This is the second of a three-part series on the parable of the rich fool. Last week we looked at what prompted Jesus to tell this story and the story itself. This week we’ll examine one part of Jesus’ post-parable words that help us understand what it is to be rich toward God and next we’ll look at the second part.
As we said last week, Jesus told this story in response to a guy who wanted Jesus to force a brother to share an inheritance. We don’t know anything beyond that and likely Jesus didn’t either. This could have been something he was entitled to. Maybe not, maybe he was hoping to use Jesus’ cache to force his family to give him something not meant for him. Whatever the case Jesus, as he often did, chose not to address the specific issue, but instead what was behind it. Focus. He ends the tale with a rich and successful guy dying before he gets to enjoy the fruits of his labor and then he tell us:
This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God (v21).
Okay so Jesus’ is telling us to rich toward God.
How do we do that???
Jesus’ next words help explain.
Therefore I tell you,
Therefore . . . in light of this man’s question, in light of this story I just told you, in light of what I’ve been teaching and showing you for a while now . . . if you’re wondering how on earth to do this thing I just indicated was important . . .
do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes (v22-23).
I think the command not to worry or be anxious (repeated elsewhere in the New Testament) is such a hard thing and used to be a source of frustration for me. Like, how could God tell us not to worry? Had he seen this place we call home? It is messed up! There are so many people without enough . . . food, security, love, shelter, safety etc. How could we/they, all of us not worry. I came to see that when Jesus and other early church leaders tell us not to worry or be anxious, they are not saying there are not things to worry about, they are not asking us not to be concerned with very real and concerning things such as our material and physical well-being in this world. Rather they are inviting us to focus on the creator, sustainer, and redeemer of the world. We are not in control and so to worry does not change anything (Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest(v25-26).
Just to be clear I do not believe Jesus is asking us not to care, not to work to be safe and well, not to work so that others are safe and well. It is not the abundance that was the problem in this story – it was the focus on obtaining it and the plan of what to do with it.
So not worrying, not focusing on the things we are not in control of, is part of what it means to be rich toward God. Then Jesus hits us with another easy one . . .
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (v32-33).
Next week we’ll consider these words.