If there is anything I have learned in this life, it’s that you don’t have to have many earthly treasures to be obsessed with earthly treasures. Both the rich and poor alike can be obsessed with the things this world has to offer: material possessions (land, house, car, toys, etc.) and immaterial possessions (status, power, etc.). Obsession is about thirsting for something. It doesn’t matter whether you have tasted much of it or not.
Jesus, while talking to his disciples, tells a parable of a man obsessed with earthly treasures.
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 12:16–21 NAS
You want to know what really catches my attention in this story? It’s that God says to the man, “You fool!” I can’t imagine the thought of God ever calling me a fool. The thought of having the One who holds my eternity in his hands calling me a fool is a fearful thing. Logic demands that if I don’t want God to call me a fool, I must investigate and understand the actions of those whom he does call fools.
1. First, Jesus says that “the land of a rich man was very productive.”
Two points must be made here. First, God never condemns a person for being rich. Abraham, Solomon, and Job were all rich, and God never condemned them. Second, Jesus doesn’t imply that the man acquired his riches in a dishonest way. So, we can conclude that God called this man a fool for some other reason.
2. Second, Jesus says that the man “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.”
Two things need to be noticed here. First, notice the man’s use of the person pronoun “I”: What shall I do, I have no place, This is what I will do, I will tear down, I will store. Who is the authority in this man’s life? Who does he depend on for wisdom and direction? Who does he believe determines his future? Who is god of this man’s life? Second, notice his use of the word “my”: my crops, my barn, my grain, my goods. Who is the authority over this man’s earthly belongings? Who does he credit for all that he has? Who determines what he does with his belongings? Who is the god of this man’s belongings?
We can see that the man in the parable views himself to be the god of his own life and all his belongings. He is to credit for all that he has. He determines how he will live his life and what he will do with his belongings. Jesus does not say whether this man believes in God or not, but whether he does or not doesn’t matter, because he lives as if there is no God. Whether he is an Atheist or not doesn’t matter, because he lives his life as an Atheist. He is a practical Atheist. And for this, God says to him, “You fool!”
3. Third, the man says, “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.”
Now, here we have a truly sad situation. It breaks my heart to think that there are so many people on this earth, even some friends and family, who are spiritually blind, who can’t see God’s truth, and who think this same way. What we have here is a man who actually thinks that earthly treasures can satisfy his soul. He believes that taking it easy, eating, drinking, and being merry are what we were created for. Now, if we were created for those things, then he would be right, and his earthly treasures would be the means for a satisfied soul. But we weren’t. We were created for so much more than this earth and its treasures can offer. We were created to be a child of the one true God. We were created for eternity. This man doesn’t understand this. His obsession is not for God, the only true treasure, the one who can truly satisfy the soul. His obsession is for earthly treasures. And for this, God says to him, “You fool!”
4. Jesus now tells us God’s response to the man: “God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’”
This man behaved as if he was the god of his own life. The problem for him was that the One who actually was the God of his life had plans that contradicted his. He spent his life in pursuit of earthly treasures, and when he had acquired an abundance of them, he settled in for many years of taking it easy, eating, drinking, and being merry. Little did he know that his life was lived in vain, because he would leave all his earthly treasures behind that night and enter into eternity a poor man, eternally separated from the only true and eternal treasure – God.
5. Jesus ends the parable by stating the lesson to be learned: “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
This might be a parable about a fictional man, but it is also the story of many who have lived their lives in pursuit of earthly treasures instead of pursuing the true treasure and being “rich toward God.”
So, after examining and understanding the actions of a man whom God calls a fool, I ask myself: Am I a fool?
I know I am a born again child of God, but do I live as a practical Atheist? Do I behave as if I am the authority over my life? Do I walk in my own wisdom? Do I try to control my own life and determine my own future? Do I behave as if I am my own God?
Do I credit myself for all my belongings? Do I view them as if they are truly mine? Do I do with them what I want?
What am I obsessed with? What do I truly treasure in life? What treasure do I spend my life pursuing? Is my life spent pursuing earthly treasures so I can someday take it easy, eat, drink, and be merry? Or is my life spent pursuing the only treasure that can truly satisfy the soul – God?
These questions are easy to ask, but they are not so easy to answer. Not because I do not know the answers, but because the answers are often too painful to face. For once we have been confronted with the truth about ourselves, we can no longer claim ignorance. We must make a decision to either confess our rebellion to God and change, or to go on rebelling.
If rebellion is our choice, then we might as well look no further for a word from Jesus. But if confession and change is what we desire, then we must look to Jesus for wisdom and direction and follow where he leads.
And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”
— Luke 12:22–23 NAS
“For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.”
— Luke 12:30–32 NAS
We are not the god of our own lives. Every aspect of our lives is in God’s hands. He not only created us, but he also sustains us every moment of our existence. For this reason, we shall not worry about earthly needs. Jesus tells us, “Your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” Jesus tells us that we are not to concern ourselves with earthly treasures, or earthly matters at all really. These are things that consume the lives of those who are not children of God.
We are to pursue the true treasure, God, and the things of his kingdom. God has chosen to give us all that he has, but we must make him and his kingdom our obsession. When we pursue God and the things of his kingdom, we find that his will and desires become our will and desires. When this happens, we will live our lives here on earth in a radically different way than the world does.
“Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
— Luke 12:33–34 NAS
At first, it seems that Jesus is telling all his disciples, the children of God, to sell everything they own and give it to the poor. What he is doing here is making a drastic contrast between the behavior of the man that is a fool and the man that is a follower of him. We saw how the fool lives, now let’s look at how the follower lives.
The follower of Jesus puts no value on earthly treasures, for he knows that they can never satisfy the soul. He does not hoard them for some future retirement that he may never see, for he knows he might not see tomorrow. The follower of Jesus seeks God and his kingdom, and in so doing, realizes that the only true value his earthly possessions have is their ability to be used to benefit others for the kingdom of God. Having had the desires and will of God become his own, he would rather sell his belongings and see that money used to meet the needs of others, praying that in doing so, God will open a door for him to share the gospel with them and see them saved and become his siblings in Christ.
The follower of Jesus obsesses not with the gathering of earthly belongings, but with the gathering of lost souls for the kingdom of God. And if he must sell everything he owns to see more souls saved, he will not hesitate to do so. Because if he is going to die tonight, he cannot take earthly possessions with him to heaven, but he can take a lost soul with him.
The follower of Jesus’ treasures are in heaven, and that’s where his heart is.
Am I a fool or am I a follower? That is a question we must all answer for ourselves.
As for me, I pray, “Oh God, please transform any part of me that is a fool and make me a follower of your son, Jesus Christ!”
Tucked away in chapter 12 of Luke is the parable of a rich landowner whose fields had, one season, produced a crop far beyond expectation. What to do? What to do? It looked to be the mother of banner years. His barns and storage facilities already at or beyond capacity, he was in somewhat of a pickle. You might think a bright young man such as he would have mapped out a detailed business plan covering the bases with a contingency for every conceivable situation when he first started his enterprise, but who would have imagined?
The truth is, beyond the six verses making up this parable, we know very little about this man. But given a face-value reading of the assessment Jesus provides for us concerning him (v.17–19), we learn these two things: One, he was full of himself, a greedy old toad, if you will — a Scrooge-like character; and two, before the sun rises, he will be dead (v.20). How tragic. Listen to Jesus tell the story:
…“The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: 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 ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
— Luke 12:16–21
As Believers, we sometimes forget we are stewards, not owners, and it is so important for us to guard against allowing the things we can possess to possess us. Such proved a fatal error that may well have played a role in this wealthy land owner’s unfortunate death, and one that will attack your health as well, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Jesus referred to this man as a “fool.” He didn’t need all that. Do you? Have you been given much? More than you need? Could you get by with less? If you are like most, over the course of a year’s time, we send a week’s supply of groceries down the garbage disposal or out to the street for waste management to pick up. A lot of us spend a week’s pay on lottery tickets, or other such unnecessary activities and vices. Come on now, let’s be real.
Most us could get by on less, and all of us would live much better, healthier, happier lives if we would concentrate more on giving and less on getting. Begin now to make the kingdom of God and his righteousness priority one and see if that doesn’t turn out to be a major game changer in your life. It has been for me.
There is a room in my house covered in mosaic tile, floor to ceiling. Six years ago, when we moved into our historic home, I spent several weeks planning, tiling, and grouting. Every day when my kids went off to school, I worked on that room. At first, it was really fun. I laid out patterns, found special objects for the focal points, and carefully adhered each one by hand. As the days passed by, however, it lost some of its excitement. I became motivated by a drive to just finish the dang thing. By the end of it, I dreaded every day. I was grouting the ceiling, on a ladder. Charcoal gray grout was falling into my eyes. My mouth was crunchy with it. Not fun. Not fun at all.
That was the last in a long line of house projects. I had painted trees all over our dining room. I had redone furniture to fill the rooms. I’d enjoyed all of the projects at the beginning, but by the end of many of them I’d felt a strange sense of letdown. Something wasn’t quite right with me. Something was missing.
Eventually, I had to face it. I was looking for fulfillment in doing more with the house. I was working hard, not being lazy. But I was using projects to fill up a hole inside of me. Keeping busy worked for a little while to distract me from the hole, to fill up the hole with momentary excitement as a project was completed, but the joy kept leaking out.
The book of Ecclesiastes words my efforts at hole-filling like this:
It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted…I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.
— Ecclesiastes 1:13–17
We were all made to last for eternity. Our bodies will die, but our spirits remain alive. There is something buried deep inside our hearts that longs for what lasts forever. It is a hole that needs to be filled with things of eternity. We try so hard to distract ourselves from the hole by “striving after wind.” We try to fill the hole with more from this earth, but that more will never satisfy. It can never be enough.
Ecclesiastes chronicles the author’s search for what truly matters. He concludes the book like this:
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
— Ecclesiastes 12:13
God is the only lasting fulfillment. In Jesus are streams of living water that fill us up and don’t leak out! Today, allow God to show you what things from this earth you’ve been using to fill that hole. Let Him make you aware of how you’ve been seeking after more from this earth, how you have been striving after wind. Then allow Christ to become your more. For eternity.
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
— Philippians 4:10–11
We live in a world of consumption. At every turn we are being prodded and persuaded to purchase something else. There are billions of dollars spent trying to convince all of us that there is a shiny new something that will finally enable us to reach utopia.
It in the midst of this “encouragement” from the world, the voice of God is telling us that more is not always more. In fact, more isn’t necessarily better. Our heavenly Father wants us to be free from the constant pursuit of more and to instead allow those desires to lead us to a better place.
Our insatiable desire for more should be a constant reminder that we were, in fact, created for more. We were created with a longing that will not be satisfied with the stuff of this world. C.S. Lewis said, “If I find myself with a longing that nothing in this world will satisfy, it can only lead me to the conclusion that I was not created for this world.”
The secret to not being in a losing game of the constant pursuit of more is to be satisfied with Christ. The apostle Paul said: But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
— Philippians 3:7–11
Today, lets find our satisfaction in Christ alone and allow ourselves to be free from the never-ending pursuit of more.
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
— Romans 6:3–4
I feel like I have to start this devotional about baptism with an admission: I have not been baptized by immersion. I am actively exploring this and what it would mean for me. However, as I started to write this, trying to figure out how to write about baptism, ostensibly to make a case for why we should be baptized, it occurred to me that baptism isn’t about me. It’s about Jesus, and knowing and declaring what his life, death and resurrection accomplished, both for the world and for each of us. With that in mind, here’s my story:
Somehow, I came to believe that my value was of my doing. I thought I could be perfect enough to please God and earn a place in Heaven. If you’ve ever tried that, you know it’s exhausting — and impossible. Then, one day, I was told that I’m valuable just because I am. Not because I’m good, but because a loving God made me. I realized that I would always be separated from God because of my sin — because of my general sinful nature, but also because, in a way, I was trying not to need God. I made a decision to let that striving, perfect, exhausted self die, and I was saved. I’m not talking some “religious” kind of saving — I’m telling you my life was saved! I was relieved of the life-crushing effort involved in trying to be good. I, who had to be perfect in countless ways, was allowed to die, and I could just be the Joy that God created, fully alive and free.
When I started to write this, a full-on Gospel message, I tried to do what has been done probably tens of thousands of times through the last 2,000 years: to restate the Gospel message set forth in scripture. There is no need for me to do that — I’m just me, not a theologian or pastor. What I am is a person who has been given new life and, right up to this very minute, is being freed from all kinds of manifestations of sin — mine and others’.
What is your salvation story? How would you tell it if someone asked you? Do you have a story of how you died and were freed to live a new life through Christ? If you do, declare it, not only through baptism, but in all the ways you are called and gifted. If you have not died to sin and been freed to live a new life in Christ, I can assure you that if you ever want to talk to a c|Life pastor about what you believe or questions you have, you will be met with compassion and kindness. What you believe about Jesus will be the most important decision you make in your life.