Summary: Store up riches towards God because you never know when He will demand your soul
The Rich Fool
Did you know you can purchase almost anything on eBay these days? Just this past week an Australian man has sold his complete life – his home, his possessions, his job and his friends – the bidding had gotten to £400,000. Not so long ago a 20 year old student in the USA put his ‘soul’ up for sale on eBay. The bidding went to $400 before eBay removed the advertisement. What value would you put on your life this morning? What would you grab from the house, after your family, if there was a fire? Did you ever play that ‘midnight game’ that Gordon MacDonald mentions at the beginning of ‘When Men Think Private Thoughts’? Or maybe you have recently read ‘When it is all over it all goes back in the box’ by Ortberg. How do you value a life? How do you measure what your life is worth?
Have you read that children’s book ‘Guess How much I love you?’ Read it sometime – simple but maybe we all need to take it on board this morning. I tell Taylor that I love her more than the moon, the stars and the whole wide world – you cannot measure that, can you? Turn with me to Luke 12.13-21. Here is Jesus’ teaching, via a parable, about how to value a life, your life.
To the classical Greek world the division between soul and body was commonly accepted, as it is today. To the Hebrew mind, and to the Christian mind, such a division was, and is, unthinkable. For the Judaeo-Christian mind it is impossible to separate the soul from the body. The Hebrew word ‘nepes’ – the self was a whole person, indivisible into parts and it is that understanding that we must keep in mind as we turn to this parable of Christ Jesus.
The Setting – if you look at 12.1 you will see that Jesus is teaching crowd of many thousands. From the crowd a voice is raised above the others and asks the question of verse 13. ‘Teacher’ is Luke’s word for ‘Rabbi’ and the man in the crowd assumes he is addressing a legal expert. So he asks Christ a question concerning inheritance. I want you to note first what he does not ask Jesus. He does not say to Jesus that he and his brother are quarrelling over money and that he does not want this to get out of hand and to destroy their relationship with one another. Therefore for the sake of their brotherly relationship would Jesus intervene and reconcile them. No, instead, he says something like this. “Rabbi, my brother is in the wrong here, would you tell him he is in the wrong and that he should give me my rights.” The words of this man, the demands that he makes, indicates that he and his brother had already been estranged because of this issue. The assumption behind the request is clear. The father had died without leaving a will or instructions. According to the law of the time the estate could not be divided until the older brother agreed. The fact that this man wants his inheritance would lead us to conclude that he was the younger brother. The petitioner had already decided what would be a just outcome to his request. How would Jesus respond?
Verse 14 – Jesus addresses the questioner as ‘Man’ which was form of address which denoted displeasure in the Middle East. He refuses to be the judge between these two men and proceeds to explain why. He uses the question as a teaching opportunity, not just for the benefit of the man who had asked the question.
Verse 15 – here is a clear warning about the insatiable desires of possessions. Possessions are attached to a deep, often irrational fear, that one day we will not have enough. There is always that gnawing fear that one day it will all be gone and it is never satisfied. Why? Because the insecurity is never dealt with. Christ warns the man, and us, that the measure of a life is more than possessions. The amount that you have is no measure of the value of your life. Note how Christ describes this desire for possessions – ‘greed.’ Greed is never satisfied, it never has enough. Christ then moves to tell them a parable to illustrate this general point.
Verses 16- 20 the parable of the rich fool.
The man in the parable is already rich. He had what he needed for daily life and a bit more. He did not work any harder for this bumper harvest that had arrived this year. It was not by the sweat of his brow or the toil of his labours that his fields had yielded more than any other year. But listen to what he says next – read verses 17-19. Did you notice that at the very beginning? ‘He discussed with himself..’ This would have come as a shock to those listening to Christ that day. In the Middle East people make important decisions after long discussions with their friends. Everybody’s business is everybody’s business in such village life. Sometimes even trivial decisions are only made after discussion with family and friends but it would appear from Christ that this man had no friends. The literal translation is that ‘he dialogued with himself.’ What a sad scene is painted in those words – he had riches but he was alone. Isaiah 5.8 warned about the dangers of wealth – this man had paid no heed to the warning and was alone, with no one to discuss what he should do with this bumper harvest.