We talk a lot around MRC about the importance of focusing on God and Eternal things, don’t we? We also point out week after week that this world and everything in it seems to have one goal, and that is to keep us from focusing on God and eternal things. Do you know the thing that most people struggle with in their faith more than anything else? It’s finding an ability to focus on God and eternal things on a consistent basis. It is one thing to really focus on God in big moments, where we need Him, or painful moments when we can’t find or see a way out of the pain, or even important moments where we hope God comes through for us…but we can say it, it’s tough to focus on God and eternal things which we can’t see…with so much happening in front of us that we can see, and feel, that often is so loud and makes the moments of today seem so much more important than all of eternity to come. But have you ever wondered why it’s so difficult to get our minds, and focus, and appetites off things of today? Did you ever stop long enough to really think it through? We love God and we absolutely want to go to heaven someday, but in the end we either compartmentalize God to Sunday mornings at church, or for moments when we need Him to do something for us. We take a life-giving relationship with God and have no interest in it, thinking that is something Pastors and leaders do but not me! I have my life to live…I may want to walk with God, and I do love God…but it’s hard to focus on God and the things of eternity when there is so much for me here, today, in the now. You may have days, and weeks where you are like, ok, today I’m going to start and focus and walk with God consistently but you get distracted, you drift and another week or two goes by…you may truly, sincerely want God in your life but frankly He is pushed to the side and years of our lives go by, with no growth, no development, no life change, just day to day living, wondering why this Christianity thing isn’t working for me…wondering where this life to the full thing is that Jesus said He would give me…while in reality, making a choice to invest into today, rather than eternity to come. You see, at the very core of this issue, this inability to focus consistently on God, and all of eternity to come is a real and very common issue in our lives, and that issue is greed. Greed is me living for myself. Greed is the thing pulling your eyes and focus away from God. It’s this voice inside us all that pulls us to this place where we just can’t or won’t hear or focus on God because we want to live how we want to live in the fleeting moments of today. This is why it’s so hard to focus on God, because we are so focused on ourselves, our happiness, our comfort, our wealth, our material possessions, our families, our schedules, and on and on I can go but in all of the effort to do what we want to enjoy today, we miss out on God, a life giving walk with Him, and if we aren’t paying attention maybe all of eternity to come, which I like to say is a much longer time than today. So, as we get started here this morning, I want to ask you, are you investing into yourself and the moments of today, or are you investing into God, a relationship with God, and eternity? Greed says invest in yourself and today, God says invest in me, and all of eternity to come.
So, this summer we are studying the Parables of Jesus. Jesus told a lot of stories, and we learned that He did that on purpose. Remember Jesus did explain to us why He tells stories in Matthew 13.
Matthew 13:12 Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. 13 That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. MSG
Before we dive into our parable of the day, let’s pray for ready hearts so we can be open to this teaching.
So today we are going to be studying the Parable of The Rich Fool which is found in Luke 12:13-21. This is another awesome Parable of Jesus, that is told to help open our hearts and minds up towards greed in our lives. What is interesting is that for most people they equate greed with money, but we will talk today about the fact that Jesus gave a stern warning to watch out for all kinds of greed in our lives…which is very important for us to see. It is also very important that as we study these parables, we also understand the context of this parable. Remember it’s important to know who or what Jesus is responding to and why he tells the story as we study these awesome stories from Jesus, and I’m just going to tell you as a Pastor I can really feel what Jesus is up against here. So, Jesus has just finished an intense teaching, let’s get the context here of what he is up to and how Luke 12 gets started.
Luke 12:1 Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. NIV
So, a huge crowd of thousands of people is pushing in to hear Jesus. This is intense, and he starts with another confrontational moment, exposing the religious leaders, and stating how nothing will be hidden, everything will be exposed. He goes on to talk of the important of fearing God, He speaks of eternity to come, He speaks of Heaven, and He speaks of Hell and then explains the ramifications of denying Him here on Earth and the eternal ramifications of acknowledging Him, so this is really confrontational, really in your face, and really an intense teaching in front of a massive crowd on some heavy subject matter…life and death stuff! This should have everyone’s attention…but it’s at this moment, that some guy blurts out something from the crowd that he wants Jesus to handle for him.
Luke 12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” NIV
Ok, so without making this a therapy session for me here today, I will just say that as a Pastor I can really feel this moment. Jesus has just laid out some straightforward, intense, life and death teaching that can change eternal destinies forever…and this guy didn’t hear a word. He didn’t show up to church with a ready heart for this insight from Jesus. He isn’t interested in the life changing message Jesus was sharing. He didn’t show up to learn, or grow, or to have his heart changed by God, or to meet with God, no, this guy showed up to this church service because he had a problem and he wanted Jesus to fix it. As Jesus talked about eternal ramifications, and the concept of true life and the reality of Heaven and Hell, this guy heard…BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, when can I get his attention to fix my issue so I can head back into my life. You know, I think we can look at this guy and think…what a selfish moment, but if we are really honest, I think we can all come into church this way at times. We aren’t ready for a spiritual moment, we aren’t focused on God, or wanting some time to just worship God and be with Him, but looking for a way to fix my problems, because if we fix my issue then I can go back into life happier. This is why so many people are disappointed with the message of Christ, or the concept of a daily, life giving relationship with God, or the idea of worship and spiritual growth, because we sit in our churches hearing what this guy did…blah, blah, blah, what is in this for me, or blah, blah, blah, when will they give me the remedy to my problem, I hope this church can fix it so I can move on with my life. So, something to think about is how do you come into church? Is it to worship God? Are you ready to receive God’s truth? Are you ready to hear and learn and grow, or just be with God and move towards life change, or are you coming to church like this guy, just needing something fixed so you can go back to your life feeling a little better about things? It’s an important question! Now let’s move on and look at how Jesus responds to this guy blurting out his needs in the crowd.
Luke 12:14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” NIV
First, I have to say Jesus handles this so well, I know if it were me part of my heart would have hurt thinking this guy didn’t hear a word I just said, but I love how Jesus, engages him and tells him first that he isn’t going to be judge and jury for him on this issue, but then instead of fixing the issue the way the guy would like, Jesus gives a very stern warning on greed, once again looking right through the guy into his heart. This guy wanted Jesus to yell at his brother, not press in on his own heart…but what he said in verse 15 is very important and very real for you and I today.
Luke 12:15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” NIV
He says that we must be on our guard, we must watch out for all kinds of greed, and that our lives aren’t about how much stuff we have. This is huge…and then Jesus does what Jesus does, and tells a story, this time revealing what our investment should be in…and to give you a hint, it shouldn’t be in today.
Luke 12:16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21 “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” NIV
In so many ways, this is such a relatable story for you and I today. This guy does well for himself, and has an amazing harvest, and he has so many crops that he can’t store them all…so he decides to tear down his barn and build bigger barns…which makes sense, I guess we could ask why he tore the old ones down but in general this makes sense, he stores up his wealth, thinking now he can take it easy and live the good life…but the issue was he was investing in today, and not investing into God and all of eternity to come and that very night he passes away, and as they like to say, you just can’t take all that wealth with you when you die. Jesus is showing us with this story that the rich fool’s investment is all wrong. His focus and investment were in the wealth of this world while Jesus keeps pointing to eternity, and to God and says to be truly rich is to be rich towards God. So, some of us just heard that and thought, great…another sermon on giving the church money. Some heard that and almost laughed because we still have bills to pay, things to buy, and it isn’t really all that cheap to live in this world we are in today. Some of you may hear this story and feel a bit convicted today too.
Jesus is giving us a strong warning here on greed, and he does this a lot…in fact Jesus talks about money and the love of money and greed often, and what do I tell you about things on repeat in our Bibles? Yes, they are very important subjects that we need to pay attention to. Why? Why does Jesus bring up greed and money so often? Is it wrong to be wealthy or have money? No, absolutely not. As Christians are we to be poor and scrape by? No, that isn’t it either. It is all about our hearts and our focus…greed keeps you focused on you, and the things of today…while God wants our investment to be into eternal life, and the things of God that lead us to a full life…the very life Jesus said He came to provide for us. There is an old Roman proverb that says this about money and greed is like seawater, the more you drink the thirstier you get. Jesus says you can have money, and you can have stuff, but we must watch out and be on our guard against all kinds of greed. Why? Because greed is investing in you and the things of today, and we know our investment should be in God and all of eternity to come.
Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” NIV
At the beginning of this talk, I was asking you about your ability or inability to focus on God and eternal things vs the world and the things of today. Well, this is what it’s all about. Jesus is showing us how to invest our lives into God so we can find real riches and wealth that last forever. And I want you to understand that each and everyone of us has a choice to make in how we will live our lives and how we will invest our lives. We may choose to invest into our happiness in the moments of today or we may choose to invest into God and the things of eternity, but I will tell you whether you have made this choice intentionally or not, you have made a choice. You are investing your time and energy and thoughts and focus into the things that matter to you. You can’t serve two masters, but I will tell you, you are serving one. You may have never sat down and consciously thought it out and said, I’m choosing to invest into today and things that make me feel good right now, over the things of God, but for so many of us, that is the way it goes…and the only time God is passionately part of our lives is in the painful moments, or the challenging moments, or when we really need Him to come through for us and when the pain lifts…it’s right back to the status quo of where life was before the last big issue, until the next big issue arises. So, what are you investing into? Where do you spend your time? Where do you spend your money? Where does your focus, passion, and resources go? What do you talk about with people? When you are alone or wake up in the morning, what are you thinking about, worried about, what is swimming in your mind? So, you may be kind of relieved thinking, whew, well for me it isn’t money, so I don’t have to worry about greed…well what did Jesus say?
Luke 12:15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” NIV
All kinds of greed…so what do you invest into these days? For some everything is about politics right now, for others it’s social media, for many it’s people and public opinion and appearances, for others it may be money or material possessions…hopefully for some of us it is God and the things of all eternity to come over this world, and things of today. I think to simplify everything I just said down to a question it would be this. Are you investing into yourself or God? Basically, I’m asking if your investment is into greed or God. Jesus was crystal clear; you can’t have two masters…you just can’t. So, whether you realized it or not, you are making a choice. You know it may not be a conscious decision…in Mark, Jesus talks in another parable that we will study this summer about a farmer throwing seed, and how it grows or doesn’t grow depending on where it falls, and he talks about the seed that falls into the thorns and weeds as the person dealing with greed…
Mark 4:18 The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, 19 but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. NLT
Do you see it? It doesn’t have to be an abrupt thing, it’s just something that creeps in over time and chokes out God’s word in our lives. Slowly the world and the lure of wealth and a desire for things crowds out the things of God, and before you know it…we are just walking through life, choosing to invest in this world with no focus or investment in God or the things of all eternity to come. It is your choice, and whether intentional or not, you are making a choice and an investment in yourself and the things of today, or God and eternity. Everything in this world is trying to steer us toward things of today and to keep us from God focus…it can be subtle but there is a reason that it is so hard to engage God! So, think about this for a moment, what choices have you made? How did you come into church today? Where is your heart, your head, and your focus right now? Is it on God? Is it on your job? Your bills? Your children? Your money? What is it?
This can be a big moment in your life, greed can sneak into our lives, slowly crowding us out like thorns, and keeping us from engaging God and living out life to the full…but it’s hard to see. So, we need to look at our lives and try to figure out if we are falling into this trap of greed and focusing on ourselves and this world rather than God and eternity and to do that, I would like to lay out a bit of a test. So, try to personalize these 5 questions with me today as we try to see if we are investing in the right things that would allow us to find real wealth in God or not.
Ask yourself if your thoughts and focus are on material things more so than on God. What thoughts fill your brain? What is taking up real estate in your head? Are you thinking about the new car, or new clothes, or new house, or your money and how to gain more of it, or are you focused on how to know God better and gain more time with Him? Remember greed is like drinking sea water, the more you drink it the thirstier you become…you will never have enough.
Ask yourself what you are willing to do to gain more things of this world? Would I be willing to compromise my values or priorities to get what I want? Do I worry about people, or trample all over them to advance or obtain more? Do I care what I need to do to grab more things of this world?
Take a look at your life, how do you respond to life when your stuff breaks or you lose it? I’m not saying you can’t be upset or stressed when something needs to be fixed, but do you have emotional breakdowns over things of this world? This can tell you that your investment is off.
Ask yourself, what do you enjoy most? What really brings you happiness and joy? Is it your stuff? Having more of it or is knowing God the thing that brings you life? What is it?
Ask yourself, if right now you were suddenly wealthy, what would you do with all that wealth? This can be so telling…what would you do if you had it all? Would you live for yourself or for others? Would you be generous or buy an island of your own? What would you do? This says a lot about what choice you have made in what you are investing into in life.
Jesus talks about greed and warns us against all kinds of greed a lot. He tells us we need to be careful and watch out for it because it chokes out God’s word in our lives and literally crowds God out of our lives. For so many of us, we can admit that we struggle to focus on God, but we don’t know why. The reason is we are choosing to invest in ourselves and the things of this world today, rather than choosing to invest in God and things that will last forever, and that was the whole point of this parable.
The problem with greed is that we choose to live out the world’s ways, rather than the ways of God, which are always competing against each other, they are so opposite. The rich fool was completely self-absorbed. He had no ability to see past himself, his investment was in himself and what he needed. His whole attitude was the exact opposite of what a Christian’s should be. Instead of denying himself, he is focused on and affirming himself…instead of finding happiness in generosity and helping and serving others, he tries to obtain and keep for himself. This is what greed does, it makes it and keeps it about me and not God. Greed says that I am earning, and I am keeping mine, and I make it all happen for myself, which is a direct contradiction to the fact that everything we have, and everything on this planet is God’s. Everything is God’s.
Psalms 24:1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. NLT
This would mean that if I’m choosing to invest in God and eternal things, I recognize that everything I have is a gift from God and would allow me to view my stuff very differently. That is a very different mentality than making it all about me and what I did to earn my stuff!
Greed also makes it about me, and the things of right now with no focus or regard to the fact that today is a much, much shorter time than all of eternity to come. Greed chokes out God’s word in our lives, and makes it impossible to focus on Him, causing us to see today as much more important than eternity when in reality, eternity is a much, much longer time than today!
Let’s think about this parable for a moment as we close. Jesus is saying that to be really rich, we must choose to invest in God and eternal things…we are to store up treasures in heaven. The question has to be asked, what are you choosing to invest in…because you are making a choice whether you realize it or not. So, a couple of questions as we close, this important study of the rich fool.
Do you find it hard to focus on God and eternity with so much going on right now today in your life? Would you have ever equated the struggle to focus on God and live for Him with selfishness or greed before today?
How do you show up at church? Where is your heart and mind at? Do you come to church with a ready heart for God to get closer to God and grow or like the rich fool do you show up with a problem that someone needs to fix, unable to hear God’s word and grow from it so focused on your issues and what you need done?
Do you equate greed with money and rich people? What did it say to your heart today that Jesus told us we need to be on guard and watch out for all kinds of greed? All kinds of greed means that it’s more than just money, doesn’t it?
So, let’s think that through. What pulls your focus off of God and onto yourself? What pulls your focus off of eternity and onto today? What is it? For some of us it’s money, for others it can be material possessions, for others maybe it is people pleasing and how people view us, or politics, or social media, or our careers…maybe it’s our children, their decisions, their futures, and how people view my parenting…think about it. Can you focus on God and the things of God or are you focused on today?
Greed is me living for me, focused on me, and doing what I want in the moments of right now rather than seeing past myself, and momentary pleasures to see God and all of eternity to come. So the question I leave you with on this day is what do you choose to invest into and if it isn’t God, what are you willing to do to change that and find God-focus in a world designed to keep you focused on you?