This Sunday, our study in the Parables takes us to Luke chapter 12. The topic this morning is our view of wealth. As a large crowd gathers around Jesus, one man calls out a request for help. “Rabbi, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” How does Jesus reply?
“Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” This is the first clue that Jesus’ reply is not going to go how this man expected. The rest of the passage contains a warning against danger, a reason for that warning and a parable illustrating the danger.
First Jesus warns, “take care, be on guard against all covetousness.”
Take care. Be on guard. The Christian life is a life on guard. It requires a state of alertness and readiness. It’s like an armed soldier on watch, scanning the horizon for enemy combatants. If that image doesn’t work for you, it’s like a Mother armed with a box of disinfectant wipes, diligently scanning the horizon for signs of germs.
Why must we be alert and on guard? Because our hearts are easily influenced. Because there are influences which can destroy our hearts all around us. Because the spiritual world also has it’s viruses.
In this text Jesus tells us specifically to be on guard against the virus of covetousness.
The Cambridge dictionary defines covetousness as wanting to have too much.
The Greek word in Luke is pleonexia. It’s a compound word.
Pleion – more. Exo – have.
It’s the desire to have more; an acquisitive, grasping lust for a greater number of things.
Covetousness is the kind of thing we must be on guard against. It is something that wants to get into our hearts and that will cause great damage if it does.
Your translation may say use the word greed, and may say “be on guard against every form of greed.”
Covetousness, or greed, comes in a variety of forms.
We can be greedy for more possessions. We can be greedy for more experiences. We can be greedy for more security and comfort. We can be greedy for more status.
There is the greed of the person who has more than enough but cannot be satisfied without more.
There is the greed of the person who has too little and believes that only once they have gained more will they be satisfied.
There is the greed of the person who feels that they must keep up with those around them.
There is an invisible strain of greed which lies underneath the surface and shows up only when triggered by environmental factors, like the death of a family member with an estate.
The common factor, the key word is more, isn’t it? Everyone desires security and beautiful things and experiences. The difference is – greed is never satisfied. Greed can never get enough. Where there is greed there is never contentment.
This is the warning – watch out for the virus of greed. After giving the warning, Jesus then gives a reason.
Your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions.
What is meant by “life” in verse 15?
We could say your life is your identity and value as a person. In another sense we could say your life is your fulfilment and satisfaction.
How do you know what your life is currently consisting in? One clue is to fill in the following blank.
If I lost __________ I would die.
What is it that, taken away from you, would take all heart of you? What would take away all meaning in your life if it was removed?
Another way to word that is:
If I gained ___________ I would live.
We all fill those blanks with a variety of different things. What Jesus wants us to see very clearly is that wealth and possessions should never fill those blanks in our hearts.
Because you are not fundamentally a possessing being. You are a created being. As a created being your life is dependent upon your creator.
Life consists in knowing and depending upon the one who made you.
The soul requires far more than possessions for life.
What happens when we are not on guard and greed enters into our hearts? What happens if we begin to believe that life consists in the abundance of our possessions?
Jesus will show us in the parable beginning in verse 16.
In this story, we have a rich man becoming richer. A couple of good years have filled up his accounts. Those are followed with an even better year and now he has much more than enough. His piggy bank is full. What’s his solution? There is only one solution: get a bigger piggy bank. “Then I can have a life of relaxing, eating, drinking and being merry.”
Is there anything wrong with this plan? After all, isn’t that what we are all striving for here in America? To work hard, earn a good living and save up for a well deserved retirement?
The problem with this plan, is that the man is not looking at the whole picture.
The day he decides to retire early, envisioning the restaurants he will eat at the places he will visit in his retirement – death has been sent to collect him.
Because of this massive oversight, God calls him fool. He failed to take into account the uncertainty of life, the brevity of life.
Because he invested his life in a temporary tomorrow which was never guaranteed, he neglected to prepare for an eternal tomorrow which is absolutely certain.
Now he stands before God in absolute poverty, his wealth is in the squabbling hands of ungrateful offspring who were eager to see his hands slip away.
This is the way it is for the one who is obsessed with his own interests, his own treasures and is not rich toward God. This is the way it is for the foolish ones who only see Jesus as a potential means to their own ends and is rich for themselves but not toward God.
This hits too close to home for me this week.
One of my best friends as a child was Ryan Knoche. We went to the same elementary school. During sleepovers at his house I was exposed to two major influences in my young life: monster truck racing and Nightmare on Elm Street. Last weekend after competing in a 50 mile mountain bike race, Ryan died suddenly of heart attack. Ryan was successful in every worldly sense of the word – a chiropractor and business owner, a successful athlete, two wonderful kids and boatloads of friends. But there is one thing Ryan was poor in. He had no relationship with God. He made no preparations for eternity.
How do we become rich toward God? I suppose the answer is that we fill the blanks in our heart with God. We make God the one thing we must have or we cannot really live. We make His kingdom the thing we dream about and invest in. What does that look like financially? Here are three practical things we can do with our money to be rich toward God:
1. Worship God with your Tithe.
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
2. Keep a contented lifestyle and a wise budget.
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
3. Mark your surplus as AGD (at God’s disposal).
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
1 Timothy 6:17-19
Be ready for opportunities to honor God by investing your money where His heart is, in
- Brothers and sisters in need
- Missions and Bible translation
- Non-profits doing good deeds
How do you do that when everyone around you is enjoying and promoting a life of leisure and comfort?
Living in America without being infected by greed is like going to preschool in the fall and trying to avoid a cold. Can I get an amen, parents?
How do we fight against the constant anxiety that worries we won’t have enough?
The next section in Luke gives us some help.
When our hearts begin to feel the anxious stirrings of greed, we should remember two things:
- Realize how small you and your anxiety are – you can’t add one hour to your life by worrying. (25-26)
- Realize how surpassingly great is God’s loving care for his people. (24, 28)
God knows your needs, He is more than enough to fill your heart, and He is more than good enough to provide everything you lack.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown