Summary: Being an Authentic Follower of Jesus: The Affliction of Affluence
Being an Authentic Follower of Jesus:
The Affliction of Affluence
Covetousness and greed can manifest itself in seemingly harmless acts as when children fight over their toys to the death of Wal-Mart employee last year on the day after Thanksgiving when an out-of-control crowd of shoppers trampled a Wal-Mart employee to death as they stormed the entrance of the store when it opened. In today’s text, Jesus encounters a man who is having an argument with his brother over an inheritance. Instead of solving the dispute, Jesus seeks to rescue this man and his brother from the bondage in their hearts by telling them a parable. The point of the parable is that God blesses us so that we can bless others. Jesus is in the midst of a crowd of thousands (12:1) and one guy is singled out for his benefit and ours. He is more than denouncing this man’s sin; he is on a rescue mission.
1. The Encounter (vs. 13-15)
It was customary for people to come to rabbis to solve disputes (i.e. Moses). But Jesus refuses to resolve it but instead goes to the deeper issue creating the conflict in the first place - covetousness in his heart. Both brothers are selfish and greedy. Simply stated, coveting is desiring stuff too much or desiring too much stuff. Stuff itself is not bad; it becomes bad when it has our hearts. In fact, God calls it "idolatry (Col. 3:5)." Notice that word all – covetousness comes in all kinds of forms and leads to all kinds of sin:
lying (2 Ki 5:22-25)
stealing (Josh 7:21)
domestic trouble (Prov 15:27)
murder (Ezek 22:12);
praise (Mat 23:5, 25)
It cripples and paralyzes and numbs our hearts to the needs of others. Covetousness is an equal opportunity sin. It stalks the rich as well as the poor. Most of the people around Jesus were probably peasants. The issue is not the tax bracket we are in but the desire of our hearts. Worse yet, it ignores the ginormous mercy and grace of Christ and the sacrifice he made so that we, through his poverty, might become truly rich. God is not stingy with his grace and mercy. He has not withheld anything from you. Jesus shows how susceptible we are to covetousness by warning us to watch out and be on your guard against all kinds of greed because life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions. The danger is always there, lurking in the crevices of our hearts.
There is a lesson for us in the way Jesus dealt with this man. He goes beyond the conflict to address the most important issue - the condition of his heart. When we are working with people, from our children, friends, people we are counseling, the actual circumstance is secondary to examining the condition of the heart.
2. The Story (vs. 16-20)
Parables are stories from life that express a spiritual truth or reality. They illustrate spiritual truth because there are spiritual realities behind all common, everyday events. So Jesus tells the brothers a story to help them see their spiritual condition. An already successful man’s fields are blessed with an abundant crop and his response is to tear down his old barns, which are already full, to create more storage (vs. 17-19). He plans to use his wealth for himself - to live a life of ease, sit back, and enjoy retirement, doing what he wants to do. We would commonly call someone like this prudent but Jesus does not think so. We might be tempted to call him a good businessman but God calls him a fool. He makes three mistakes – he is loading up for himself, he is presumptuous with his life, and he thinks his possessions belong to him to use as he wishes. His greed betrays the two great commandments: love God and your neighbor. The consequence of his actions is that his soul, his life, is required of him. He has worked and wasted his life because he is now dead and will not enjoy his wealth anyways. This is a warning for each one of us – young and old – where is your heart in relationship to things.
Warning signs of greed or selfishness, covetousness:
You are living at or above your means
You are not tithing or giving
Overly concerned about money and accumulating
You have Consumer debt
Living for retirement
Envious of the success of others
Covetousness starts with discontentment, the enemy within that forges its chains. Discontentment tells us that happiness will not occur until the next purchase, the next possession, the next upgrade.
3. The point (v. 22)
Jesus sums up the point of the parable in v. 22. A fool is one who lays up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God. The one who does not view money and possessions as a kingdom tool will lose his life. He was not a fool because of his success. He was not a fool because of his plans. He was a fool because of his focus. Our life and our possessions are a blessing from God to be used for him. Covetousness chains our hearts to things that are passing away. Jesus came to deliver us from our bondage to our possessions. If covetousness is what chains the heart to what passes away then the gospel is what frees the heart to seek what never passes away. If you find covetousness in your heart today, turn to Christ today and ask him to do heart surgery. He will change your heart. That is the gospel. Second, let me encourage you to be in a Life Group because you will not overcome covetousness or any other sin on your own. Covetousness is a private sin but freedom is a community project. Grace does not make things easy but grace makes hard things possible.