How many of us have ever waved at someone thinking it was somebody you knew only to discover it wasn’t? It’s kind of embarrassing isn’t it? Now imagine you are pursuing something in your life only to discover in the end that it was meaningless… how would that make you feel?
In Luke 12, a man interrupts Jesus’ sermon on life and death, asking Him to divide the inheritance between himself and his brother. Verses 13-14 say: ” 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?”
Part of the role of priests in Old Testament was to act as a judge and mediate in these sort of things. Jesus asks him, “Who made me a judge or a divider over you?” What was Jesus meaning here? Jesus was telling him that this man has missed the reason Jesus came to earth.
The Jews of His day also missed it. Some did see Him as the long awaited Messiah. Some saw Him as Israel’s Saviour. Some saw Him as Israel’s Liberator. Some saw Him as Rome’s Conqueror. In a sense they had it partially right but at a wrong level. They saw Jesus’ role on a temporal plane rather than on a spiritual plane.
Colossians 3:1-2 says: “ Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” That is one of the dangers we fall into. We focus on what we see rather than what truly matters.
Again Jesus addresses this in verse 15: “Beware of covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist of the abundance of the things he possesses.”
Our culture and the media spread a message that life is made up of things. Advertisers tells us “You Need This” and “This will improve you life” and “He who has the most toys, wins.” Many of us struggle with comparing ourselves to others – who has the new car, bigger 5th wheel, nicer spouse. Interestingly, it’s not just the rich – even the poor struggle with it. Look at crime rates in inner city (murder for shoes, jackets, etc.) Riches themselves are not evil, having stuff itself is not sin. But what is sin is our obsession and pursuit of money and stuff. It can bind us to the physical and temporal and blind us to the spiritual and eternal.
Jesus then begins to tell the story of a wealthy farmer who would have been esteemed in his community because of his success. In verses 16-19 we find this: 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.”’
The Bible commends being industrious and working hard. But if we are not careful, it can lead us down the wrong road. The farmer in Jesus’ story is progressive, investing his wealth in capital improvements; however the progress he makes is in things, not people. Churches can get caught up in it too focusing on bigger buildings, cutting edge programs, and multiple staff members to do the work.
In the movie, “The Second Chance,” Michael W. Smith stars as a young pastor, the son of a mega church leader. But as the church ministry grew, the focus became about public image and programs. They forgot their roots of caring for people for the sake of caring rather than caring for publicity and notoriety and public acclamation
I was reading another story of an American missionary in Africa who tells natives about modern conveniences. But as he was sharing he notices one of the natives is unimpressed. He asked the man how he saw things. The man tells him that being better off is not to be better. What the missionary and we sometimes don’t realize is an easier life is not necessarily the better or fuller life.
Jesus goes on to push his point further – verses 20-21: “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.”
If you live to collect riches and live as though God does not exist, Jesus says, you are a fool. Jesus goes on about when death visits the farmer unexpectedly and takes all his wealth from him, despite the man’s efforts to bargain for his life. The angel of God walks through the cemetery and writes the word FOOL on his gravestone, for all that the man had collected was left behind.
Maybe your life isn’t that extreme, but I think at times each of us suffer from the green monster and our focus shifts from God as our priority, to things. In biblical terms, we commit idolatry and I don’t think we have to dive into the OT to see what God thinks of that??
So how should we view life and how should we view wealth? Jesus goes on to say this in verses 22-33: “Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”
Jesus says you ought to make the kingdom of God, not money, the central concern of your life.
Jesus illustrates his point with ravens: if they do not worry, and God feeds them, why should we worry that God will not do the same for us? Earlier in the chapter, Jesus spoke of sparrows and God’s provision…
Again Jesus uses a metaphor: as lilies in the field grow carefree and beautiful. Solomon and his splendor can’t compare, so are we to trust that God will provide for us. Many of the people, including many so called Christians, who make money, passion, or power the centre of their lives end up in ruins because they don’t focus on what is eternal. It is so easy to fall into the trap of materialism and affluence. I think it is one of the major factors that keeps the North American Church from growing and expanding.
So in conclusion, I want to ask ourselves this question, “What is my focus in life?” We often talk about asking Jesus to be our Lord and Saviour, but after spending time meditating on verse 34, that has changed. Luke 12:34 says, “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”
My encouragement to all of us is to make Jesus our Treasure. Because if Jesus is our Treasure, our hearts are His, our focus is His, and our lives are His alone.