Summary: Why was God angry at the "rich farmer?" What had this farmer done wrong and what can we learn from his story about the need to being rich toward God?
OPEN: The year was 1347. The Black Plague was raging across Europe and people by the 100s and by the 1000s in field and cities all across that part of the world. Some began to suspect the deaths were brought about because of the wrath of God and in one of the cities of Germany (Lubeck, Germany) they determined that they needed to do something to appeal to God for forgiveness. So they began to bring enormous amounts of money, jewels and other riches to churches and monasteries in the area. But there was one monastery that didn’t want their offerings. The monks and priests that monastery were convinced that the money was contaminated with whatever had spread the plague... and so they barred their gates and refused to allow the citizens to enter. But the people were frantic, and so they picked up their valuables - coins, gold, and jewels - and threw them over the walls. But the monks didn’t want this wealth so they threw it all back. Then the citizens threw it back inside, and monks threw it back outside. And so it continued for hours - riches were tossed back and forth until the clerics finally gave up and allowed the riches to remain. Within hours, piles 3 to 4 feet high filled the monastery courtyard and for months following the incident – some say for years - the money remained untouched.
(“More Fascinating Facts” by David Louis p. 31)
The monks and priests at that monastery believed this wealth would harm them. They believed these great riches would destroy them. And that was pretty much what Jesus warned His disciples about. “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” Luke 12:15
This is a repeated theme in Scripture. Paul wrote to Timothy: “… those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” 1Timothy 6:9
And Job said “If I have made gold my trust or called fine gold my confidence, if I have rejoiced because my wealth was abundant or because my hand had found much… I would have been false to God above.” Job 31:24-25 & 28
Now, that’s not to say that being rich is a bad thing. Throughout the Old Testament, God blessed many who loved Him with wealth. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Solomon and others - they were all wealthy men.
In fact, God implied that if Israel obeyed Him… they would be a wealthy nation. “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Deuteronomy 8:11-14
So you see, the problem is not wealth. The problem is when wealth takes control of people and causes them to forget God. Psalm 10:3 tells us “… the one, greedy for gain, curses and renounces the LORD.”
And that brings us to our text this morning. There’s a man who wants Jesus to settle a family dispute: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Now, that was normal back then. William Barclay notes, “It was not uncommon for people in Palestine to take their unsettled disputes to respected Rabbis; but Jesus refused to be mixed up in anyone’s disputes about money.”
But now why wouldn’t Jesus do that? Why wouldn’t he get mixed in this argument between these 2 brothers? Well because… the problem (as with many disputes over inheritance) had to do with greed/covetousness.
ILLUS: I’ve known brothers and sisters who hate each other and have never talked to each other because they didn’t get what they wanted when daddy died. I’ve even heard of a family where brothers cheated their sisters out of the farm… and it created a conflict they NEVER resolved. And they were all “Christians.”
You see, an inheritance often brings out the worst in people, because there are people who love their riches more than they love their relatives. So Jesus rightly turns down this greedy family member and launches into a lesson about covetousness: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness.”
To illustrate His point, Jesus tells them a parable about a wealthy man who had been blessed with a bumper crop. So he decided to tear down his old barns and build new barns to hold all the excess. Now, is there anything wrong with a farmer having a good harvest? (NOPE) And was there anything wrong with building bigger barns? (NOT REALLY) So what was wrong with what this guy was doing?