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!”