Rich Toward God: Abundance and focus

January 21, 2023
This is the first blog in a three-part series examining the parable of the rich man and considering how this story and the way Jesus presents it can guide us.

The parable can be found in Luke 12.

A businessman has more success than he anticipated and in order to accommodate this he considers how to store and use the abundance of resources his work has yielded eventually deciding to store the excess. Recognizing that he had enough for. Along time he decided to enjoy himself (a very paraphrasy paraphrase of Luke 12:13-21).

Good right? Some hustle and then some rest and self-care.

Nope.

Jesus called this man a fool.

Why?

I have preached sermons and taught workshops centering this story and the lessons we can glean from it. However, in order to avoid a ten-page blog that I know you would not want to wade through I just want to briefly share why I think Jesus saw this businessman/rich man’s activity and more especially his mindset as at odds with what it means to be rich toward God and through that explore how we can pursue this kind of rich life. We’ll do this in three-parts. Today we’ll look at came before the parable.

So this story, like many of Jesus’ parables, was told in response to a question. A guy wanted Jesus to intervene with an inheritance issue between him and his brother. Jesus, as we might have guessed, is not interested in getting involved in that dispute, but in it he seems to find a reason to share some of his most challenging commands for how to live. Before even getting to the story he will use to illustrate it all he warns:

Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions (v15).

Greed is defined as “excessive or rapacious desire, especially for wealth or possessions.” Right after warning against this rapacious craving for wealth Jesus reminds us:

life does not consist in an abundance of possessions (v15).

Then he tells the story of that hard-working businessman. With the lens of Jesus’ words, we can see the story itself a little differently. It is a story of someone pursuing possessions and working toward and focusing on an “abundant harvest” (v16). Now, I don’t think possessions are wrong or working toward a goal around material gain is wrong. This caveat almost pains me because I also don’t think we, esp Americans, generally struggle to allow ourselves to accumulate wealth and possessions or that we need to be told its okay to work hard. I think we need to take to heart Jesus’ frank words and their plain meaning to expose for us all the ways we’ve bought into the consumer culture all around us. However, I don’t want us to view this passage as some manifest against any kind of work or possessions because I think that misses the point. Okay caveat over. Back to it.

After this second statement Jesus offers the parable itself. Ending with:

This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God (v21).

This is where our intrepid businessman failed. He was rich toward the wrong thing. He sought abundance and security from the wrong place. He focused on the wrong thing. He gained material wealth, but in the end, he did not get to enjoy.

After the parable Jesus returns to the themes he began with in order to, I believe, explain why he had an issue with the dude with the question and the dude in the story. We’ll examine this next week.

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