A few weeks ago, we looked in Luke and in particular, the parable about the Good Samaritan as we asked ourselves the question what is love. Just a short time later, a crowd gathers to hear the words of Jesus. Why should people gather to hear Jesus? Perhaps it’s the miracles of healing, perhaps they are seeking a free meal, since He has fed thousands of people. Or perhaps Jesus talks about God without pretense or ceremonial rituals. There is something different, something novel about this man Jesus. People come to hear Him.
In the 11th chapter, Jesus is speaking to a large crowd. He had cast out a demon from a mute and then the mute began to speak. Some of the religious leaders accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub or the ruler of demons (Luke 11:15). The gloves come off and Jesus unloads on the Pharisees. He tells them they are so interested in petty details they totally miss the meaning of the Law. Let’s look at a few verses to show how Jesus responds to their comments.
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it.”
One of the lawyers said to Him in reply, “Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too.” But He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. (Luke 11:42-46 NASB)
Apparently, Jesus missed the memo about public speaking and preaching where everything must leave the listeners feeling warm and fuzzy. In the 12th chapter, Jesus warns against the influence of the Pharisees. He cautions the gathered crowd not to fear what people could do but be concerned about their fate in the hands of God (Luke 12:5).
We are now ready to delve into our message for this morning. Let’s open our Bibles to the 12th chapter of Luke as we begin reading in verse 13.
Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” (Luke 12:13-15 NASB)
There is an irony in death, greed frequently comes and is manifested by those who were grieving a loss. For some reason, once the relative is out of the picture, the focus is on money. Ricky Gervais once said: Where there’s a will-there’s a relative! So, this person calls out to Jesus to settle a dispute between him and his brother. Jesus asked why should He be the one to settle the dispute. Then He remind the man and the crowd that we should all be on guard against every form of greed.
At this point, Jesus shares a parable.
And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:13-21 NASB)
There is no condemnation for the man being rich. There are many people who served God and were blessed with material wealth. I remember Abraham and all of the flocks he owned. I remember David and Solomon. All of these were wealthy men mentioned and they all served God. The issue is do we own material wealth or does material wealth own us? In the parable, the man was only concerned with building more storage for his increasing bounty. “More is better.” There is no mention of sharing with those who were in need. There is no mention that he thanked God for the bountiful crops.
One of the rich men from the Bible that I just mentioned realized the futility of chasing wealth as an end in itself. Here are some of his thoughts as found in Ecclesiastes the 2nd chapter.
Thus, I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun. This too is vanity. Therefore, I completely despaired of all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun. When there is a man who has labored with wisdom, knowledge and skill, then he gives his legacy to one who has not labored with them. This too is vanity and a great evil. For what does a man get in all his labor and in his striving with which he labors under the sun? Because all his days his task is painful and grievous; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 2:18-23 NASB)
The logic and rational of Solomon’s argument are entirely self-evident. We work our whole life and accumulate certain wealth. When we die, we cannot take one penny with us. It all goes to someone else. So, we are chasing something that we will never own.
When we look at biblical examples, God has never wanted us to worry about the future. The children of Israel were only allowed to gather manna sufficient for their immediate consumption. With the exception of the Sabbath, they could only gather enough for one day. As Jesus presented His sermon on the mount, listen to His words regarding our concern over material goods.
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
“For this reason, I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:24-33 NASB)
To worry about accumulating wealth is a worldly norm. We are concerned about having enough money to see us through our retirement. We worry that we may out-live our savings and spend the last days of our life in physical need. Is this living by faith? I am not suggesting that we live foolishly and squander our resources. Most of us have a definite time of earning followed by the time when we are no longer actively producing income. We certainly bear the burden to save as we can against those days. However, it is not our goal to amass far more than we need to meet our basic necessities.
At some point, we must realize that we trust God to meet our needs and not depend on our own ability. How did Jesus start this conversation? We cannot serve two masters. If the pursuit of money is our goal, then we are not serving God but money.
We may look around and find many examples of people living in the worldly manner of striving to accumulate wealth. It is never enough. How much is needed? As a Christian, we are called to be different than the world around us. Paul wrote to the church in Colossae and cautioned them about putting on a new self.
Therefore, consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:5-11 NASB)
In this passage, Paul equates greed with idolatry. Chasing after more and more is clear evidence that we are serving the master money or wealth rather than God. This greed is in the same list as those “ugly” sins. Paul acknowledged that some of his readers were guilty of these sins but now have put those sins to death as they are renewed in Christ.
Have we allowed our pursuit of wealth to become an overriding motivation in our life? Are we serving two masters?