At 6:39 p.m., during a small party with friends, I got this text:
“Hi, Becca. My list shows you as my writer for tonight’s devo. Is that still the case?”
D’oh!! Generally, these devotionals are due at noon the day before they are published. Not only am I one of the devotional writers, I coordinate the devotional writers every week. I even find myself slightly irritated when I have to remind someone that their devotional is due. Just yesterday morning, I even complained to one of the co-pastors about how difficult it sometimes is to get people to remember their devotional deadlines. Yet, here I am, frantically belting out a devotional that was due 10 hours ago!
Here’s the thing… I had good reason. It was my birthday. There was a solar eclipse, and I’m pretty sure it happened because it was my birthday. I had to respond to all of the sweet people on Facebook wishing me happy birthday. There were 88 of them. I counted. Also, it was the first day back to school for my kids. I had to get some work done. We had dinner guests of friends and family. There were many things to do, many things to think about.
How could this have happened? The Lord and Creator of all the universe has, through the trust of others, given someone like me the task of writing to you about him. The Author of everything and the standard of good has honored me — one unworthy of his grace — with the gift of promoting him with this method of serving him. And I forgot!
That text at 6:39 p.m. was a reset for me. It was the Lord’s hand on my face, turning it gently back toward him.
Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile…”
— Mark 6:31 NLT
Sometimes the Lord reminds us quietly that we have forgotten him and gently guides us back toward the gift of honoring him, for he never forgets us.
You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
— Psalm 27:8
My prayer, Lord, is that we may never forget you in our constant distractions, that we may run with endurance this race that you have set before us, that we will impress these words of yours on our hearts and on our souls. In your son’s name, amen.
My wife and I love to host people in our home. We enjoy cooking for people, playing cards, watching movies, or just sitting and visiting. There is something about having people in our home that makes us feel very content and blessed. That said, we have very different methods of entertaining our guests once they arrive. Although it has caused tension over the years, it is interesting at just how similar our patterns are to those of Mary and Martha.
When I know people are coming over, I busy myself getting everything in the house just right. I want the floors swept and vacuumed. I don’t want there to be any dirty dishes in the sink. Bathrooms need to be sparkling and candles need to be lit. Once our guests arrive, I very easily transition from preparing the home to hosting our guests. It doesn’t matter if it is your first time to come over or your 50th, I feel the responsibility to make you feel comfortable and welcomed. I worry the food won’t be ready at the time I promised. I worry the food won’t taste good and our guests will feel uncomfortable. Even while the guests are still in our home visiting, I start to clean up after people. Suffice it to say, I stay busy from before our guests arrive until after they have left.
Sadly, my wife will sometimes reference something that was said during the course of the evening that was funny, and I have no idea what she is talking about because I missed it. There are so many times I miss the “moments” because I am in entertaining mode. I miss the relational gold in exchange for the dust of busyness.
My wife is the opposite. Don’t get me wrong, she appreciates a clean home and well-prepared food, but not at the expense of the people. She loves to sit at the table and visit. She can easily lose track of time, because she is intrigued by a conversation. She laughs a lot during the course of the evening because she is engaged. She actually has a deeper relationship with our guests when they leave because she busied herself towards them relationally as a friend, rather than towards them as a hostess.
I often realize after our guests have left that my wife “chooses the better portion.”
Is it possible that you are so busy doing good things that you are actually missing out on the best things? Today, before you go any further, evaluate the speed at which you are flying through your life. Think through the schedule you keep and the relationships that may be suffering as a result. Consider your spiritual life. Are you so busy serving Jesus that you have failed to just sit at the table with him?
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
— Luke 10:38–42
And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
— Luke 12:15
My wife and I recently downsized our housing by almost half the square footage we were once living in. As we began to pack up our old house, we came to the realization that over the nearly two years we had lived there together, a lot of unnecessary things that we never used had accumulated throughout the house. Our guest room had become a storage space that we would periodically clean (aka stuff things into the guest closet) if we had family or friends that would be staying the night with us.
During the moving process, we began to compile all the things we once thought would give us satisfaction, and it turned into almost three trips of cars loaded down with donations. The material possessions that we once thought would make our house better or prettier are now in the hands of someone who hopefully truly needs those items.
Our desire to continue to take in more leads us away from the one prized possession we should be seeking more of: Jesus. The constant urge to fill our lives with more money, more house or more food can lead into a spiraling downfall of our relationship with the Creator of all the things we long for. Being in possession of these things is not where our relationship takes its turn for the worse, but when we begin to search for joy in them is when we get lost in it all.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
— Matthew 6:19–21
Jesus speaks of the treasures we find on Earth in the Sermon on the Mount. Let this be a great reminder of where our treasure should be found. He was speaking these words just a few years before he would be crucified to cover the weight of our sins, including the idea of finding our treasure outside of him. When Jesus carried his cross to Golgotha, he knew that this was the ultimate sacrifice to save us from all of the struggles we would endure. He died and rose three days later so that we would no longer have to feel the longing for more of anything other than him. When the weight of his death and resurrection is known to you, you realize that more of anything else will never satisfy your earthly desires.
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.