Summary: Parables for Seekers, Pt. 3
EASY COME, EASY GO (LUKE 12:13-21)
The biggest business collapse in 2001 was the downfall of giant energy-trading company Enron. For six years running, Enron was voted Most Innovative among Fortune magazine’s Most Admired Companies. In 2000, Enron’s revenues shot to more than $100 billion, taking its net worth to over $200 billion and making it the seventh-largest company on Fortune 500.
A year later, in an October, 2001, press release, the company dropped a bombshell on investors by announcing a $618 million loss. Before the year was up, Enron filed for bankruptcy. Its stock fell from more than $80 per share to less than a dollar in a few weeks. The public later knew how Enron’s publicity machine, business practices and fuzzy accounting had conned unknowing employees, investors and financiers of their money. Its stock, earnings and reserves were overstated and inflated – a fool’s gold.
In Luke 12 Jesus was addressing thousands of people in the crowd (Lk 1:1) when a man interrupted his public and rich discourse with a private and selfish request. Naturally, Jesus denied the petitioner’s request to arbitrate in a sibling dispute over money. Jesus refused to act as a money manager, a family lawyer, a professional arbitrator, an expert negotiator or a skilled mediator. He warned hearers against greed in any form. In fact, he called a person who is obsessed with money, goods or property a fool.
Why was the rich farmer in Jesus’ riveting story a fool? Did he like to sleep? Was he a big spender? Did he lose his savings? Did he spend others’ money? None of the above. One who gains the riches of the world but loses his soul in the process is a fool and a loser in God’s eyes.
Why is a greedy person considered a fool in the sight of God? Why is mindless devotion to wealth a worthless pursuit to God?
A Fool’s Boasting is Bankrupt in God’s Eyes – Your Treasures are Earthly
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 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.” 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. The fool’s little world is summarized by two words: “more” and “me.” (Luke 12:13-18)
Someone once asked John D. Rockefeller, the 19th century kerosene and oil king who was the Bill Gates of his times, the question, “How many millions does it take to satisfy a man?” Without hesitation, he answered, “The next million.”
In the nineties, more than a decade before the Enron debacle, insider-trading arrests were the biggest business news. A main player named Dennis Levine disclosed why he and his famous partner Ivan Boesky traded illegally with the information they had as insiders, buying stocks of soon-to-be-announced announced merging companies and then selling them for profit when the stocks rose upon the completion of the deal, implicating big names Michael Milken and Drexel Burnham Lambert in the crime.
Levine explained to Fortune magazine (5/21/90): “People always ask, ‘Why would somebody who’s making over $1 million a year start trading on inside information?’ At each new levels of success I set higher goals, imprisoning myself in a cycle from which I saw no escape. When I became a senior vice president, I wanted to be a managing director, and when I became a managing director, I wanted to be a client. If I was making $100,000 a year, I thought, I can make $200,000. And if I make $1 million, I can make $3 million.”
Greed (v 15) is a craving, an obsession, a demand for more and more things, goods, property - more than what we need. It has been said, “Money is a good servant, but a bad master.” Greedy person can never have enough of physical or material things. They think of making more money, creating more wealth and becoming more prosperous. They dream of money in their sleep and bring up money in their conversation, believing that money talks, money makes money and money makes the devil his employee. The void in their heart becomes a hole and, if unchecked, a crater. Note that the rich man was already a well-off landowner (v 16) with money, land and barns - plural, but his appetite for wealth was insatiable. In today’s business terms, barns will have to make way for warehouses and depots, stores will have to give way to chains and franchises, and land to open the way to trucks and bulldozers.