The Gospel of Luke - Part 56: Be Rich Toward God — Luke 12:13-21
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)


Several weeks ago we started into Chapter 12 of Luke where Jesus teaches us how to Live for Jesus. He teaches us to:

The Last two lessons dealt with Being Real, not being a hypocrite,  we should not pretend to be someone we are not. We should not hide our faith in Jesus or pretend it is some thing it is not.

This morning — we will continue in Luke 12 into the section where Jesus teaches us to Be Rich Toward God.

When we started this section I posed some questions for each of us to ask ourselves:

How do I live?

Each of us must choose a framework for how we will live. Most people live to please themselves. Most people live for the present rather than prepare for eternity. In fact, in our society most people are perfectly willing to sacrifice the future for the sake of the present.

But Jesus calls us to another way of living. As disciples, we need to learn to live for Him. In this chapter Jesus teaches us some important principles concerning how we do just that.

Be rich toward the Lord:

We live in a society that is obsessed with wealth. Unfortunately, for the most part, we pursue the wrong kinds of riches. What are some indicators that our society is obsessed with material wealth?   The appeal of gambling, especially the lottery, shows that the focus is on the lifestyles of wealthy people

In this passage Jesus points His disciples toward the true riches, the riches that will last, the riches that will satisfy.

But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. —1 Timothy 6:9-10
Let’s see what we can learn from these verses.

Mother Teresa said: “Once the longing for money comes, the longing also comes for what money can give: superfluities, nice rooms, luxuries at table, more clothes, fans and so on. Our needs will increase, for one thing brings another, and the result will be endless dissatisfaction.”

Haddon Robinson, pastor, former seminary president, said: “For every verse in the Bible that tells us the benefits of wealth, there are ten that tell us the dangers of wealth.”

Now let’s consider what Jesus teaches us about this topic of greed in this passage:

Don’t Be Greedy:

Remember that at the beginning of Luke 12, we find that thousands of people had gathered around Jesus and wanted to ask him questions.

Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” —Luke 12:13-15
What strikes you about this brief conversation? — “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?”

This event is more significant than we might think. Consider — Jesus could have been drawn into the “judge” business. After all, who is better suited to make just decisions between people than Jesus? If Jesus was the best person for the job, why did He turn it down? Because Jesus had a clear sense of His purpose. His heavenly Father hadn't sent Him to earth to handle financial disputes. He had been sent “to seek and to save those who are lost.”

When Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, before His trail and crucifixion, when Zacchaeus was converted, Jesus said:

For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. —Luke 19:10
This is a good example for us — don't let things you are able to do keep you from doing what God has called you to do!

Jesus turned this encounter into an opportunity to fulfill His purpose. He warns against letting any form of greed prevent us from pursuing the true riches:

In verse 15 Jesus said:   Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed. —Luke 19:15

“Greed” is from the Greek word πλεονεχια [pleonexia] meaning “a desire to have more”. It can be defined as an excessive desire to have more.

We don’t seem to talk a lot today about the sin of greed. Maybe that’s because greed isn’t really considered a sin in America anymore! Even in churches, we don’t hear this subject addressed very often.

Actor Alan Alda (star of the series “M.A.S.H.”) observed, “It isn’t necessary to be rich and famous to be happy. It’s only necessary to be rich!” That seems to be a pretty pervasive attitude in the U.S., among both non-Christians and even Christians.

A question every Christian must ask is, “How much is enough?” We tend to make purchase decisions on the basis of whether or not we can buy something, not whether we should by it. Webster's defines greed as “an excessive desire for getting or having, esp. wealth”. Sounds like a pretty good description of our whole society, doesn't it? We are especially vulnerable in the U.S. to this sin because our whole culture is so materialistic.

What would you say makes a desire excessive?

We live in a very greedy society. Most people are far more concerned about earning enough to buy a newer car or a bigger house or bigger TV than about earning enough to give more to God's work. One of the best cures for greed is generous giving to the Lord.

There are many warnings concerning greed in the Bible:

He who profits illicitly troubles his own house, But he who hates bribes will live. —Proverbs 15:27

An arrogant man stirs up strife, But he who trusts in the LORD will prosper. —Proverbs 28:25

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. —Matthew 23:25

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. —Mark 7:21-22

But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. —Ephesians 5:3

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. — Colossians 3:5
Verse15 talks about — every form of greed.

Greed can come in different forms.  Do you know one of the reasons we enjoy stories like “The Christmas Carol”, with characters like Ebenezer Scrooge? We like him because he's such a caricature; we think we're not like him.  One kind of greed is shown by this man talking to Jesus. His request sounds legitimate but Jesus looks at his heart and sees that his motive is greed. — Beware of every form of greed.

What are some ways that greed can express itself in our lives?

Materialism is not so much a matter of the amount of things you have, as it is a matter of your attitude toward the things you have (and the things you want to have).

Most people in the U.S., both Christians and non-Christians, adhere to the religion of “MORE” - no matter what we have, we want more or bigger or better or newer. According to an article by U.S. News & World Report, a survey of college freshman found that 74% considered “becoming wealthy” an important life goal.

...for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions. —v15

Have you ever seen the bumper sticker that says, “He who has the most toys wins!”? That's the attitude Jesus is talking about. When we're greedy we always want more — or better or newer or fancier.

The French philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Paschal, said, “There is within the heart of every person a void which no created thing can fill but only the Creator.” There is always the danger of trying to fill our lives with stuff rather than with God.

Richard Swenson writes: I know you’ve heard of influenza; we’ve all had the flu at one time or another. But have you every come down with “affluenza”? “Affluenza,” states the PBS television special, “is an unhappy condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.” Affluenza turns the good life into the goods life. (Richard Swenson)

What are some things we can do to counteract the pressures of greed and materialism that are both all around us and within us?

Jesus gives us advice on this in the next verses.


Don’t Be Foolish:

And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” —Luke 12:16-21
What are some things we learn about the man in this story? Why do you think God calls this man a “fool”? What are some wrong assumptions that this man built his life on?  One event that is universal is death. Yet most of us never prepare to die. Death is 100% fatal and 100% certain.  Researchers say that one of the two least discussed topics by married couples is the death of a spouse (the other topic least discussed is sex).

Another indication of our failure to prepare for death is that about 70% of Americans die without leaving a will.

In Hebrews 9:27, God says,

It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment. —Hebrews 8:27
“Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Death is not only certain, it is often unexpected. How many of you have known someone who died suddenly and unexpectedly? Remember, our primary responsibility in this life is to prepare for eternity.

Then in verse 21, Jesus says:

“So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” —v.21
What do you think it means to be “Rich toward God”? What kind of riches are you pursuing? Here are some other passages that give us advice about being Rich toward God:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. —Matthew 6:19-21

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. —2 Corinthians 8:9

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints... —Ephesians 1:18

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. —Colossians 3:16

Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share... —1 Timothy 6:18

...considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. —Hebrews 11:26

I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. —Revelation 2:9
There’s a great verse in Revelation that seems to apply to the man in this story:
Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked... —Revelation 3:17
Next week we will look at some keys to avoiding greed and materialism.