Be Careful With Money and Possessions

Luke 12:13-21

There was a man who had worked hard all his life and saved all his money. He was a real cheapskate and loved money more than just about anything. Just before he died, he said to his wife: “When I die, I want to take my money with me to the afterlife. So I want you to place it all in the casket with me.” His wife promised do as he wished.

At the funeral, while he was stretched out in the casket, his wife was sitting there in black next to their best friend. When they finished the ceremony, just before the morticians were ready to close the casket, the wife said, “Wait a minute!” She took a shoe box she had brought with her and placed it in the casket. Then the funeral director locked the casket and rolled it away.

Her friend whispered, “I hope you weren’t crazy enough to put all that money in there with that stingy old man.”

She said, “Yes, I promised. I’m a good Christian; I can’t lie. I promised to put his money in the casket with him.”

“You mean to tell me you put every cent of his money in the casket with him?”

“I sure did,” said the wife. “I got it all together, put it into my account, and I wrote him a check.”

We are talking about money today. Some of us have a lot of it; some of us don’t. Most of us wish we had more. Many of us are kind of private about it while others don’t mind flaunting it. Many of us are uncomfortable talking about it or having someone approach us about it, especially in church. But Jesus talked about money a lot. Almost half of His parables were about how to handle one’s money and possessions. In the Gospels, one out of ten verses deals directly with the subject of money and possessions. Why do you suppose that is?

Jesus knew what a dangerous hold money can have on our lives. It can become an idol, a substitute god. We can be prone to pursue, worship, and serve it at the expense of our health, our relationships with family and friends, and, most importantly, God.

Money is probably God’s chief competition for our hearts. It holds the most potential to become a God substitute for us, because it offers us what we want so dearly in life – security, satisfaction, and significance. These are the very things God wants us to depend on Him for. So Jesus talked about it a lot.

A money issue was brought to Jesus in today’s passage. Two brothers were having a squabble over the family inheritance. (You know the old saying, Wherever there’s a will, there’s a family.) One of them said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” While Jesus refused to get in the middle of this squabble, He used the man’s request as a teachable moment.

First He offered some wisdom, a warning – “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

Then Jesus told a parable to illustrate His statement. “The land of a rich man, produced a bumper crop, making him even wealthier. He thought to himself, What am I going to do, for I have no place to store my crops. I know! I will build new and bigger barns to store it. Then I will sit back and tell my soul to eat, drink, relax, and be merry.

That night God spoke to him and called him a fool because his time in this world was now up, and who would get all his stuff? You have lived your life foolishly.

The Old Testament defines a fool as one who ignores God and makes unwise, destructive choices. So by using that title, God is pointing out to the rich man, This sums up exactly who you are and what you have done with your life. You have lived it foolishly.

Notice the words the rich man uses repeatedly in his statements to himself.

First of all, “I.” What should I do? I have no place to store my crops. I will do this: I will pull down. I will store. I will say . . .

Then there’s the word “my.” My crops, my barns, my grain, my goods, my soul.

Consider what was missing in this self talk – God. This is godless talk, godless thinking. He gave no thanks to God for the gift of the great crops. He failed to recognize his blessings as a gift from God. Actually, they are a loan. Everything belongs to God. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1).

What did the rich man miss in his questioning? God. He never asked, I wonder what God would have me do with all He has given me? He showed no accountability to God in his life, had no thought of sharing his blessings with others in need, as God commanded. He planned to keep it all for himself.

Something else is missing as well: humility. He sees himself in complete control of his life and his future. He thinks he has life by the tail. This man possesses a certain arrogance. He sees himself self-made, secure, a success in life.

But according to God, this man is delusional, for God alone has the final word over his life. This man doesn’t realize his life is a gift, which can be given and taken away. It is God’s to give and to take away. We may make our future plans and think we know what is going to happen, but who really knows? Only God. The rich farmer didn’t understand this.

The farmer also seems to be missing the big picture, like some people are prone to do. He acts as if this life is all there is to live for. He has no eternal perspective in his mind. Some day he will die, and then what?

The day is coming when all our 401(k)s, bank accounts, silos, buildings, and stock portfolios will be completely irrelevant. Titles will no longer impress. It won’t matter what clothes hung in our closet or cars sat in our garage.

I’m reminded of a bit of biblical wisdom.

For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the field. Its flowers fall, and its beauty perishes” (James 1:11).

It is the same way with the rich. In the midst of a busy life, they will wither away. Instead of living for God, this man is living for his wealth and for himself. God calls this a foolish life and then asks a good question, “Your life is over. Now who is going to get all these things?”

You’ve probably heard the adage,

You can’t take it with you.

Or this one:

I haven’t seen any U-Hauls driving into the cemetery lately.

The parable of Jesus affirms this.

Jesus concludes to His audience, “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves and are not rich toward God.” Now what does He mean by this, “Don’t store up treasures for yourself”?

What does it mean to be rich toward God? It means to have a relationship with God – loving, trusting, obeying, and serving Him with your whole heart, soul, strength, and mind.

All of what Jesus has told us today is an appeal to value God instead of treasures like money and possessions. We are to value God above all else and not end up living a godless life chasing after false gods like the rich fool. Do not let money and possessions become the purpose of your life, as it is prone to be sometimes. In and of itself, money is not evil. The love of it is, though, and what money represents in this world makes it dangerous for us. Pursuing money and possessions lead us away from God and can push God out of the picture in one’s life.

Jesus knows us all too well. He remembers the garden of Eden. As sinful beings, we can easily fall prey to wanting more, more, more for ourselves. Soon we’re off track and foolishly lost. This is why, for every verse in the Bible that tells of the benefits of wealth, there are ten that tell us of the danger of wealth.

Jesus is not condemning riches or rich people in this parable. However, He is illustrating how a wrong attitude toward riches can wreck your eternal relationship with God. Real life is not measured by how much we own. Rather it is about knowing that we come from God, we live to God, and we will return to God someday. So we should love God enroute, living and trusting in obedience. Real life is about having a rich relationship with God. So don’t play the fool, like the guy in the story.

I don’t know about you, but I find this passage of Scripture very challenging. There are three personal questions in particular that I need to be asking myself. I invite you to think about them as well.

What is your attitude toward money and possessions? As a follow-up question, do you live as if everything you have comes from and belongs to God? Do you know your place? Do you see yourself as the owner or the manager of what you have? What are you doing with all God has given you to manage?

Your attitude about money and possessions shows up in how tightly or loosely you hold onto it. Does it annoy you to be asked to give? Do you find yourself wondering about the least amount you could acceptably give or do you enjoy using your finances to help others? What percentage of your income are you giving away these days? Is God’s cause in the world better off because you’ve been entrusted with His money?

What place do money and possessions have in your life? Some people think about this topic all the time. They worry about it or figure out ways to get more money for themselves so they can feel secure and satisfied. They wind up sacrificing important things in life in order to have more. Does this describe you?

Some people struggle with finances, which can be a stressor and a focus in their life. If you are presently in a tough financial situation, do you continue to bring your burden to the Lord and ask for His help? Do you give thanks to God in all circumstances – in plenty and in want?

Finally, do you measure your self-worth by your net worth? I hope not. Some people are constantly comparing what they have or what they’re making with what others have or what they’re making. They covet; they get jealous; they resent those who have more; and they are miserable. They seem to believe that having more makes a person more important, more valuable. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Jesus encourages us today to consider all these kinds of questions so we might be wise, on guard, and enjoy real life with our God.

I love a testimony I came across in an eye-opening book, “Gods at War,” written by Kyle Idleman. It goes like this:

The god of money was almost irresistible. He spun tales of sports cars, luxury homes, and all the good things he was going to buy for us. Yes, we had heard the old refrain that money can’t buy happiness. We knew that. We had seen what it had done to people over and over.

But we were going to be different. We were going to know how to use that money without letting it use us. We didn’t want to buy happiness; we just wanted to rent a little pleasure. But somewhere it all went wrong. Somehow the god of money became a slave driver.

He kept us running, following him, trying to keep him from getting away. We followed the green brick road until we longed to rest. We put our hope in what we might find at the end of the rainbow. We thought money would provide us with security, significance, and some measure of satisfaction. But strangely even when we had money we still felt broke.

Then we met Jesus and discovered that he is our provider. He provides everything we need. He provides us with security because he never leaves us or forsakes us. He provides us with significance because our identity and value are found in his love. He provides us with satisfaction because our souls were made for him. We discovered that God would meet all our needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. What a wonderful testimony!

Friends, Jesus knows what makes life work. He loves you. He went to the cross so you could have the abundant life God intended for you. Jesus became poor so you might become rich with God. He rose as an affirmation that His word is life-giving truth for you and for me.

I appeal to you this day to trust Him on this subject of money and possessions. Jesus knows what He is talking about. Real life does not consist in money and possessions. Real life is about having a rich relationship with God. Amen.

Pastor Steve Kramer