Sermon Illustrations

Successful Businessman--Modern Day Rich Fool

John Ortberg tells the story of a successful businessman. He worked 14 hours a day, even on weekends. He thought the 40 hour work week was such a good idea he would often do it twice a week. His goal was to be the best businessman he could be. Even when he wasn’t at work, his mind drifted toward his work so that it was not only his occupation, it was his preoccupation.

His wife tried to get him to slow down. She knew that they weren’t as close as they used to be. But because of his work, he hardly ever gave her any time. He gave at the office.

In the back of his mind, he knew that his kids were growing up, and he was missing it. His kids complained about the ballgames he missed, the meals around the table he missed, the school concerts he missed. After a while, they stopped complaining because they figured he was never going to change.

The businessman told himself, “I’ll be able to spend more time with them when things settle down. Besides, they have a nice house and nice clothes and cool video games because of my job! Everything I do, I do for them!” Deep down, he knew that he would be living this way even if he didn’t have kids. But it made him feel better to say it anyway.

He also knew he wasn’t taking care of himself the way he should. His doctor told him he had some serious warning signs-high blood pressure, high cholesterol. The doctor told him to cut back on the sweets and the fast food.

But instead, the businessman stopped going to the doctor. He said “There will be plenty of time for that when things settle down.”

His wife tried to get him to attend church. But he said “Sunday is the one day I get to crash! It’s the one day I get to sleep in! I don’t have room in my life for God and the church. There will be plenty of time for that when things settle down.”

One day, the president of the company said “We have a new account with the Kohler company! We’re going to be rich! We have a lot of work to do over the next year or so. But it will be worth it!”

Later that night, the businessman tells his wife “Do you realize what this means? We can relax! We can take life easy! We’ll be able to take that vacation you’ve been talking about!”

But his wife said “I’ve heard this speech before.”

Besides, there was one small detail the businessman had overlooked. An artery that had once been as supple as a blade of grass was now as dry as plaster. The blood cells could barely squeeze through. Each day, while the man anxiously watched the stock market and stressfully did his work, the artery accumulated more and more plaque.

Later that night while he was hunched over the computer, his heart skipped a beat. Then another. Then another. He gasped for air. He clutched at his chest. And he fell asleep.

His wife woke at 3am wondering “Where is he? Why isn’t he in bed yet?” She sees him slumped over his laptop. She says “Figures. He’d rather sleep at his desk than come to bed.

She touched his arm, and she realized how cold he was! She panicked! She called 911. They came to the house. They told her that he had a massive heart attack and that he’d already been dead for hours.

People came from all over to attend the funeral. His work buddies said “He was a great leader! A dedicated worker! A good man!”

The company paid for the business man’s headstone. It said “Here lies Barry: A visionary! An innovator! An entrepreneur!”

But later that night, God sent an angel to the headstone. There, the angel traced with his finger the word God had in mind to describe the life of this wealthy, successful businessman. Fool. God said “You fool! This very night, your life will be demanded from you. Who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”

This is a modern version of the story Jesus tells in Luke 12. Jesus was very frank in his diagnosis. He didn’t say the man was wicked. He didn’t say the man was evil. He simply says “You fool.”

Why does Jesus use this harsh word? The man didn’t deliberately set out to alienate his wife and kids. He didn’t deliberately choose to become a self-centered, greedy man. He never said that he didn’t believe in God. He simply devoted his life to the wrong things. He became too self-absorbed and too busy for the things that matter most.

When you look at Luke 12:16-19, you can see that the farmer’s priorities are completely out of whack.

From a sermon by Marc Axelrod, Jesus Came To Set Us Free From The Grip of Materialism, 12/16/2009

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