At the heart of so much human interaction and tension in this world is squabbles about and passionate drive towards attaining money. Few things, then, are more disturbing than when a family becomes split about an inheritance matter. Someone in the crowd following Jesus has this issue and asks Jesus to intervene—on their behalf to tell their brother to do what they want! Jesus is far too savvy to fall for that trap. Note: we are not being unkind when we avoid various traps and barbs and pitfalls put in front of us by people. It is wise to be careful what we commit ourselves to and not rush in where angels fear to tread.
So Jesus does not wade into a fight that is not his to have to act as an arbiter between these two brothers.
But the occasion does provide him the opportunity to do some teaching on the matter of money—and if the brothers are listening, they would both find it very instructive.
First of all, he establishes a principle: “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” So many people act as if it did! As if the more cars they have, the more houses, (dare I say it, you bibliophiles) the more books, the more clothes, the more money—that is what defines who we are. If we have the membership at the right club. If we have the appropriate accruements of wealth. Then we are something special! But we are not. Listen to the principle. One’s life does not consist in the abundance of one’s possessions. As soon as you put it like that, you realize that it must be the case! We are far more than money, material goods, wealth. So much more. We exist without having yet another car or plane. We are something more than merely a collection of “stuff.” We all know this.
So having established the principle, he then drives home the lesson with a startling warning in the form of a parable.
A rich man has land that is doing well. His business is expanding, his farm yields are up, stocks are doing well. So he does the natural thing. He builds bigger barns. This will enable him to store more of the grain that his land is producing, sell it, and make yet more money. How logical!
Note Jesus is not speaking against productivity, nor against godly ambition for the kingdom, but against greed. Hear the voice of the rich man in this parable: “Relax, eat, drink, be merry.”
How different is John Wesley’s famed advice to rich people: make as much as you can, save as much as you can, give as much as you can. In other words, if we are blessed with material possessions, we are to utilize them for the extension of God’s kingdom. No other safe place is there for our soul than if our generosity grows in proportion to our prosperity.
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