Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance (stuff) with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops. This is what I will do. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with those who store up things for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
Have you ever heard that saying, “He who dies with the most toys (or stuff), wins”? I’ve heard that it’s something rich people say, for they horde up tons of expensive stuff (cars, houses, etc.), and often compete with other rich people by having more (or better) things. But then, there’s the middle-class response to that, “He who dies with the most toys, still dies.”
In Luke 12:13-21, somebody came up to Jesus and asked Him to tell his brother to share his money and possessions. But instead of settling the dispute, Jesus warned the fellow not to be greedy for the stuff that he doesn’t have, because real life is not measured by how much we own. I love how Jesus responded though. “Man, who appointed me judge…?” Some other translations use the word “Friend” instead, but I still think it’s funny because His response is so modern, down to earth. Anyway, after he responded with a warning about greed, He shared a story to explain what He was saying.
See, “He who dies with the most toys, still dies, and if he didn’t have a relationship with Jesus while he was living, then regardless of how many toys he had, he still loses. I saw people like this all the time when I worked for the 2010 Census in Chesapeake, VA. People worked so hard for their many toys (sports cars, huge homes, fenced in yards, rich neighborhood, etc.), but when it came to enjoying them, they were always at work. Many were also going through divorces, they didn’t know their neighbors, and their next door neighbors often didn’t even know how many people were even in the families. They just knew where the owner worked and that he was rarely ever home. Doesn’t sound much like a life worth living to me, but then I’m talking as a person who doesn’t have all that “stuff”.
The point that Jesus is trying to make here goes back to what He said about greed, but also what He said in Matthew about having 2 masters: God and greed. For one will always get in the way of the other. In the example of the rich man who stored up the grains, he decided to take on the situation of the people with the fortress-homes.
Another example of such greed, I think, would be the story of Nebuchadnezzar. By the time everybody around him was conquered, he stood on the rooftop of his castle, looked over everything and said to himself, ‘Look at all these things that I have accomplished, by my own hands and the glory of my own majesty!’ Scripture tells us that at that very moment, the Lord made him insane. He was then chased out of the city where he lived among the jackals for 7 years. It was only after he finally lifted his head up to the sky and acknowledged the Lord, not only as God, but also as his God, that he regained his sanity and was returned to his position as king.
Life is not about how much we own, but about having a close and intimate relationship with God (through Jesus Christ). What we do with what we own should be in response to this relationship. If God gives us something, and we have so much of it that we ponder building something bigger to hold it, then maybe there are others who are in need of this and we should share it with them, instead of horde it up for ourselves. Notice, Jesus tells us in verse 21 that a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.
That’s not saying that it’s not OK to be wealthy, for such may be a blessing from God, also (or it could be a bad thing that’s meant to humble you). However, if you’re financially wealthy, but you don’t have a close and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, then there’s no point to your riches (or they’re short-lived, as with the guy in the parable). So again, the point is not your material possessions, but your spiritual possessions, that is, God.
This life should not be about how much we own, how big our houses are, how many nice cars we own, the size of our bank accounts, the jobs that we have, etc. This life needs to be about the intimacy and focus of our relationships with God. Once that’s in order, we’ll realize just how rich we are, and we realize that everything else is just “stuff”.