Success can sometimes be dangerous. It can inflate the ego or change a person’s values. That is what Jesus is talking about in our parable.
The part of this parable that I like is that this young man not only had great goals, but plans as to how these dreams could be fulfilled. He worked hard and soon was rewarded for his labor. When he had such a bumper crop that he did not know where to store the grain, he was confronted with a greater challenge. This was just what he liked. “I know what I will do. I will tear down the old barns and build new ones. Then I will have enough storage for my crops, and I will be in a position to retire.” Nothing wrong with that planning, is there?
Would Jesus have preferred this young man have lived one day at a time and never accomplished much? Of course not.
This parable reminds me of a family in our congregation. There were two brothers and a sister who never married. Forty years ago they had few possessions. They rented a farm and were thrifty in their spending. They did not buy the newest equipment. They worked very hard and saved every dollar they could. Soon they were able to make a down payment on a beautiful piece of land. Many people felt this land was too costly for them, but they fooled them all.
Not many years later, through good management and ambition, they owned their farm. It did not alter their lifestyle. They didn’t sit back and rent the farm to some other person so they could enjoy the leisure life. They enjoyed some traveling, a nice car, a comfortable home, and a lot of friends. One day the younger brother died of a heart attack. Now the older brother and his sister decided it was time to move into a condominium, and a bit later into an assisted living facility at a care center.
A few months ago, the last of the siblings died, leaving an estate that exceeded a million dollars. Their money was given to charitable groups. This family had a vision and a plan, which assured them their dream would become a reality. The plans made their life were thrilling, and eternity sure, for Christ had become their Lord, and He governed their thinking.
The man in our parable had a plan for his future, and for that he should be commended. However, he had given no thought to what would happen when he died. As organized as he was to be a financial success, he was also disorganized in spiritual matters. Eternity was not a part of his thinking. His material success made him oblivious to God’s plan for his life.
Think of it! This parable, which Jesus told two thousand years ago, is an apt description of millions of people today. Much energy is spent to become a financial and social success. What happens in this life is all-important. Some of these people would question if there is an eternity, and others would reason that, if there is a life after death, it will have to take care of itself. Jesus’ words, spoken so clearly, go unheeded: “You fool! This very night your soul will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be when anyone stores up things for himself, but is not rich toward God.”
How would the man in Jesus’ parable have been different had he walked with the Lord? Would he have given away everything? Would there have been some left for his own personal enjoyment? On the basis of another Bible story, I believe there would have been plenty for him. Do you remember the story of Zacchaeus recorded in Luke 19? When Zacchaeus, who was a rich man, was converted, his life was changed, and he announced to the Lord, “Half of my goods I give to the poor, and if I have stolen from anyone, I will repay that person four times what I took from him.” Our Lord did not say, “No, Zacchaeus, half is not enough. Give it all.” Jesus is teaching there is more to life than material possessions.
There is a powerful word here for all of us. To the young, God’s Word reminds us that the question is not simply, What do I want to do with my life? Rather it is, What does God want me to do with my life? The big decision Ð who will I marry Ð is not limited to such considerations as, is he the most handsome person around with a winsome personality and a strong financial statement? The words of Scripture are given first consideration: “Do not marry an unbeliever.” If you do not share Christ as Savior and Lord, this marriage will be lacking, though there will be everything money can buy in your home. Raising a family is more than providing the child with the material possessions of life. It is introducing him or her to the Lord Jesus as the source of all comfort and the God of all consolation.
As we grow older, the question still must be asked, As a retiree, are my plans for life at seventy the same as God’s plans for me? What do you have in mind for me, Lord?
In this parable, God has not spoken against success. He just warns us of its dangers unless our plans fit into the plans He has for us. Success can inflate our ego to the point that we are obnoxious and no one will care to be around us. Or it can distort our sense of values so that we fail to hear Jesus saying to us that our salvation rests in knowing him personally as our Savior and Lord.