Guard against Greed
Be rich in God, not in greed.
One church took a mission trip to a Cambodian orphanage and drank nothing but bottled water there because Cambodian water is very brown and very unfiltered. The Americans even brushed their teeth using bottled water and some dumped it on their heads when they needed a shower.
Surprisingly, the Cambodian people refused to drink bottled water and you’ll never believe why – they consider it unsafe. They see all the American tourists drinking bottled water and Americans are fat, therefore, they think the bottled water will make them fat. So our water is as unsafe to them as theirs is to us. Who’s right?
We can quote reports and talk averages about how overweight, underexercised, and materialistic we are in America – and shrug our shoulders and rarely see ourselves in the data. The more we see these sad statistics the more we all say to ourselves, “You know, I really don’t appreciate those lazy, fat, rich people in America tilting the scale against the rest of us.”
Jesus had the same challenge. How did he get the greedy guy who came to him in the middle of a fiscal fight to understand that Jesus was aiming the parable of the rich fool at him (Luke 12)? This man was the rich fool who built bigger barns so he could “eat, drink, and be merry.” But the man listening to Jesus probably thought like we do, “You know, there are some greedy people who need to hear what Jesus is saying.”
Our abundance of possessions is so culturally accepted and our greed of accumulation is so subtle that we wouldn’t blink an eye. The biggest challenge of this parable isn’t understanding it but understanding that each of us is in it. The rich fool is not some kind of demented villain antagonist, ultra-rich Donald Trump figure unlike the average American. The rich fool is the average American. “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Let’s not try to dodge the judgment of Jesus on our greedy accumulation of things when one of the fastest growing businesses in our country is the building of self-storage facilities (bigger barns). We’re rich in greed. When we become richer in greed we become poorer in God. The more we invest our time, effort, income, and space on the accumulation of things the less time, effort, income and space we have for God in our lives. “You fool!”
So the parable of the rich fool ends on a sad note. To find any encouragement in the story we need to go back to its happy beginning. “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop.” This crop didn’t just pop up out of nowhere. God makes things grow and God blessed this man with crops. God made him rich.
But God wanted the man’s crops back. And God also wanted this man’s heart. And he gave God neither. There was nothing lacking in this man’s life until he chose to throw it all away. Could you make the same mistake? Look what God has given you. He has made you rich with closets full of shoes, cupboards full of cereal and peanut butter and tuna, and computers full of gadgets – and that’s okay! It’s okay to be rich. It’s okay to be a wealthy American!
As long as we’re rich in God.
As long as we realize that God wants the shoes and tuna and soup and gadgets back, not by demanding them from you when you die but by you willingly giving ownership of them to God now. Use your wealth to serve God, don’t sit on your pile of gold like you’re king or queen of your kingdom. Let God direct you to use your earthly possessions to help you become more rich in God, closer to him, following his direction, sharing with others, providing for the poor, asking God what you can do with what you have because you have so much! “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2). What would you be worth if you lost all your money? Being rich in God, you’d still be worth millions.
A millionaire businessmen with many waiting heirs to his wealth died. His children and grandchildren gathered at the hospital and after a quick and easy grief session asked each other, “How much did he leave us?” The family pastor, on his way in the door, heard their great concern and said, “I’m pretty sure he left everything.”
Jesus died, rose, and ascended into heaven. And how much has Jesus left us? Everything. We have a living Savior who gives us everything he did, everything he earned, everything he prepared, and can’t wait for us to make the time, effort, space, and interest for it in our lives. If we stored his spiritual blessings for us in barns, we’d have to build bigger ones!
PRAYER: Dear God, make me richer in you and turn my greed into generosity. Amen.