Luke 12:13-21 (NIV)
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 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 my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “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?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
Alongside this text, one should read Paul's letter to the Colossians 3:1-17.
At the heart of this reading, is this truth: a person's life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions. Luke 12:34 reminds us that "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Take a moment for this sentence to be absorbed. Your life is not a collection of possessions.
What makes the farmer a fool? There is nothing in the text to make you believe he has earned his money illegally or through exploitation. The fact that he is a wealthy man is not bad in itself, so why call this farmer a fool? If you look at the text, you will see that I have highlighted all the "I"s that are quoted. He is a fool because he has put himself first. There is no sense of gratitude and there is no thought of sharing. His thinking is, that if he built bigger barns, his future is secure and he can eat drink and be merry. The foolishness is in thinking that possessions come before God.
We have to ensure we know who is truly God in our lives. Do we bow to the god of money, to the god of time, to the god of family, to the god of holidays? Or, do we bow to the true God from which grace and salvation come?
So, we must check our priorities. Is a million pounds enough or will we always be asking for more money? Are three holidays a year enough or should we be looking for four or five? We must consider what "enough" looks like.
Colossians 3 helps us answer what we should be collecting. We should be getting rid of anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language, and building resources of compassion and kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
The other issue the text indicates is when we have so much money or possessions, we move away from God. This is because we fail to understand our need of God, there again, making us fools.
In Genesis, you will be reminded of Joseph building bigger barns to hold seven years of bumper crops. This, of course, was not for Joseph's gain but to help Egypt through the seven leaner years that followed.
I do not believe that the text in Luke is anti-wealth but it is questioning what you do with your wealth.
I read that there are 194 nations in the world. The top ten nations possess 80% of the world's wealth. Therefore, 184 nations only possess 20% of the world's wealth. The question of knowing what is enough and of sharing our possessions and of putting God first, who has entrusted with us the wealth of the world, seems ever more important in today's world. The text questions our lifestyle choices. Do we, as Christians, make different decisions in comparison with the rest of society?
Today's sermon is short but vital. We must make sure we are not rich fools. We can eat, drink and be merry. We can have wealth. God does not want us to miserable Christians. God wants us to look after all of His children, all 7 billion-plus, so if we are lucky, and have more than enough, remember a sense of gratitude and that sharing is part of God's kingdom. At the end of the day, "We can’t take our riches with us." (Ecclesiastes 5:15 NLT)
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon