June 21, 2015
Intro – Life is very temporary. A 19th century American tourist visited Polish rabbi Hofetz Chaim. Astonished at the simple home he found – a single room filled with books, a table and bench, the tourist asked, “Rabbi, where is your furniture?” “Where is yours?” asked the rabbi. The American replied, “Mine? But I am a visitor here. I am only passing through.” “So am I,” replied the rabbi. And so are we all. But you’d never know it by how we live.
Our actions often say, “Life is stuff.” Jesus begs to differ. V. 15, “for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Life isn’t stuff.
We’ve entitled this series (13-21) “Money matters” because we get great insight into Jesus’ teaching on money here. 5 parts to this little vignette.
I. The Inquiry (13) – Last week we saw that as Jesus was teaching with urgency on life and death matters, some lightweight interrupts, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus’ message means nothing. He wants to use Jesus to straighten out his brother. He is fixated on some 20-30 year portion of his eternal existence. He’s a fool – using Jesus instead of worshiping Him. Subtle but huge difference.
II. The Indictment (14) – Thus Jesus rebukes his short-sightedness. Jesus didn’t come to give us what we think will make our lives; He has come to be our life. His claims force us to a decision point, and that is what He is doing here. That leads to the next 3 parts of this account.
III. The Instruction (15)
15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Here is the key phrase in the whole passage: “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” “Life isn’t stuff.” Jesus warns, “Guard against covetousness.” You are responsible. Don’t let this dominate.
The root word in covetousness is “to have”. To have what? Just, to have. That is the heart of covetousness. It wants to have. Whatever it already has, it wants to have more. It’s a thirst that is never quenched. It is like a man on the ocean who is dying of thirst. He drinks the only thing available – the salty ocean water. That only makes him more thirsty. So he drinks again and again until his thirst kills him. That’s how covetousness destroys. Ecc 5:10: “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money.” No matter how much he gets, he will always want more. Why? Paul tells us in Col 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” No wonder covetousness kills. It’s an idol – something we love more than God – and idols always promise what they cannot deliver and eventually kill. Covetousness is a fool’s game. Now Jesus didn’t tell us this to make us unhappy. But He wants us to understand reality – not live against unreal conditions.
Listen! Covetousness is insidious bc we don’t see it in ourselves. We are blind to it. St. Francis of Assisi said, “Men have confessed to me every known sin -- except the sin of covetousness.” Money sickness hides inside us, like cancer cells that lie dormant the body for years before they strike! So Jesus says, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all covetousness.” Send in a “seek and destroy” mission against hidden covetousness cells. It’s lurking.
Jesus never says, “Watch out! Be on guard against adultery.” Why? Because it’s not as destructive as greed? No. It’s because adultery isn’t as deceptive as greed. You know when you are committing adultery – outwardly or in your mind. You know. But you almost never know when you’ve gotten into the equally soul-destroying sin of greed, money sickness. We see it in others; we’re blind to it in ourselves. Tim Keller tells of doing a series of weekly sermons on the 7 deadly sins. His wife said, “You watch. The lowest attendance will be for greed.” Keller says, “She was right. They said, ‘Pride – oh, I do that. Lust – yeah.’ They even came out for sloth, which amazed me. But not greed. Why? Not because they were resentful. They just said, ‘Not me. Moi materialistic? Not me.” It’s hides from us, but it’s there!We have to smoke it out before it’s too late! Our affluence hides our greed.
We must always question: Do you really need that? Do you really need more? Could we live more simply? Am I comparing with others? Is this what God wants us to do with His money? It is His, after all. We’re just stewards.
Jesus gives perspective: “for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Ζοε. Εssence of life. It’s not things! “Abundence” = excess, more than enough. “Even if you have way more than you need – that’s not real life.” You’d think so to watch us. The more the better. But Jesus warns, “That’s way too short-sighted.” Enjoy what God gives. But don’t think that’s real life! “Things” have a short shelf life! Mark Twain defined civilization as “a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.” Most of what we want is an unnecessary necessity. We’re like the desert tribe moving to a new oasis. To get rid of some of some old things they held a mirage sale. That’s things – a mirage! They look so real -- but have a very limited lifetime.
In The Treasure Principle, Randy Alcorn says, Suppose you follow a bunch of pickups loaded with computers, stereo systems, furniture, appliances, fishing gear, and toys. Eventually you reach a parking lot and everyone begins unloading their cargo over a cliff. You look down and realize you’re at a landfill, a junkyard – the final resting place for stuff. Sooner or later everything we own ends up there. Everything. Even the recycled stuff. Cars, Christmas and birthday gifts, boats, hot tubs, clothes, jewelry, bar-b-ques. All the treasures we scratched and clawed and sacrificed character and marriages for. All ends in the dump! Every single little piece. That’s why “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” People last forever; the stuff will all get left behind. Life is not stuff. That’s instructive.
IV. The Illustration (16-20)
To drive His point home, Jesus gives an illustration to the whole crowd: 16And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ Okay. This guy had a retirement plan. Store up as much as you can for 60 years – get the bank account flowing over. Then live it up for the next 20. Sound familiar. That’s the retirement plan for 95% of the people living in America. How could we criticize it when we are living it! The 6020 or 6515 plan.
What does God think of the plan? He answers in one word, “Fool!” “You fool!” Now, listen. This is the only time in the Bible where God directly calls someone a fool. Jesus calls the Pharisees fools once in Mt 23:17. Otherwise, this is it. Nothing wrong with a retirement plan, but if yours looks like this and you don’t want on God’s fool list, you might want to listen up. 3 problems.
A. He Was Self-Centered, Not Other-centered – He had forgotten. We are gifted to give, not to hoard. Every effort of his life was aimed at his own comfort and ease. And now he was ready for the payoff. He had no thought of sharing his excess. He had a common philosophy. “I earned it; I’ll spend it. God had nothing to do with it. I worked hard for everything I got.” There’s fallacy # 1. God might say, “You earned it? Who gave you the health that enabled you to work? Who gave you the skills that brought success? Who caused the seed to grow or the weather to cooperate or the market conditions to flourish at just the right time or a thousand other events outside your control? Who gave you life to begin with? You? All you did was maximize my gifts. But I didn’t gift you so you can spend it all on yourself. You are gifted to give, not to get.”
Eph 4:28: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that [he can put away for retirement! Is that what it says? No, so that] he may have something to share with anyone in need.” God’s not against preparing for retirement, Beloved. But it must be in the context of sharing what He gives us with those in need. Prov 21:26, “All day long he [sluggard] craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back.” I Jn 3:17, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” God gifts us so we can share. Just like His own Son: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (II Cor 8:9). That’s the example and it was the last thing on this guy’s mind. He was selfish to the core, and selfish people are fools. J. Vernon McGee exemplifies them with a poem: “I had a little tea party This afternoon at three. ‘Twas very small -- Three guests in all Just I, Myself and Me. Myself ate all the sandwiches, While I drank up the tea. ‘Twas also I who ate the pie And passed the cake to Me.” Is that us, Beloved? Oh, maybe we slip a sandwich to someone on rare occasions –to salve our conscience. But our heart is not in it. And it counts for nothing. Is it possible that we are also living a fool’s existence?
B. He was Earth-Centered, Not Heaven-Centered – His every effort was to build up his worldly portfolio. He gave no thought to laying up treasure in heaven. He lived like this life is all there is. If that’s true, his plans make sense. Work for 60, party for 20. “You only go round once, so get all the gusto you can.” Makes sense – if this is all there is, right? Why not? Peggy Lee was right when she sang, “Is that all there is, is that all there is If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing Let's break out the booze and have a ball / If that's all there is.” She got it right.
BUT – what if that’s not all there is. What if the Bible is right? What if Jesus was right? What if the longing in your heart that says, “There has to be more than this,” is right? What if there is more? Then an earth-centered lifestyle that doesn’t see beyond age 80 doesn’t look so smart, does it? If things end, but people are forever, then “relax, eat, drink, be merry” isn’t exactly brilliant! If death isn’t the end, then this man’s plan looks foolish even if his soul had not been required that very night, right? He’s put every drop of his effort into what he’s going to do for 15 years, but he’s going to live forever. That’s just plain stupid, isn’t it? That’s like the young man who was asked by a wiser, older companion, “What are you going to do.” He replied, “I will learn my trade.” “And then?” said the older man. “I will set up in business.” “And then?” “I will make my fortune.” “And then?” “I suppose that I shall grow old and retire and live on my money.” “And then?” “Well, I suppose that some day I will die.” “And then?!” There’s the question! Then what? The Bible answers in Heb 9:27, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” If you haven’t prepared for “then”, you haven’t prepared for anything. You’ve studied for everything but the final that the whole grade rides on. Are you seeing why Jesus calls this man a fool?
C. He was Actuarially-Centered, Not God-Centered -- Among other things, actuaries estimate how long you’ll live. This man assumed he’d get his full actuarial allotment. The 60/20 plan! But now comes the crushing blow. It turns out it is not the actuary who determines how long we live; it is God. (Psa 139 – days numbered before birth). And God says, “Not only don’t you get your lucky 20, you don’t even get a day. “This night your soul is required of you.” “End of this life” is not a negotiation. It is a statistic determined by God. And though there is an average, it is meaningless to this man personally. No one is guaranteed the average. Like this man, our time could come tonight. Then who will all this “stuff” belong to? If he looked foolish before, targeting 20 party years – now he looks really foolish, getting nothing. He’s invested in the wrong place. He never looked beyond the day he would die – yet that is where he was going to spend forever.
The application is easy, isn’t it? Every life hangs by a thread. We don’t know when we’ll hear, “This night your soul is required of you.” We may have a guess, but we don’t know. So the only wise thing to do is to assume that it will be tonight. Submit to God’s sovereignty which you can’t do anything about anyway, assume it’s going to end tonight and prepare accordingly. That’s what Moses meant when he said in Psa 90: 12) So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” You can be a fool and trust the actuary, or you can get wisdom and trust God. Your choice. But remember God is the one who eventually will say, “This night your soul is required of you.” “You thought your life was yours to do with as you will? Tonight you will find out how wrong you are.” Are you ready if tonight is your night?
A lady was starting a new government job. She needed proof of citizenship so she brought along her driver’s license and birth certificate. The HR clerk took the DL and copied info. Then she picked up the birth certificate and gave it a long look. “Is something wrong?” asked the applicant. The clerk replied, “I can’t find an expiration date.” Here’s a news flash. No one’s birth certificate comes with an expiration date. That is in God’s hands. It could be today. Just before 12:30 PM on Nov 22, 1963, President Kennedy smiled and waved at Charles Brehm and his wife. The actuary’s tables said he had at least 30 years yet to live. But five seconds later, SS agent Clint Hill was looking down at a massive head wound and knew the President was already dead. There are no guarantees, Beloved. Tonight could be your night. Are you ready?
V. The Insight (21)
“So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” The fool lays up treasure toward himself – spends himself totally on things that have an expiration date. The wise man lays up treasure in heaven. Wise people give of themselves and their resources to the Lord’s work and to benefit those in need – praying all the while that He will accept it, multiply it and give it eternal worth. Because He will. The wise person worships God rather than things. The wise person sees beyond “now” and is preparing now for eternity.
Conc -- Suppose a woman goes away on a business trip. She calls home the first night: “Honey, guess what? I re-did my hotel room. It’s gorgeous. I had the carpet replaced, repainted, did the bathroom over – a local contractor did it for $10,000.” Her husband says, “$10,000! But – but you’re only going to be there for 3 days!” “I know, but it’s worth it.” Crazy?! Yes, but no more so than the fool who assumes that life is stuff! Could that be you? Or are you ready. “This night, your soul is required of you.” “Great. I’m ready to go. I’ve even sent my treasure on ahead.” Are you ready if tonight is your night? Before long, it will be. This life has a very limited shelf life. We’re just passing thru here. Eternity is elsewhere. Are you ready? Let’s pray.