English Standard Version (ESV)
The Parable of the Rich Fool13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man,who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 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.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying,“The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 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. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: The Rich Fool
Accompanying Matt Chandler sermon: Bigger Barns
Accompanying Mark Driscoll sermon: The Parable of the Rich Fool
Does this seem a little random to you, Jesus dealing with greed in the context of the previous passage about hypocrisy and the fear of man? It did to me.
But MacArthur points out something interesting.....
These are not randomly selected sample sins among many. Rather, these are the two essential realms which exist. There are only two realms which exist...one is the material realm and the other is the immaterial. One is the spiritual, the other is the physical. One is the natural, the other is the supernatural. There are only those two realms. Hypocrisy relates to the spiritual realm and greed relates to the material world...both the material and the immaterial world threaten to damn eternal souls. You get into the wrong spiritual teaching and the wrong spiritual influence and your soul will be damned. If you get into the wrong physical influence, the wrong material influence, and your soul will be damned. Both the immaterial world which is basically operated under the power of the prince of the air, Satan himself, and the material world which is also his operation, are designed to bring about the eternal damnation of souls. And Satan, frankly, is just as satisfied to seduce souls into hell by either religious deception or natural deception, by either deception in the immaterial and spiritual world, or deception in the material world. Hell would gladly welcome souls coming to them out of the religious world or out of the secular world. The deceitfulness of religion and the deceitfulness of riches work against the soul.And by the way, though they can be separately described and separately defined, they don't exist separately. That is to say, they are blended together in the lives of the unregenerate. And that is true even of those who are most involved in the religious world, religious hypocrites, the architects and the perpetrators of false religion are invariably motivated by money. False teachers do what they do for money, for filthy lucre. That's always been true. In the Old Testament and the New, they are always so described. And it was true of the Pharisees. They were hyper religious, they were fanatically religious, they were extremely religious...they were, in their own minds, the spiritual of the spiritual. And yet, in Luke 16:14 it says, "Now the Pharisees were lovers of money." There is no necessary divorce between the material and the immaterial in that sense. In fact, as I say, those who are most engaged in the religions that are false are inevitably engaged in the love of money. Beware of false religion, the love of error. Beware of material wealth, the love of money.
Yeah, not as random as it first appears, is it?
So, on to this passage specifically. And this is a pretty touchy topic for most of us Americans/Canadians I think.
Driscoll has pointed out in several of his sermons that I've read the fact that they are four categories in regards to riches and wealth. There are unrighteous poor people, there are righteous poor people, there are unrighteous rich people, and there are righteous rich people.
Being rich or poor does not make you righteous of unrighteous. It's why you are rich or poor, and what you do with the money you have, and your attitude towards it that's important.
The first thing Jesus deals with is contentment. There are really only two options - either you are content with what you have, or you are coveting what others have.
What is coveting? Coveting is not just the having of possessions. It is the loving of possessions, which results in the hoarding of possessions. Loving meaning you can’t stop thinking about it. You can’t live without it. You absolutely have to have it. And even if you don’t have the money, you’re still going to go get it. We call that debt.....and now you are indebted to the credit company because the borrower is slave to the lender. That’s the trick of coveting. Coveting ends in slavery. Someone owns your dollars, someone owns your days because you worship someone or something other than God.
So coveting is a horrendous sin, but we don’t believe this. We do not believe this because we call it advertising. We don’t use the word coveting. We use the word advertising or PR or marketing. The whole point of advertising is to get you to covet, to get you to be discontented because you either have contentment or covetousness. If you’re content, you’re glad for what you have. If somebody else has something, you’re glad for them, but you don’t have to have it. You’re not jealous about it. You’re not obsessing over it. You’re not going into debt to keep up with them. You’re okay with it. But if you’re coveting, everything changes.
Advertising exists to create in you a sense of discontentedness. Things you didn’t even know you needed. And the truth is you don’t really need them....See, Americans don’t see coveting as a sin, but it is. It’s actually one of the Ten Commandments. God wrote a list, Ten Commandments. Number ten, no coveting. It actually made the list. Here’s how he says it, God does, in Exodus 20:17, the tenth commandment, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, or covet your neighbor’s wife, or his servant, his male servant, his female servant, his ox.” All right, that would be his tools, his truck. “His donkey,” that would be his car, his Jeep, “or anything that is your neighbor’s,” including his TV, the huge one you can see when you’re walking your dog and you look through the window and you see the big TV and you stop to covet. ..
Jesus says guard your heart against coveting. It’s a real problem. And the way you guard your heart against coveting is you worship God. Because, see, coveting is the worship of an idol. An idol can be some created thing that you love too much or you long for too much or you lust after too much. And so the way we combat coveting is through worshiping. That’s why the first two of the Ten Commandments are number one, there’s only one God. Number two, you worship him alone. And if you worship God alone, you won’t break the rest of the commandments, Martin Luther says. You won’t murder somebody. You won’t commit adultery. You won’t lie and you won’t steal and you won’t covet. Because if you’re worshiping God, you’ll be content with your spouse. You’ll be content with your house. You’ll be content with all that God has given you and you won’t be coveting. You won’t be sinning. You’ll be worshiping.
Sometimes the idol is money itself, but sometimes the idol is deeper than that and it's what the money represents - status, security or comfort.
Are you content or are you coveting?
Are you worshiping God or your money?
Next, how do you handle the finances you do have? Foolishly or faithfully?
The man in the parable handles his money foolishly. As far as we can tell, he earned his money honestly. The problem was how he handled it.
he decides, “I’m going to build more barns to hold more grain and more goods,” meaning all my money and all my possessions. What does God call him? A fool. This is the only express text in the Bible that deals with the issue of retirement. And it doesn’t do so very positively. “You fool.” Does that mean everyone who retires is a fool? No. But the driving motivation of retirement leads to a lot of trouble and it led to a lot of trouble in the last decade in this nation, where people are getting into high-risk loans and homes and flipping and trying to get rich and trying to retire.
And the whole goal is, “I don’t want to work for the rest of my life.” If you do that, you’ll fall into all kinds of trouble. It’s a trap. It’s a trap. And everybody thinks they’ll be the exception to the rule and we’ve now learned that’s not true. We’ve learned it painfully. Our goal is not to retire because even if you retire from work, you don’t retire from Christ. Okay, it’s not a sin if you make enough money that someday you don’t have to get up and go to work every day. But that doesn’t mean that your whole goal is to just eat and drink and play shuffleboard and wear flip-flops and live somewhere where the sun shines and you hang out with a bunch of other people who wear, you know, therapeutic cream for their aching joints and talk about their most recent surgery while sipping drinks with umbrellas in them, right? That’s not the goal of life.
The American dream, he says, is foolish. And this is this perennial crisis we’re having in the church where Christians just want to retire and go to somewhere sunny. They don’t want to invest in their kids, their grandkids, their church. They don’t want to lead a community group. They don’t want to teach or train anyone in anything. The whole point is, “I just want to sit around and pretend like I’m in heaven already, find an idyllic, perfect place where the sun always shines, and pay somebody to rub my back.” And Jesus says, “That’s a dumb idea.” That’s a dumb idea.
Driscoll doesn't pull any punches does he?
When we hear the story about the rich fool, what invariably happens is we think, “Yes, rich people, we don’t like them.” You, friends, are the rich. You’re the rich......You have a toilet. All right, you already have a throne, literally a throne in your home you sit on like a king and a queen. And just with one magic lever, everything unpleasant departs from you......you have central heating, you have electricity, you have a bed to sleep......We have refrigerators. Why? We have more food than we know what to do with, so we have cupboards and we have a refrigerator. Most people in the world, that’s not the case.....
In 1950, the average home was 1,000 square feet; 1970, 1,500 square feet; the year 2000, 2,200 square feet. In the last thirty years, family size is down 25 percent. House sizes are up 50 percent. Bigger barns. Is it a sin to have a bigger house? Not necessarily, if you’re a good steward with your resources and you’re doing the things with it that God entrusts for you to do as first priority and if you can actually afford it. But many of us got bigger barns and we didn’t have the grain to fill it up.
Now some of us as well, we got a bigger house, a bigger barn, and that wasn’t enough. Even though we have closet organizers and storage space and we have a garage, that wasn’t enough, so Americans, we invented something else called the storage facility. This is a barn in addition to our bigger barn. The U.S. now has five times more storage facilities than Starbucks......Now truth be told, there are some legitimate uses for a storage facility. I mean, you got a business and you’re storing product or something, I understand that. But for most people, this is, “There is so much junk in our house. We need another place to hold the junk that we don’t need. So let’s go get a storage facility.”
What’s curious is a lot of the storage facilities are about the same size as the average home around the world, made out of about the same materials, cinderblock and tin. And they don’t have a toilet. They don’t have central heating, plumbing, or oftentimes electrical. So where we put the junk that we don’t even want, that’s where the average person puts their family. We’re the rich. We are the rich.
What does Jesus say? “You fool.” You fool. Is it a sin to make money? No. Is it a sin to have nice stuff? No. Is it a sin to live in a decent house? No. But here’s the real issue for this guy. Listen to what he says. He, himself, I, I, my, he, I, I, my, I, my, my, my. He worships a trinity. He, my, and I. That’s his trinity. He, my, and I. And see, for us, the question is, is that it? Are we the center of our life? All of our possessions are for our consumption? That’s it? Nothing toward God? Nothing toward the poor? Nothing toward anyone? Jesus says that’s foolish.
And so what God does in the parable for this man is he kills him. And he calls his account due and he has to stand before God.....
Some of you say, “Yeah, that’s right. If God gave me a lot of money, I would totally be generous with it.” Let me say this. If you’re not generous now, God’s probably never gonna give you money. The Bible says he who is entrusted with a little can be trusted with much. The context is finances. He who is trustworthy with a little bit of resources can be entrusted with more resources. If you can’t handle what God has given you now, why in the world would he give you more? And I’m not saying that we give in order to get, but we want to be good stewards and good stewards are most likely to have God entrust more to their stewardship. It’s not how much you get. It’s how much you keep. It’s what you do with what you get and what your heart’s motivation is with your consumption.
Now what should he have done? Well, he should have spent some money to pay his bills and it’s okay to take care of himself, but he should have been generous toward God and others. I’ll give you a converse story from Pastor Rick Warren, who is a nice guy, loves Jesus, and I’ve enjoyed some time with him. I get to talk to him now and then. He wrote the best-selling English book in the history of the world after the Bible. It’s a total win. Did a good job. And he got a lot of grain. What did he do with it? He paid back I think it was like twenty-five years of salary to his church. “I don’t need it. Let me pay back everything I’ve ever made.” That’s pretty great. And then he started reverse tithing. He gives away 90 percent of his income and he lives off of 10 percent. That’s amazingly generous. I think that’s fantastic. Now, if he lives in a nice house, which I’m sure he does, and if he sits in a comfortable chair and maybe even if he’s got heated seats in his car, do you think Jesus is gonna be really upset with him? No, ‘cause his heart is he loves God.....Now we have the same opportunity, maybe with less zeros, but the same opportunity.
So then the final question is, is our wealth our God or a gift from our God? Luke 12:21, he says it this way. “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” Here’s the real problem. For himself. That’s the problem.
You can be spiritually poor toward God, though financially rich. That’s what Jesus is saying. How do you be poor toward God? Well, you could be poor toward God spiritually. See, when we sin against God, we accrue a debt. That’s why Jesus prays, “Forgive us our debts.” Every time we sin, we accrue a debt to God....
Jesus is God become a man. Though rich, for our sake he became poor. He lived without sin. He went to the cross. He died in our place for our sins. The Bible says he made himself a ransom. That’s paying the debt. Our sin debt to God is paid by Jesus, a ransom. Now, if you don’t know Jesus, you don’t belong to Jesus, you’re not a Christian, you’re poor toward God. You’re in debt to God. You literally have hell to pay. But if you come to faith in Jesus, as he says here, you’re rich toward God. All your debt is paid and all of his righteousness is given and you’re rich toward God. That’s a wonderful thing, spiritually.
In addition to being rich toward God spiritually, we can be rich toward God financially, meaning whatever God gives us—it’s not prosperity theology, where we want to be rich. It’s not poverty theology, where we’re scared of money, we don’t want to make money, we don’t want to transact business. It’s generosity theology. We want to be a good steward. I want to invest and work well. I want to take whatever I’m able to get in a way that is honoring to God. I want to pay my bills, take care of my family, look after our church, give to the poor, help those in need, leave a legacy, make a difference, stand before Jesus, and have him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You didn’t worship your wealth. You worshiped with your wealth. Thank you.” It’s a huge opportunity that God has entrusted to us.
He ends with a really great prayer.....
Father God, I pray for us that we would be rich toward you spiritually, having faith in the Lord Jesus, who is our ransom and pays our debt, that we would be rich toward you, Lord God, financially, that we would not be concerned about being rich or poor, but instead about being righteous and unrighteous. God, for those who are rich, I pray that they would be generous. For those who are poor, I pray that they would be generous. And God, I pray for those who are poor, that as they are generous, one day you could trust them with riches, not so that they could be rich, but so that they could be good worshipers and great stewards, that they could generously do more to help the poor, that they could fund the work of the gospel and the planting of churches. God, we share in your joy as we give, so please bless our offering and please bless our ensuing decision-making as we have some big decisions to make as to whether or not we will worship wealth or worship with our wealth in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Would we spend our money differently if we wrote Luke 12:21 on our wallets?
Monday's scripture focus: Luke 12:22-34
Sunday's passage: Isaiah 3-4
Monday's passage: Isaiah 5-6, Proverbs 4, Philippians 1