“Don't be a Fool”
One of the greatest challenges people face today revolves around the issue of money. No matter who we are or where we live, money issues affect everything from marriages to estate planning. It affects where we go on a vacation, and whether or not we will even survive from one day to the next. Yes, some have very little money, while others have more money than they can handle. Well, money issues are not new. They have been around for a long time and will continue to be around until this world as we know it comes to an end. Even Jesus had something to say about money. Outside of His teaching on the Kingdom of God, there is more teaching from Him on the subject of money than anything else. When it comes to our money, we don't have much to say. Most of us do not want anyone to know how much or how little money we possess. We especially do not like someone telling us how to spend or save, or even to give it. Yes, money is a touchy subject. Well, in today's lesson on "Key to the Kingdom," we turn to a story, or parable, from Jesus. He has something important to say about money, and it is worth our consideration, because it applies to life in today's world. As Jesus does with such stories, He does not provide the ending. He leaves the ending up to us, as we think about how we need to respond. In the next few minutes, we will carefully consider His teaching about money, and even ask some questions about our use of it. I trust you will stay tuned to this station as we study the lesson entitled "Don't Be a Fool."
Have you ever thought about how a disciple or a follower of Jesus Christ is supposed to live? Oh, that is a rather odd question, isn't it? And yet some believe it really does not matter how one lives, at all. As long as you read the Bible and pray a little bit, go to church services from time to time, and even drop a little bit of money in that collection bowl, then things will be okay. It seems Jesus takes issue with some of those ideas, and He challenges us in the area of discipleship, especially in the area of our giving. In the story before us today, Jesus is not talking about giving money to the church. He is not talking about dropping in some money when that bowl is passed; rather, He is talking about being a generous person. He is talking about a lifestyle of generosity, as those who follow Jesus help others whom God puts into their life. Well, in Luke's Gospel, that means helping the poor. It means helping those who are overlooked. It means ministering to those who are less fortunate. The story today is about who will benefit from our generosity, as we have benefited from God's generosity. The story is in two parts. It is found in Luke chapter 12, and we begin reading with verse 13. <Someone in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?" Then He said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in the abundance of possessions."> A young man stood up as Jesus was teaching the multitudes, and he had a request to make of Jesus. Oftentimes, that was done in the Jewish culture. Rabbis or teachers like Jesus would serve as somewhat of a judge or an arbiter when people could not come to a decision on their own. And so, this young man asked Jesus for help. Evidently, the situation was this: The father had passed away and left an inheritance for these two brothers to divide. And according to Jewish law and custom, the older brother would receive a double portion of that inheritance, which means he would receive two thirds. On the other hand, the younger brother would receive the remaining amount, only one third, in this particular scenario. The younger brother, no doubt, was upset about that. He did not think that was fair, and he wanted Jesus to make a decision, no doubt on his behalf. Well, it would make better sense for the younger brother to have that property and that land divided up where he could take his one third and go on with his life. Yet on the other hand, it would make better sense for the older brother to farm out that land to an area farmer, to lease it out, and that farmer would make a crop, and on an annual basis, the older brother would receive some kind of benefit. And so therein lies the question, and the younger brother wanted Jesus to help solve that problem. Yet Jesus does not deal with the man's request at all. Instead, He tells a story about what happens to people who only think about themselves. He tells a story that perhaps we have heard before, but it makes a point in regards to how we are to be people of generosity and help those who are put before us. So, with that, Jesus tells this story, which we find here in Luke 12, beginning with verse 16. <And He told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? 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 bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I will say to myself, 'You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.' 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?' This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God."> Jesus' parable, or story, is not just about greed. It is not just about one's love for money, even though those ideas are there. It is also about living with a never-ending desire for more. As Jesus introduces the story, we find a man who is identified as a rich farmer. That means that he is wealthy. He has received some kind of benefit in the past from his farming enterprises. Perhaps he has a good piece of ground, maybe the seed was good, perhaps the sun and the rain came down at just the right time, and he received an abundant crop. Well, none of that can be attributed to his own efforts. Those were simply blessings that God had given to him, and through all of those blessings, this farmer had become rich and wealthy. And then another harvest came, and this one perhaps was even better. And he looked at all of the grain, he looked at everything that had been given to him, and he began to ask the question, "What am I going to do with all of this? I don't know where to store this abundance of grain." And he began to think about himself. He did not think about the other people around him, who perhaps were not as blessed, and he began to think, "Well, if I just tear down those barns over there and build bigger ones, then I will have a place to store my grain." And that was his thought process. In fact, he decides to take care of his own interest and desires to the exclusion of everyone and everything else. And that is indicated when Jesus, 11 times, refers to the man by using a personal pronoun. He uses words like "I" and "me" and "my" some 11 times as He refers to the rich farmer. And that was this farmer's mindset: "What am I going to do? What about my grain? I am going to store up for myself plenty of grain and possessions so that I can eat, drink, and be merry." As he considers only himself, the people around him continue to suffer. Evidently, this rich farmer has no family members with whom to consult. He does not have a wife. Perhaps he has no children or grandchildren that he can leave some of his possessions to for the future. He's only thinking about himself, and what will gratify his own wants and desires today, as he gives no thought to the future. In fact, the story seems to suggest that he does not even think about who will receive what he leaves once he dies, and that is exactly what happens. He dies as a rich, lonely man with nothing to show for his life. At the end of the story, we find God comes on the scene, and He tells him that his life and his money are now demanded from him, that his life and his money have been on loan from God, and now they must be returned. In other words, this man is now to give an accounting and a report concerning how he lived his life, and how he used, or spent, or invested, or gave away his wealth and his possessions. And as God approached the man and told him, "Tonight your life will be required of you," we find the words "you fool." Oh, there are several times in Scripture where we find the word "fool" or "foolish," and yet this is the only time, the one time in all of Scripture where God identifies a man and He says, "You are a fool." And He does that because of his misuse of the wealth and the possessions and the grain which God has entrusted to him. Once again, there were many things this rich farmer could have done with his wealth. He could have given some wealth to that neighbor farmer who did not receive that kind of an abundant harvest. He could have given some funds to that poor widow who lived next to him there in the village. He could have blessed a number of people who were poor and hungry and who did not have what he enjoyed. Yet again, he chose to only think about himself. And that is why God called him a fool. You know, I can just imagine how this man must have responded when he heard those words. Perhaps he said, "God, just give me a second chance. Give me another opportunity to go back and to take down those big barns, to get all of the grain out, and to help as many people as possible. God, please give me another opportunity to see those people you put before me, and to do something to minister to them, and bless their life, and make it just a little bit better." Yet that opportunity did not come. He did not have that second chance. Oh, he had it for a number of years, evidently, as he farmed the land, but now the opportunity was gone. When I think about this story, there's one particular sentence, or phrase, used by Jesus that really grabs my attention. It's there in verse 15. Jesus said, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in the abundance of possessions." There is another version of the Bible called The Message, and The Message reads like this in verse 15: "Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot." Oh, that seems to go against our thinking today, doesn't it? The more wealth we have, the bigger our bank account, the more money that is at our disposal, the better life we can have and enjoy. And yet, Jesus seems to say just the opposite: "Do not allow even the least bit of greed to enter into your life." As a result of that, this rich farmer's life was really no life at all, because he did not use his possessions to give life to other people. He did not use his possessions and his grain to bless the lives of others who were around him. Perhaps we've heard the phrase before: A life that really matters is one that is lived for the sake of other people. The apostle Paul does quite a bit of teaching and writing in regards to wealth and money and finances, and in all of that teaching he gives two reasons why we are to work, two reasons why we are to make money. Number one is to not be a burden to other people. That is found in 2nd Thessalonians chapter 2, verses 7 through 12. And then the second reason why we are to work and make money is so that we can bless others. That is found in Ephesians chapter 4, verse 28. Yes, those are the two reasons Paul gives why we work and make money, so that we can bless other people and not be a burden to other people. This parable, this story from Jesus asks us to think about our view of money, doesn't it? Sometimes we don't like to think about such things. And yet for those who choose to follow Jesus, for those who decide to grow in their discipleship and their relationship with the Lord, we need to think about our money, and to realize that our money is not to be used for our own pleasure. Our wealth is not to be used to pursue our own interest and wants and desires. Yes, there are some beautiful things in this world, and some great opportunities that we have, and God wants us to enjoy them, no doubt. We also have the duty to take care of ourselves and the needs of our family members. That's obvious, and that is very important. Yet when those things are addressed, how are we to use the excess in our lives? How are we to use and give away and spend the abundance that God has poured out to us? Also, we need to be very careful that we do not see our wealth and our possessions and our money as a source of security. We've seen throughout the years how quickly money can just disappear because of investment rates, because of different things going on in the stock markets, and if we put our faith and trust in our retirement plans or our savings accounts or anything else, we know that it can be just as quickly gone as it was quickly received. But our source of security lies in the Lord God Almighty, and so we notice that money, just like our lives, is on loan from God. And money, just like our lives, is to be used to bring glory and honor to God and to be a blessing to other people. Once again, we notice this rich farmer. He evidently did very little, if nothing, to earn this abundant crop. It all came to him as a blessing from God. He had the opportunity to do something meaningful, to bless many people, and yet he chose to take care of only himself. We could list a number of other things this man could have done, but he chose to do none of them. And likewise, we are to realize that all of the money and all of the wealth and possessions and stuff we accumulate here upon this earth is a blessing from God; that God gives to us many things, oftentimes that we don't even deserve or earn. Oh, he might give to us the abilities and the minds and the opportunities to do well, and certainly we understand that. And yet, it too is a gift from God. As we think about these things, we realize that we can either withhold or demonstrate our love to other people. And when we consider all of the wealth and the possessions that God has entrusted to us, and when we think about what we're going to do with all of that, we have to come up with a better answer than to say, "I'm going to build bigger barns." And so, as we build up our estate, do we do so to leave it behind for people to fight over after we are gone, or do we build up our wealth and our estate so that we can be a blessing to other people? We can use the money God entrusts to us to either demonstrate or to withhold our love from other people. That seems to be the ultimate message Jesus teaches in this parable on generosity. As we begin to draw our lesson to a conclusion, I want to offer three questions for us to consider. I'm not going to give an answer to any of these questions; I have to answer them for myself, just like you do. But here are three questions for us to consider in regards to our wealth and our possessions. Number one: Does our money serve God, or does it only serve ourselves? Number two: Is our security in our possessions, or is our security in God? And number three: Would God look at the use of our money and wealth and possessions and call us a faithful steward, or would He call us a fool? Yes, those are challenging questions, aren't they? And yet, those are questions I believe we all need to consider on a regular basis. We've referred to The Message translation a moment ago. I want to go to it again, in verse 21. After God identified that rich farmer as a fool, Jesus said, "That is what happens when you fill your barn with self and not with God." Yes, that too is something for us to consider. With what are we filling our barns here upon this earth? Are we pursuing our own interests and wants and desires? Are we laying up our treasures for ourselves? Are we thinking about all of our abundance and wealth, and how it will serve us the rest of our life, as we can eat, drink, and be merry? Or, are we thinking about our wealth and possessions and money, and thinking about ways we can use that to be a blessing to other people, to be an encouragement to those who are less fortunate, and to offer something to those people who don't have enough? Are we trying to advance the Kingdom of God and do something that will really make a difference, in gratitude and in appreciation for what God has done for us? As we think about living a life of benevolence, a life of generosity, this parable teaches us a great deal. You know, it's interesting to notice, as we close the story, Jesus doesn't tell us what happened with those two brothers and how they divided up their dead father's estate. And perhaps he chooses to not do that for a reason. And perhaps that reason is, Jesus wants us to decide what we will do with the excess money in our life. With what are we using our money? Are we laying up treasures for ourselves, or are we laying up treasures in heaven?
Whenever I drive by or go into a bank or financial institution, like this one, my thoughts turn to money; and that is only natural. A bank is an institution through which we can borrow money. We can receive some money to help us in various aspects of our life. We can also put our money in to a bank and earn some interest. We then have easy access to that money any time we so desire. And as my thoughts turn to money, they also turn to, what could I do with more money if I had it? Would I buy new clothes, would I purchase a new vehicle, would I buy a bigger house? Yes, sometimes money becomes a temptation. Paul even writes that money is a root of all kinds of evil, and we know some of those evils, don't we? And yet, on the other hand, we can use money in a good way. Yes, we might need some of those things I just mentioned, but we can also use money to bless those who are less fortunate. We can use the money entrusted to us to bring glory to God, and to do mission, and to do ministry in this world; and, that's important. Yes, the funds God entrusts to us are to be used wisely and to bring Him glory. I would encourage us to not be foolish with the money God gives to us, but we use that money to help other people, to bring glory to His name, to honor Him, and to be wise stewards of all of the funds He entrusts to us.
Thank you for tuning in to today's broadcast. Jesus' story is hard to hear, isn't it? And yet He wants us to consider the very best way to respond to the money God generously gives to us. If you want to hear this message again, go to our website, keytothekingdom.com. It is available in various formats, and it is easy to download. Now, this lesson, along with many others, is free from any cost, and it requires no commitment. Study questions, which are a new feature, have been added to each lesson. While visiting the website, take a few minutes to look at some of the other resources we offer. There are several different Bible lessons, which focus on God's love and salvation. They offer basic Biblical teaching and are absolutely free. You might even consider calling the number on the screen for additional help or information. Have you found us on Facebook yet? If not, I hope you will find and 'like' us very soon. Every week, new devotional thoughts and inspirational videos are uploaded. They can be found on the YouTube channel as well. A free app is available for those who would like to access our ministry on a smartphone. All of these media tools will hopefully give you easy access to this mission effort. Every week, at this same time, we broadcast a message from God's Word, and I trust it is beneficial. I invite you now to join us again, next time, as we continue to study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."