Week of January 8, 2006
Bible Passages: Luke 12:16-21, 27-28, 31-34, 42-44, 48b.
Biblical Truth: Believers are to pursue Godís kingdom above all else and exercise wise stewardship over their financial resources.
Realize Material Wealth Doesnít Last:† Luke 12:16-21.
 And He told them a parable, saying, The land of a rich man was very productive.  And he began reasoning to himself, saying, What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?  Then he said, This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.  But God said to him, You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?  So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.†† [NASU]
In the midst of one of our Lordís most interesting discourses [12:1-12], an interruption occurs [12:13]. Apparently, one of the people in the crowd was more interested in other matters besides what the Lord was teaching. His mind had wandered to more personal matters that showed where his heart truly was. He was so concerned about a wrong which he believed himself to have sustained, that he broke in the middle of the Lordís teaching with a request: Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me. Jesus uses this request as the occasion for telling the parable of the Rich Fool in order to drive home his point about the danger of any form of greed.
[16-20]† In order to present a clear picture of the fatal folly of covetousness, the Savior relates the parable of the rich fool who thought that he would find real happiness in earthly abundance, but who, on reaching the climax of his acquisition of wealth, was unexpectedly snatched away by death. He thought that he would henceforth enjoy life quietly by eating, drinking, and being merry; i.e. by reveling in worldly and material pleasures. He considered that he had the full command over his life and over all his possessions and thus spoke about my crops, my barns, my grain, my goods and my soul. He did not regard his possessions as things lent to him by Godís grace and to be used by him in the service of the Lord (for example, in helping the needy). On the contrary, he considered that everything belonged exclusively to him, and that he had the full monopoly of it to use it for his own pleasure and enjoyments. But alas, when he had reached the zenith of self-satisfaction and absorption in material affairs God appeared and required his soul by means of death. And so it was suddenly proved that, notwithstanding all his wealth and self-satisfaction, he had no real say over his life and possessions. All his plans in connection with the enjoyment of his wealth collapsed at once, and his soul entered eternity without his being able to take with him even one particle of his riches. If we read the question Who will own? with Ecclesiastes 2:18-19 in mind, there is also the irony that after years of careful management the manís possessions might be frittered away by an incompetent heir.
In summary, what was wrong with the farmer? That he was rich? Nowhere does Scripture condemn success or riches as such. And there is no indication that he used dishonest means to become rich. First, the rich man shows that he does not know himself. He fails to realize that his body is mortal. And he does not take account of the fact that his riches cannot satisfy the soul. Secondly, he does not figure with the needs of others. He is thoroughly selfish. He missed the joy of generous giving. Thirdly, the rich man does not thank and glorify God for his abundant harvest.
 Such is the fatal end of everyone who is spiritually dead while gathering earthly treasures and who does not primarily take heed that he is rich in God, spiritually rich through living in close communion with Him and faithfully serving Him. In this parable and these pronouncements the Savior does not condemn the possession of worldly goods as such. But what He disapproves of is the covetous and carnal attitude with regard to earthly wealth, the trust in worldly things instead of in God, and the fault of not regarding oneís possessions gratefully as Godís gracious gifts and using them in His service and according to His will to the glory of His name. It is not only a terrible sin to make earthly riches and worldly pleasures the main purpose in life, but also a fatal act of folly, a deadly error.
Trust God to Meet Your Needs:† Luke 12:27-28.
 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!† [NASU]
†† The Lord now turns to another example from nature. Paralleling what he has said about the ravens , he now turns to the lilies. In line with his teaching regarding the divine provision of food so that a person may keep alive , he now shows that God will also provide clothes so that this personís body may be covered. Consider means to notice carefully, study closely. How they grow must mean without any toil whatever on their part, nor any care being bestowed on them by any human individual.
† There is a double argument here: (1) from the less to the greater: If God provides for the short-lived grass, he will surely provide for his children, destined for eternal glory. (2) From the greater to the less: If God decks the wild flowers with such very beautiful garments, then he will certainly clothe his children with the ordinary garments which they need. Jesus calls his worrying followers men of little faith. The description refers to the fact that they were not sufficiently taking to heart the comfort they should have derived from the presence, promises, power, and love of Christ. Godís meticulous and lavish care for mere perishing flowers should have assured them of his unfailing care for his own people.
Pursue Godís Kingdom Above All Else:† Luke 12:31-34.
 But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.  Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.† [NASU]
† Christís disciples are being urged to see to it that the rule of God is being established more and more in their own lives and in the lives of others. The reward of grace is this, that while they are concentrating all their attention on establishing Godís kingdom everywhere, their heavenly Father sees to it that they do not only have an abundance of spiritual blessings, but also, in addition, food and clothing. The necessities of daily living will not be lacking to them.
 This verse opens with Godís command [Do not be afraid] for us not to fear when it comes to money and possessions. Although the faithful are like a small flock of defenseless sheep, they should nevertheless have no fear. For their heavenly Father, because it is His good pleasure to do so, has given the kingdom to those who seek it. Those who seek the kingdom  can be certain that their search will be successful because the Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Once the little flock receives the kingdom, they become very active, not by means of anything in themselves but by the power that is being constantly supplied to them by the Lordís Spirit. They trust in Godís promises, pray, spread the message of salvation, and out of gratitude perform good works to benefit men and to glorify God. And the gift increases with the search. A second thought on which the emphasis also falls is that the Father bestows the kingdom gladly, with keen delight. It is his good pleasure to be generous and free with the gift of his kingdom. Note how God is described in this verse: he is our Shepherd and Father and King who is generous and happy to give us his kingdom. We obey his command not to fear by trusting this God in all things.
 True life is not to be found in the selfish hoarding of earthly treasures because the real wealth of the faithful is in God. Therefore they must inwardly be quite free from their worldly possessions and must regard and use these as gifts of Godís love to them, to be consecrated by them to His service by bestowing them on the needy and on the promotion of the work of the Lord in general. When the believer acts in this manner, their spiritual life grows and they accumulate indestructible treasures in heaven. The point of this verse is that there is a powerful impulse in the Christian life toward simplicity rather than accumulation. And the strength of the impulse comes from the believer seeing the vastly superior value of Godís kingdom over worldly possessions.
 For indicates the reason why the exhortations of verses 32-33 should be obeyed. It is because your heart moves toward what you cherish. It is not the extent but the place of oneís possessions that is emphasized, because it is the direction of oneís heart, heavenward or earthward, that is all important. Therefore, it is essential to be rich in the field of the spiritual and eternal, because manís heart (his thoughts, ideals, inclinations and deeds) is attracted by the things that are his treasures. If oneís wealth therefore consists in the first instance of earthly treasures, oneís heart will be worldly-minded. But if oneís real wealth is in God and in the eternal things, one will be heavenly-minded (no matter whether one is rich or poor in material possessions). It is not the possession of material things that makes one worldly-minded, but the attitude adopted towards them. Nor does the lack of earthly things make one heavenly-minded, but the inward freedom from selfishness and covetousness, and consecration to the Lord.
The inner essence of worship is the treasuring of God as infinitely valuable above everything. The outer forms of worship are the acts that show how much we treasure God. Therefore all of life is meant to be worship because God said whether you eat or drink or whatever you do Ė all of life Ė do it all to show how valuable the glory of God is to you [1 Cor. 10:31]. Money and things are a big part of life, and therefore God intends them to be a big part of worship Ė since all of life is to be worship. So the way you worship with your money and your possessions is to get them and use them and lose them in a way that shows how much you treasure God Ė not money. (John Piper)
Be a Good Steward of All You Have:† Luke 12:42-44,48b.
 And the Lord said, Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?  Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.  Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. [48b] From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.† [NASU]
[42-44]† Jesus does not give a direct reply to Peterís question in verse 41. But, through a counterquestion and a parable, He answers that He particularly means those whom He has appointed or will yet appoint as leaders over others to care for them. In the illustration the steward (or manager) in charge of the servants is a servant or slave himself. This was a common situation in that first-century society. The passage teaches the importance of faithfulness in doing the will of the master. The fact of the impending second coming should therefore not cause the believers, and especially the leaders, to be content with a passive waiting for His coming, but should rather inspire and challenge them to be active in imparting what is necessary to† those people for whose spiritual well-being they are responsible. The clause whom his master finds so doing shows that the proper attitude on the part of the one who awaits the masterís return is eagerness to render active service in the interest of those entrusted to the servant.
 Verses 42-46 emphasize the responsibility one has for those who have been placed under their leadership. Conversely, verses 47-48 focuses on the proper response to the masterís command. Verse 48b makes clear that the talents with which God has endowed men must be used, the time must be ďredeemed,Ē the opportunities improved. No one has the right to be lazy. Also, no one has the right to live for himself alone. A person must live for others and for God.
Questions for Discussion:
1.†††† Why is greed or covetousness so dangerous to our spiritual health? What is it about greed that robs us of our focus upon what is really important in this life?
2.†††† So why do we worry? In this passage, Jesus repeatedly tells his followers not to worry. Yet we still worry about the things of life: possessions, health, jobs, family, church, etc. Why? What does our worrying say about our view of God? How is trust in God the solution to worry? What things can we do so that our response time of turning from worry to trust is shorter?
3.†††† Money seen as an end in itself quickly traps us and cuts us off from both God and the needy. The key to using money wisely is to see how much we can use for Godís purposes, not how much we can accumulate for ourselves. Does Godís love touch your wallet? Does your money free you to help others?
Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Norval Geldenhuys, Eerdmans.
Gospel According to Luke, William Hendriksen, Baker.
Luke, Walter Liefeld, EBC, Zondervan.
Magnifying God with Money, Luke 12:32-34, Sermon by John Piper (12/14/97). www.desiringGod.org.