Captured by a phrase this morning which, as I look back through my journal, has captured me before, compelling me to jot down some thoughts in the past. In 2008, 2010, and again in 2017. And each time, the thinking was very similar. That the guy in the story Jesus told was like the guy who had the bumper stick on his car, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Or, like the guy insatiably driven to pack both his house and his storage unit(s) with stuff. But as I hover over it this morning, I realize that it’s not as simple as toys on earth vs. treasure in heaven. That it’s actually more an issue of soul talk.
I’m chewing on the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12, the story Jesus tells to punctuate His warning:
“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 ESV)
The story’s about a rich man and his land. Not his boats, his cars, his TV’s, or his home furnishings. It’s not about his toys or all the stuff he’s accumulated and put away in heated storage units. It’s not really about how he spent his money, at all. But how he viewed the fruit of his labor and livelihood.
His worked the land. Eventually, he was able to stimulate the economy by having others work the land for him. And the land produced — big time! Jesus said it “produced plentifully.” That, my friends, is a blessing of God.
The problem was with the industrious landowner’s identity, that his life was wrapped up in the abundance of his possessions. The problem was with his egocentricity. That what his land produced was only for his benefit and could be used however he determined. Which all led to some bad soul talk.
“. . . and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: 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 ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”‘”
(Luke 12:17-19 ESV)
Soul, relax! Eat, drink, be merry. You have all you need, now go enjoy it. After all, you earned it. Now go, rest in it. Indulge yourself with it.
I think about that and I think, while it’s perhaps easier and more tempting for a rich man to have such soul talk, it’s just a easy for an average guy with a decent pension or savings account to have the same soul talk. I’ve got enough to last me through my retirement. Time to coast. Time to relax, eat, drink, and be merry.
The problem wasn’t necessarily with the new barns or that they were overflowing. The problem was with the self-centered heart and a view of life that was underwhelming.
“God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
(Luke 12:20-21 ESV)
It wasn’t that he was rich, or that his land produced plentifully, or that he built new barns to receive the harvest. That problem, it seems to me, is that he laid up treasure on earth to the exclusion of laying up treasure in heaven. His desire to use his riches, whatever they were, for his own ease, comfort, and self satisfaction, blinded him to the possibility of leveraging those riches toward God.
You get the sense he was cheap and not generous. You get the sense that he saw his wealth solely as his well-earned reward for working the earth below, and not ultimately as a stewardship provided by a generous God in heaven above. “Fool!” says Jesus.
Rich toward God. That’s a thing. Treasure laid up in heaven. It’s a reality. How to invest now in light of eternity. That should be our soul talk.
Barns are a means of storing crops, not the ends for accumulating wealth. Wealth is a blessing of God and, as such, should be invested for God. Not simply a retirement benefit from God so that we can relax, eat, drink, be merry and serve ourselves.
Oh, that God would help us guard against covetousness. That He would give us a heart for treasures in heaven. That his Spirit would grant us a desire to be rich towards God and direct us toward kingdom focused soul talk.
By His grace. For His glory.