have you ever thought that if you just had enough money, you wouldn’t have to worry so much? This worry causes many to strive to be rich and accumulate an abundance of possessions. This morning we will study what the Bible says about money and the desire to acquire more and more riches as we look at Luke 12:13-21.
At this point in Jesus’ ministry, thousands of people were gathering to see what He would do and hear what He would say. News about this miracle worker from Nazareth was spreading far and wide. In verse 13, we arrive at a break in His teaching and someone from the crowd called out, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
This statement is very telling about the attitude of this man. While Jesus is teaching about fear (4-7) and anxiety (8-12); this man was thinking about his inheritance. Namely, he wanted his share of the inheritance. Jesus seems unconcerned about the details of this inheritance so we should not bother ourselves with them either. Jesus quickly lets the man know that He has no intention of settling the legal dispute by replying, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (14). Jesus is not denying that He has authority to judge, but let the man know that He is more interested in making peace between the man and God rather than the man and his brother.
I Want More!
It is at this point that Jesus makes His point about striving to be rich. He says that our desire to be rich should be heavenly focused rather than earthly focused since our life belongs to God. Jesus then establishes a principle: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness” (15). Covetousness is the desire for more. In this context, it is the strong desire to acquire more and more possessions without any regard for whether or not the possessions are needed. Jesus says to take care and be on your guard against this because it is sinful. The striving for earthly riches will suppress your striving for heavenly riches. In other words, beware of the temptation to be covetous because it will keep you from God. Coveting is a sin because it is telling the giver of all possessions (i.e., God) that He is less important than possessions. It is placing more value on the gift than the giver. This is sin.
Jesus says that we are to take care and be on guard. When He says we must take care, He literally means that we are to be watchful. Figuratively, our eyes must be open so that we may see covetousness in ourselves and others. We are not only to open our eyes, but we must be constantly looking for covetousness and we are to be on guard. If we discover that we are covetous, we are to guard ourselves: fight and protect ourselves against it.
The reason, according to Jesus, is because “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (15). This is where it is important to have a Christian Worldview. We must think and understand the world around us in accordance with our Christian faith. The Bible clearly tells us that while this life is important, the next life is far better. Therefore we are told to “not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…but treasures in heaven” (Matt 6:19-20). Our life is given to us by God and our life is taken from us by God who has “authority to cast into hell” (5). Our life is not given to us for the pursuit of an abundance of possessions, but rather our possessions have been given to us for the pursuit of God. If we are more concerned about what we have on earth, we are less concerned about what (or Who!) we have in heaven.
Jesus uses a parable to illustrate this point very effectively. It is commonly called the Parable of the Rich Fool because the man in the parable is very rich and very foolish. He is foolish because he is more focused on himself than anyone or anything else. His crops are plentiful and he is contemplating building bigger barns to hold them all. It all comes to an end when God says, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (20). The man was not guarded against covetousness, he was gratified by covetousness. He bought into the ungodly worldview that says: “Life consists in the abundance of possessions”. He did, as the old saying: “Get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the can”.
Jesus says this type of thinking is foolishness. Verse 21 tells us the point of the parable is to show the foolishness of “one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” The Christian worldview tells us to sell our unnecessary possessions and goods and give to anyone who has need (Matt 19:21, Mark 10:21, Luke 12:33, 18:22, Acts 2:45, 4:34). Augustine said about the man in this parable: “He did not realize that the bellies of the poor were much safer storerooms than his barns.” The Christian worldview tells us that since our life belongs to God, we should not strive to be rich, but strive to be rich towards God.
The command is clear: Protect yourself from the unquenchable desire for more and more possessions. The reason is clear: God is not impressed by how many cars you have, how big your house is, how much money you have, or your stock options. Therefore, knowing your life belongs to God, use the possessions you have to meet your needs and the needs of others. If you do this, you demonstrate that you are a follower and worshipper of Jesus Christ.