Those who have followed along might well breathe a sigh of relief to know that this is the final post in this series on the Luke 12 passage. For now. I didn’t mean for it to be either as long as it is or as blunt. But indulge me one last time (on this passage anyway).
- In “Every Christian for Himself” we eaves-dropped on two brothers arguing about splitting up their inheritance and their insistence that Jesus interrupt his sermon to settle the dispute. He calls them out on their greed and reminds them that living is more than possessing stuff.
- Next, we introduced the “certain rich man” of Jesus’ parable who, like the greedy brothers, idolized his money. He tried to make his possessions his life. His life and his livelihood were all mushed together.
- Then, we listened in on the man’s “prayer” to himself about how he was going to maintain and maximize his profits and “eat, drink, and be merry.”
- In the most recent post, we talked about how closely akin are “consumerism” and what Jesus deemed foolishness.
Let’s pick up the parable at the point at which God interrupts the wealthy hedonist’s self-indulgent strategy:
“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?’”
“But God said.”
The man’s “prayer” excluded God, but that doesn’t mean there’s no God to whom we must give an account. He may leave us to our own devices while we leave him out, but not forever. We all have to attend our own performance review, called “The Judgment Seat of Christ.” The Lord does all he can to prepare us for it, he may even delay it when he knows we’re not ready for it. But ready or not, here it comes!
In this case, the performance review regards the man’s performance with possessions and the heart behind it. It’s not about believing the right things, saying a prayer of “accepting Jesus” and everything’s fine and dandy. There’s a lifestyle that has to follow such a prayer and healthy doctrine. Here Jesus points out the intrinsic connection between how we steward our possessions and how genuine is our faith. He shows us that a straight causal line can be drawn between the physical and spiritual, between money matters and what really matters.
It’s serious business when God calls you a fool. Jesus told us not to call each other fools (Matthew 5). I assume it’s because we’re not qualified to dispense such harsh judgment. But God knows a fool when he sees one and reserves the right to call it as he sees it.
A “fool” is not someone who is mentally deficient, but one who is morally defective. David said, “The fool says in his heart there is no God.” The original language there is probably better translated, “The fool says in his heart, ‘No, God!’” It’s not so much that he doesn’t believe that God exists. He or she knows he does, but still has the audacity to reject his rule and say “No” to him! Sounds pretty foolish to me.
“This very night your life will be demanded from you.”
Only God can say these ominous words: “This very night.” We don’t know when that night is. The time of our death when he will require us to give an account of the way we’ve lived is his purview. We don’t know how long we’ve got, so we should make the best use of the minutes we have instead of working, working, working to be able to consume, consume, consume.
“This very night,” i.e., I’ll give you the rest of the day to think it over and repent!
Fat and happy one day and dead by night. “Night is coming when no man can work.”
He’s rich and about to get richer and concocting a plan to retire surrounded by his riches. He must have assumed that since things were going so well that God’s blessing was on him––you know, the whole “I have plans to prosper you” thing!
“… your life will be demanded from you.”
I gave it to you to see what you’d do with it, now give it back! I demand it back. Tonight! My life is God’s gift to me, what I do with it is my gift to God.
“Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”
Pretty gnarly, right? –– You’ve prepared a bunch of stuff for yourself. You consume a lot and contribute little. You prepare, but only for yourself on earth and are therefore not prepared for the place I’ve prepared for you in heaven. To coin a phrase, “A fool and his money are soon parted.”
“Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”
Very gnarly, right? –– You won’t be getting what you prepared for yourself, because you prepared it only for yourself. Plus, I’m demanding your soul tonight. So, who will get all this wealth that you’ve hoarded for yourself? You weren’t willing to part with any of it during your life, but since you will soon be parting from earth, who will get what you should have given before your parting?
Finally, Jesus sums up his teaching on the harm of hoarding:
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
He sets two things in contrast with the other. We either store up things “for [our]selves” or we can be rich “toward God.” They’re opposites in the same way Jesus said we “can’t serve God and Mammon” at the same time.
I reiterate that it’s not a sin to store up wealth, to have a savings account or a 401-K. It’s putting it in store “for ourselves” to which God objects.
“Rich toward God” is an interesting concept, don’t you think? One version paraphrases it: “…is not rich in what matters to God.” Nothing matters but what matters to God!
You can be rich toward God with or without earthly riches, although it will be more difficult to if you have them––the old camel and the eye of the needle thing.
How could all this be considered “Help for Hoarders”? First, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Now we know that there is great harm in hoarding. It harms us and it harms those who need some of what we have hoarded for ourselves. We know how hard it is to hang on to our wealth and onto to Jesus at the same time. We know that whether rich or poor in the tangible, if we share what little or much we have with those who don’t have enough, we’ll be rich in the spiritual.
We know that though Jesus never rails against six-figure incomes, it seems obvious that he would be resolutely against a six-figure lifestyle in a world where children are starving. In other words he challenges us to make a radical break from the patterns of over-indulgence, consumerism and reckless waste, to live more simply that all may simply live.
Speaking of hoarding, the last thing you want to hoard is your friendship with Jesus. Show him all the time and share him often. For help along those lines, keep an eye out on Amazon for my soon to be published book on evangelism called Reaching Rahab: Joining God In His Quest For Friends.