One of the things that I have found fascinating in our study of Luke is how often we can take an event or parable out of its context. The parable we are going to study today is another instance of this. Scan your eyes from Luke 12:13 to the end of the chapter and you will notice that there is no change of topic. The rest of the twelfth chapter of Luke is dedicated to the explanation and teaching of this parable of the rich fool. As we study the rest of this chapter of the next few weeks I want us to be mindful that though we need to stop the lesson, Jesus is not done teaching us about what it means to be his disciple. Let’s start our study with the situation that occurs causing Jesus to tell the parable.
The Parable’s Setting (12:13-15)
At the beginning of chapter 12 we saw that thousands had gathered to hear Jesus. Jesus took the opportunity to teach his disciples about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, telling them not to be concerned about the opinion’s of others and the need for the love of God to be the motive for all we do. In the midst of this scene, someone in the crowd has something to say to Jesus. Consider if you had the opportunity to say one thing to Jesus, what would it be? What would you want to ask Jesus? What would you want to tell Jesus about your life? Notice what this person says. “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Of all the things to speak to Jesus about, this person is concerned about wealth. The man wants Jesus to command his brother to give him a portion of his inheritance. This is sad. This is sad because the person fails to see that he is standing before the Savior of the world and all he can think about his wealth and possessions. Further, your father has died and the children are fighting over the will. This happens far too often, even among those who claim to be Christians. It is a sad situation. We should already know how Jesus is going to respond to this. Remember the last time we saw someone come to Jesus to tell another person to do something was Martha when she wanted Jesus to tell Mary to get up and help her. It didn’t go well for Martha then and it will not go well for this person now. Never use the Lord to try to tell others what to do. We need to look at ourselves.
So Jesus is going to help this person and the crowds look at themselves. Jesus says to this person in the crowd, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” Jesus is not small claims court. Jesus’ mission is not to settle our little spats, especially when it comes to issues of no consequence. Our Lord did not come to make sure you receive certain financial benefits or wealth. The Lord is not about giving you health and wealth.
In verse 15 Jesus gives the warning. Watch out and be on your guard against all covetousness because one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. The principle for our lives is this: life is not about how much stuff you have. Now our world tells us quite differently. Our world tells us that the most toys wins in life. The American way is all about greed and accumulating as much as possible. We are considered a success by how much we own and how much we can show off. It is world of wealth and status. Jesus is going to tell a parable to teach us the foolishness of thinking that life is about having wealth and possessions.
The Parable (12:16-21)
Jesus describes a rich man whose land produces an amazing crop. He is rolling in produce. It is a great harvest. He has hit an amazing windfall of riches. We need to consider what the true problem is with this rich fool. Many suggestions have been made about the issue of his selfishness and lack of thanksgiving, but of which are true issues. However, the issue Jesus puts his finger on is that this rich man has made no preparations for his soul. His time is consumed with his stuff. There is no thanksgiving. There is no worship to God. All that he has been given is for self-consumption. The rich man’s concern is how he can store all he has so that he can continue to acquire more. Do we see our wealth as a gift for our personal gain or a gift from God to glorify God with what we have been entrusted? Jesus wants us to consider what our life pursuit truly is. We can say that we love Jesus and are following him with all our heart, but what truly occupies our time? Our time is so often consumed in our stuff. We have no time to teach because we have our stuff that we need to do. We have no time to serve one another because we are maintaining our stuff. We do not want to lead because our life goal is not about being pleasing to God but finding pleasure in this world. Our wealth is not for God, not for our brethren, and not for those who need. Our wealth is spent entirely on our selfish desires.
Jesus has a title for people who have this kind of thinking. The title is “fool!” Fool, you have wasted your time. All of our planning and all of our efforts and we have not taken into account that death happens at any time. There are two reasons why we are fools. The first reason is found in verse 20. Our souls are required of us and what is going to happen to all our possessions? Are you going to enjoy all that you are accumulating? No, because we will die one day and leave it all to others who will not appreciate what they have. One of our issues is a lack of contentment. We are not happy with what we have and do not stop to enjoy what God has already given us. We simply want more. Fool, what is going to happen to all your things when you are gone? You have not enjoyed them and you are not taking these possessions and wealth with you.
While preparing for our retirement, we have made no preparations for what will happen to us when Christ returns. All of our time, thoughts, efforts, and energy are spent living for now without thought of how we are using what God has given us to prepare for eternity. Notice verse 21: “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” We are rich in this world but not rich toward God. Do not think that we are not under the influence of building bigger barns. What is one of the reasons for the economic mess we are in right now in this country? Everyone was buying bigger houses that they could not afford. The last few years have revealed a nation filled with covetousness and greed. Jesus instructs us to store treasures in heaven and to be rich toward God. How can we be rich toward God? What does it look like to lay up treasures in heaven so that we are prepared when we die and we stand before our Lord in judgment? Jesus explains what we need to do.
Rich Toward God (12:22-34)
Do not be anxious about your life (12:22-30).
Life is not about what we will eat, or our body, or what we will put on. Life is not about what you look like. Life is not about the clothes you wear or the status you attain. Life is not about even eating. I think we should notice that being rich is not worrying about what we will eat. Very few people truly have the concern of what they will eat today. There is a problem in our hearts if we are anxious about our possessions. There is a problem when our concern is about clothes, food, beauty, and the like. Jesus gives us two reasons to not be anxious about material things.
- God will take care of you. You are children of God. Do we not believe that God will give us the things that we need to survive? Notice how God takes care of the rest of his creation. Jesus says to look at the ravens and at the flowers. God takes care of them. If God takes care of the lesser things like birds and flowers, how much more will he take care of those for whom Christ has died? Obviously we are showing our lack of faith and our foolishness when we worry about financial things. You may not have all you want, which is probably a good thing since often use our wealth selfishly rather than glorifying God. But you will have all you need for the Lord. God will provide.
- Your anxiety cannot fix the problem. The second reason that anxiety over material things is foolish is that you cannot solve your problem. Notice verse 25: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” All of the worry that we have about finances does not change the situation. We are focused on the wrong treasure. We need to worry about storing up heavenly treasure and being rich toward God. Stop giving your efforts to the possessions of this world.
Let us make sure we understand what Jesus is saying. Look at verses 29-30. “Do not seek what you are to eat.” “Do not seek what you will drink.” Do not be worried about these things. When we seek these things and are worried about these things we are acting like the world and not like his disciples (vs. 30). The world has these concerns. The true people of God do not have these worries. God’s people do not seek these things. These things are not a concern to God’s people.
Seek God’s kingdom first (12:31-32).
Instead of seeking the things of the world, disciples seek God’s kingdom above all else. Disciples let God take care of the rest. We make our passionate pursuit to follow Jesus and the concerns of the kingdom. God can handle everything else in our lives. Notice back in verse 30 that Jesus points out that your Father knows you need them. God is our Father. He knows what you need, as any father knows what his child needs. God is the all-knowing Father and he knows exactly what you need. Not only does our Father know what we need, but notice verse 32 that it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. The Father is giving you the kingdom, which is the greatest thing we can receive. Yet we question and doubt if we can trust God to take care of the physical troubles and shortcomings in our lives. God is giving your his glorious kingdom. Do we suppose that he will not care of the other matters in our lives? Don’t fear. You will be fine if you are seeking the kingdom. God will take care of you. I think our issue is that we do not seek the kingdom first expecting that God is going to take care of everything. Things are not taken care of, so we panic and do not trust God even more. But notice how Jesus worded this promise. Don’t seek worldly things. Don’t seek material possessions. Seek only his kingdom. Then God will add the other things to you because he knows what you need and it is his good pleasure to give these things to us. We must trust him first.
Give it away (12:33).
The third way we become rich toward God and store up eternal treasures in heaven is by not being dependent or reliant on wealth. Notice in verse 33 how Jesus says we provide for ourselves eternal riches. We sell our possessions and give to the needy. We see our wealth as a gift from God to be used to glorify God. We show that we recognize that all we have is from God and God gets the glory for it. This is the failure of the rich man in the parable. He does not see that God made the land produce the crop. The rich man speaks only about himself, what he has done and what he will do. His wealth is all about spending it on himself. There is no consideration for using his wealth for the kingdom of God. I have made this point many times that I think shows our orientation toward wealth. We do not consider it a very big deal at all to spend 20-40 dollars to go out to eat. But giving 20-40 dollars to own a Bible that we will read, to buy another person a Bible, to give to the church to teach the world, to give to our brother or sister in Christ who has need, or use in some other godly manner becomes an expense we cannot afford. We are to be generous with all that God has blessed us. We are not only to be willing to share and give what we have, but we must do so. It is not enough to think we are generous. We need to show we are generous.
Focus on the heavenly treasure (12:34).
Jesus gives a final thought about our hearts and our treasure. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Your heart is following your focus. The thing you make much of in your life is where your heart will be. When you seek the things of this world, then your heart is going to follow. We cannot think that we can be materialistic and desire the things of the world and still have a heart focused and passionately pursuing God. It is not possible. A passionate pursuit of Jesus is the best and safest investment we can ever make. Earthly riches are uncertain. But whatever investment we make in the kingdom of God is safe forever. Disciples understand that what they do with their wealth and possessions will determine if they have stored up eternal treasures on the day of judgment or have nothing invested for the day of judgment. Consider that if you have put your hope in this world then on the day of judgment you will not only not have any heavenly, eternal treasures, but you will also not have any physical treasures because you are dead. You will have nothing but the expectation of eternal punishment in hell. We need to extend our planning past today and past retirement into eternity. Storing treasures in heaven will pull our hearts along with it. Where your treasure is, that is where your heart will be. Be rich toward God, not rich in this world.