Real Riches

Luke 12:16-21 ‘The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 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 all my grain and all my goods. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of things 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 anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

It isn’t wrong to have wealth. The man in the parable didn’t lie, cheat, or steal to acquire his wealth. He was a farmer, he worked hard, and God blessed his hard work with success at harvest time. His good crop, and the many other things he had, were gifts from God.

It’s not wrong that you and I enjoy the good things we have. Your wealth and mine is a gift from God as well.

The problem comes when selfishness corrupts God’s good gifts. Why had the Lord given the rich man more than he needed, more than he could even store in his barns? Was it really God’s plan to make it possible for this man to stop working altogether? Did the Lord approve of the idea that the man’s purpose in life could now become “eat, drink, and be merry”? Was that a worthy cause to which to devote the rest of his days, a godly use of the gifts he had been given?

Such a small-minded, self-centered use of God’s gifts corrupts them. Our overabundance is a test of our love for others and our trust in God. Love puts a higher priority on sharing the gospel with lost souls, and helping those who have a need, than on personal comforts. Faith trusts that the same God who gave me so much today will give me enough tomorrow. Jesus doesn’t say it is a sin to have a savings account. But when our own enjoyment–having what I want to have, and doing what I like to do–becomes our purpose, our cause, then selfishness has corrupted God’s good gifts.

There is still a higher price to pay for selfishness and greed. Look at God’s words to the man in the parable. “You fool!” he calls him. All of us, even Christians, even believers, are still sinners. At your death do you expect to meet God and hear him condemn you as a fool? Because we are forgiven, we expect to be welcomed as his children. Something is seriously wrong here.

“This very night your soul will be demanded from you.” That is not the language God uses for welcoming his children into heaven: “The angels carried him to Abraham’s side.” “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Take your inheritance…” God’s words to this rich man sound more like demanding someone pay his debt. It is language that judges and condemns. Jesus is warning about the danger to our souls.

Jesus teaches us to be more concerned about true riches–to be rich toward God. Those are not measured in dollars or kept in bank accounts. Those are not riches for which we have worked, sweated, and sacrificed. They are the gift of God. “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you, through his poverty, might become rich.”

Jesus gave up everything–heaven, every worldly comfort, his Father’s loving presence, even his innocent life–to bring us spiritual and eternal riches. “In him,” Paul says, “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In some of the last words of the Bible, John invites us, “Whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”

Take as much of God’s grace as you can hold. There will always be plenty more for everyone else. Let your conscience take it easy. God’s free forgiveness ends our slaving to make ourselves acceptable to him. These make us truly rich and teach us a better use for the earthly wealth we have been given.

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