Summary: 911, Part Seven
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (LK. 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’s Most Admired Companies. From 1998 to 2000, Enron’s revenues shot from $31 billion to more than $100 billion, making it the seventh-largest company on the Fortune 500, with a net worth of over $200 billion.
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 self- promotion, business practices and fuzzy accounting had charmed and conned employees, investors, and financiers.
In this passage Jesus denied a petitioner’s request to arbitrate in a sibling dispute over money. Jesus refused to act as a money manager, a family lawyer, or a middle man. He warned hearers against greed in any form. In fact, he called the rich man who is obsessed with money or goods or property in his riveting story a fool. Why was the rich farmer a fool? Did he like to sleep? Was he a big spender? Was he defrauded? None of the above. Why is a greedy person considered a fool in the sight of God?
Fools live in their own egocentric world.
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.”
Someone once asked John D. Rockfeller the question, “How many millions does it take to satisfy a man?” The answer was: “The next million.”
A little over a decade ago before the Enron debacle, insider-trading arrests were the biggest business news. A man named Dennis Levine disclosed how he and his famous partner Ivan Boesky traded illegally with the information they had as insiders, buying and then selling stocks of companies in soon-to-be-announced announced mergers, implicating big names Michael Milken and Drexel Burnham Lambert in the crime.
Levine later explained to Fortune magazine (5/21/90) in an exclusive interview: “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.”
The first folly of greed is a craving, an ambition, and a demand for more and more things, goods, and 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, bring up money in their conversation, and believe 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 before the land yielded its crop.
The other word known to a greedy person is the word “me.” This Greek word “thought” in verse 17 occurs only sixteen times in the Bible, all in the gospels, mostly with a negative connotation, describing Jesus’ displeasure and ridicule of the disciples on one occasion, with the scribes and Pharisees on another, and the final with the chief priests and elders. It usually ends with Jesus being “aware of their discussion” (Matt 16:8, Mk 8:17), “Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts” (Mark 2:8) and “Jesus knew what they were thinking” (Luke 5:22). The rich man’s dialogue, indeed, was a cover. He had it all figured out. He asked and answered his own question. He did not need any counsel but his own. The only opinion that mattered was his.