This is a parable Jesus taught which is particular applicable for believers, especially in America, during these last days before the appearing of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.
In America, great emphasis is placed on saving up for one’s retirement. The moment a young person graduates from university and lands a good job with a company, a retirement account is established for him or her where funds will be deposited regularly. Entire industries are devoted to helping people save up for their senior years so that they will not have to worry about the future. People want to have finances available in order to be able to rest from their labors and to enjoy their sunset years on earth. As stewards of the earthly wealth the Lord entrusts to us, this is not necessarily wrong.
However, it can be taken to extremes. Many Americans have fallen into such a pit. One faithful church-goer in Houston had several million dollars saved up from his work in a very respectable profession. Yet he worried that he did not have enough in the bank to see him through his retirement years. As a outer-limit extreme, it was reported by one of his mistresses that even billionaire golfer Tiger Woods—before the scandal broke out—was looking ahead to investing his future earningsso that he would be sure to have enough for retirement.
Jesus’ parable about the rich fool is very appropriate for a time such as this.
Luke 12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
The Lord warns us to watch out and to be on our guard against all kinds of greed. Greed is an mortal enemy of our eternal souls, and we are to guard ourselves against it. It is able to make us stumble and fall. And there are different kinds of greed which can attack us. In his parable Jesus focuses on one type of greed in particular.
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
The business of this gentleman was prospering greatly. He worried about having a safe place to store his wealth in order to have enough to enjoy his life on earth in future years. This worry led him to the extraordinary measure of tearing down his barns and building bigger ones. This was for the sole purpose of continuing to enjoy his lifestyle on earth until he died.
20 “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?’
Smart in the eyes of the world; foolish before God
Although in the eyes of the world this man was indeed wise, in the eyes of Eternal God he was a fool. That very night the man was taken. He was not able to enjoy the wealth which he gone to such great lengths to store and protect.
In the sight of God, many of us Christians are also fools if we worry, setting our minds on investing and storing away funds simply for the purpose of enjoying our retirement years. Jesus actually called this greed. He commands us to watch out and to be on our guard against all kinds of greed, including this kind. The wisdom of the world, so compelling and convincing, stands in stark contrast to the wisdom of God.
21 “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
It is not wrong to store up things for our earthly retirement. But we must also store up things in heaven in order that we may be rich toward God. If we are not rich toward God, then we are like the rich fool. Because of worry, lack of faith, and pressure from the world, many Christians expend much energy squirreling away money for their retirement on earth. But they spend little effort storing away treasure in heaven in order that they may take hold of the life that is truly life to be revealed after they shed their earthly tent.
Commands to wealthy believers
1 Timothy 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
Christians, especially wealthy ones, are not to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain. This is uncertainty is especially obvious today when the American economy is being shaken and the specter of massive inflation looms under the economic policies of the current administration. We are not to worry about out retirement, but to put our hope in God. He is the One who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment, even during our retirement years. We are not trust in the wisdom of the world, in the “bigger barns” that we build to store away our wealth. We are to put our hope in God.
18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
For wealthy believers, Scripture here is abundantly clear and needs little elaboration. Wealth is not only to be stored in investment funds and in other instruments for retirement, but to be stored in heaven for ourselves as a firm foundation for the coming age. In this way we may take hold of the life that is truly life—eternal life.
Luke 16:9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
Worry can be a precursor to greed
Therefore, we are not to worry about the future, especially about retirement. Worry can be a precursor to the kind of greed against which Jesus warned in his parable of the rich fool.
Luke 12:22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
27 “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!
If we worry, we have little faith. And that is not pleasing to God. For without faith it is impossible to please God.
29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
If our hearts are set on the kingdom of God in our lives, God will most certainly provide for our earthly needs, even during our retirement years.
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The bottom line
Jesus commands us to give away our possessions and to store our treasure in heaven where no Bernard Madoff-inspired Ponzi scheme or inflation triggered by runaway government spending can steal our wealth. The eternal rewards will be great. For wherever you store your treasure, that’s where your heart will be. And wherever your heart is—that’s where you will receive your reward and spend eternity.