Then someone called from the crowd, "Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father's estate with me." Jesus replied, "Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?" Then he said, "Beware! Don't be greedy for what you don't have. Real life is not measured by how much we own."
And he gave an illustration: "A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. In fact, his barns were full to overflowing. So he said, `I know! I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I'll have room enough to store everything. And I'll sit back and say to myself, My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!' "But God said to him, `You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get it all?' "Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God." Luke 12:13 – 21
I have read this passage many times and each time I get something different from it. I think it’s easy to read this passage and conclude that Jesus is criticizing wealth, but I don’t think that’s what He is doing. Is he criticizing someone who worked hard to plant the seed and who worked hard to multiply what he had? I don’t think so. Jesus is looking at the heart and asking the question “is having it all in this life enough?”
As a Christ follower, we know that there isn’t enough stuff in the world to ever bring true contentment. Knowing that, you would think we would cease looking to things to make us happy. At some point, we must come to the conclusion that no amount of stuff is ever going to do “it” for us (whatever “it” is). EBAY’s latest ads claim that you can in fact find “it.” But, I disagree.
In suburbia, we don’t actually build barns. But, we do build bigger closets and garages to assist us when we accumulate more stuff. And when we can’t build it fast enough (or our HOA doesn’t allow us to expand), we rent storage space at a convenient location. Self-storage facilities have become a huge business. The rise of these facilities has led to a $145 billion industry, with 45,812 facilities nationwide and counting. The Self Storage Association says the industry is large enough to provide nearly seven square feet of rentable space for every person in the United States.1 The modern day barn now comes with a code and a rolling door (and sometimes a security guard).
Jesus wants us to see things in the right perspective. He told the young man who came to Him: "Beware! Don't be greedy for what you don't have. Real life is not measured by how much we own."
Today if we view our possessions or success in life as the result of our own talent and effort, we will think of ourselves as owner of these things. But in reality, we are all stewards of what God has provided. Whether we are into farming or into manufacturing or into business, it is God who provides. He gives us the ability to do whatever we are doing. He gives us the ability to think, to calculate numbers, to make plans… even to speak and to breathe. All of us earn our wealth with borrowed abilities. It’s imperative that we remember this as it will help us see things in the right perspective.
Believers seem to possess the same attitude and approach to money as does the society in general. They want more of it because they are convinced it will solve most of their problems.
For example, in 2004 former Enron chief Ken Lay appeared in federal court to answer indictments for fraud, conspiracy and false statements. On the way to court, he stopped by Houston's prominent First United Methodist Church to pray. His pastor accompanied him when he turned himself in to authorities.
A federal jury convicted Bernard Ebbers, head of WorldCom of fraud. In the days leading up to his trial, Ebbers declared to his friends at Easthaven Baptist Church that, "I just want you to know you aren't going to church with a crook." Apparently they were.
Tom DeLay, a congressman who has often been identified as a born-again Christian was indicted for money laundering. The charges forced him to resign as his political party's leader in the House of Representatives.
No one is immune from “can’t get enoughitus.” As long as we choose to be discontented with what God has given us, we are all susceptible to falling in the money trap as Lay, Ebbers, and DeLay did.
So how do we avoid falling into the money trap? If we make our relationship with The Lord the focus of our lives, then having more things will become less important to us. When we are busy getting to know Jesus and serving him, then we have less time to look around and see what others have that we want. Our main purpose becomes doing God's will and not accumulating things that we can't take with us. In the long run, we will be much more content because no possessions can satisfy us like having fellowship with our Savior.
1 www.selfstorageguide.com. July 15, 2006.
Steve Scalici is the Vice President of Treasure Coast Financial, a financial planning firm in Stuart, FL. He is co-host of God's Money which can be heard weekdays at www.oneplace.com. He can also be reached at his website www.tcfin.com.