WHAT IF THE WORLD ENDED TONIGHT
A Parable – Luke 12:13-21
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance 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.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will 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 whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.
It was not uncommon for people in Palestine to take their unsettled disputes to the respected rabbis. But Jesus refused to be mixed up in anyone’s dispute about material things. But out of the request there came to Jesus an opportunity to lay down what His followers’ attitude to material things should be. He had something to say both to those who had an abundant supply of material possessions and to those who had not.
To those who had an abundant supply of possessions, Jesus spoke this parable of the rich fool. Two things stand out about this man. First, this man never saw beyond himself. There is no parable which is so full of the words – “I” and “mine” as this one.
A schoolboy was once asked what parts of speech the words “my” and “mine” are. He answered, “They are aggressive pronouns.” The boy was wrong, of course, but his answer does describe the man in the parable. The rich fool in the parable was aggressively self-centered. It can be said of a self-centered person, that he lives in a little world, bounded on the north, south, east and west by himself.
A criticism was made of a self-centered person who said, “There is too much ego in his cosmos.” When this man had a superfluity of goods the one thing that never entered his mind was to give any of his goods away. His whole attitude was the very reverse of Christian practice. Instead of denying himself he aggressively affirmed himself. Instead of finding his happiness in giving he tried to conserve it by keeping it all.
John Wesley’s rule of life was to save all he could and give all that he could. When he was at Oxford he had an annual income of 30 pounds. He lived on 28 and gave 2 away. When his income increased to 60, then to 90, and then to 120 pounds a year, he still lived on 28 and gave the rest away. The Accountant General for household plate demanded a report of silver Wesley owned. His reply was “I have two silver teaspoons at London and two at Bristol. This is all the plate I have at present. And I shall not buy more while so many around me are seeking bread.”
The Romans had a proverb which said that money was like seawater. The more a man drank, the thirstier he became. As long as a man’s attitude is that of the rich fool his desire will always be to get more. And that is the direct opposite of the Christian way.
Not only does this rich fool fail to see beyond himself, but he was also unwilling to see beyond this world. All his plans were made on the basis of life here and now.
There is a story of a conversation between a young ambitious boy and an older man who knew about life. The boy said, “I will learn my trade.” The older man said, "And, then?" The boy replied, “I will set up my business.” The older man asked again, “And then?” The boy replied, "I will make my fortune.” “And then?” the older man asked. The boy proclaimed, “I suppose I will grow old and retire and live on my success.” Again, the older man asked, “And then?” The boy’s answer was “Well, I suppose that someday I will die?” One final time the older man asked the penetrating question, “And then? The boy had no answer of all shocks and awakenings – but too late. The man who never remembers, or fails to believe that there is another world is destined someday for the most devastating of shocks.
Back to the parable, Jesus had something to say to those who had few possessions. In all this passage in Luke 12, Jesus forbids anxiety and worry. Jesus never ordered anyone to live in a reckless, shiftless, thriftless way. What he did tell a man was to do his best and then leave the rest to God.
The lilies Jesus spoke about were the scarlet anemones. After one of the infrequent rains in the area, the mountainside would be scarlet with them. They bloomed one day and the next day they had all died. Wood was scarce in Palestine, and it was dried grasses and wildflowers that were used to fuel the oven fires. Jesus said, “If God looks after the birds and flowers, how much more will He care for you?”
Jesus also said, “Seek first the kingdom of God.” God’s kingdom is a state on earth in which His will is as perfectly done in earth as it is in heaven. So Jesus was saying, “Focus all your life to obeying God’s will and rest content with that.” So many people give all their efforts to heap up things which in their very nature cannot last. Work for the things which will last forever – into eternity. These are things which you need not leave behind when you leave this earth, but those things which you can take with you.
In Palestine wealth was often in the form of expensive clothing. The moths could get at the fine clothes and leave them in ruins. But if a man clothes his soul with the garments of honor and purity and goodness, nothing on earth can destroy them.
If a man seeks the treasures of Heaven, his heart will be fixed on Heaven. But, if he seeks the treasures of the earth, his heart will be fixed on earth. And, then – someday he must say goodbye to those earthly treasures.
As an old Spanish proverb says, “There are no pockets in a burial shroud.”
----- Gary’s Wednesday Word Princeton Christian Church 23 June 2021