Anyone who grew up in the ’80s or ‘90s knows the TV show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. The host Robin Leach became famous himself by profiling ultra-rich individuals and their yachts, their summer homes, their automobiles, and their extravagant lifestyles. Millions of ordinary people tuned in to get a glimpse of millionaires whose lives they could only previously imagine.
Jesus profiled the life of another uber-rich individual for his first-century audience when he told the parable of the rich farmer in Luke 12:
And he told them a parable, saying, “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
This farmer was so wealthy that he had to tear down his barns and build bigger ones, Who could imagine such a thing!? But the man’s self-proclaimed easy life was suddenly turned upside-down when his life was required by God.
Having finished the story, Jesus then does something strange: he starts his next sentence with the word “therefore” and begins telling his not-so-rich audience not to worry about what they will wear and what they will drink.
Huh? What’s the connection, Jesus?
The connection is simply that both the super-rich man who found comfort and security in his riches and the ordinary folks who anxiously wondered where their next meal would come from made the same fatal mistake: they failed to acknowledge their Provider.
Unfortunately, spiritual poverty is not merely a rich person’s disease. It affects all of us. In the rich man’s case, that poverty translated itself into misguided comfort, but in the case of “ordinary folks” who have no such comfort, that poverty often manifests itself as anxiety.
But Jesus points us toward a truth that goes beyond our bank account. He starts out by talking about how God provides for the birds (who “neither sow nor reap” – v.24) and how he splendidly clothes the flowers of the field (that are alive one day and are burned up the next – v. 28). He then talks about how God will take care of us too, but he uses a different word for God in this context: Father.
Ultimately, what each of us needs — whether rich or poor — is to understand that we have a heavenly Father who knows us intimately and cares for us deeply. While our flesh may crave the false security of a fat portfolio, our soul cries out for something deeper than dollars. Regardless of our economic status, we all need a Daddy.
It is only when we truly believe that God is our loving heavenly Father that can we come to peace with our lives being out of control — out of our control, that is. When we read that God loved us so much that he gave his only Son to bring us eternal life (John 3:16), we realize that God’s authority and control over our lives is actually a very, very good thing.
So whether your lifestyle is rich-and-famous or more of the make-ends-meet version, know that your heavenly Father is powerful enough, wise enough, and loving enough to exercise control over your life in a way that will bring you enormous benefit and blessing — and make you rich toward him. And since he has made us so rich, our response can only be to make him famous.
By the way, Robin Leach died last month. I wonder if he was rich toward God?
I wonder if we are?