[…] So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God. – Luke 12:13-21

When we hear the word “rich”, or “riches”, the first association we make is earthly possessions, status, comfort, wealth etc.  Whether we are Christians or not, we all strive to live a life in which we can accumulate as much of that as we possibly can.  But, what does the Word of God tell us about riches? And what is defined as true “riches”?

In attempt to answer these questions, let’s start off by looking at the verse in Luke 12:15

“Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possess.”
  The parable of the rich fool in this chapter begins after a man asks Jesus to arbitrate between him and his brother.  In those days, there was no question about who took over the family inheritance. It was always guaranteed that the firstborn of the family would receive a double portion of the inheritance. Considering this man is asking Jesus to arbitrate between him and his brother, it indicates that this man was not the firstborn and therefore wanted his brother’s inheritance to be equally split with him.  Jesus however, refuses to get involved in the matter and begins addressing a much deeper issue by warning this person that there is more to life than the “abundance of the things he possess.”

What is Jesus Talking About?

This leads Jesus to begin talking about the parable of the rich fool. Jesus describes the man in the parable as a man who was blessed by God, “his land produced plentifully” (verse 16). Yet, as the man’s blessings increased and his wealth began accumulating, he became more focused on accommodating and managing the riches he had, rather than being focused on making Himself available for the will of God over his life. The man being so consumed by the growth of his wealth, begins building larger barns and starts planning for an early retirement, 

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
Little did he know, that would be his last day on earth. The key towards understanding what Jesus is saying is then summarized in verse 21 when He ends the story by saying,
This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

The True Measure of Riches

The first and very clear point Jesus makes is by reminding all of us that we are not to devote our lives gathering earthly riches. This parable clearly describes the earthly riches this man possessed, but does not mention what his relationship with God was, or even if he had one. In fact his earthly riches were so great that as we read the parable in verse 20 we see God telling this rich man, the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” This verse sounds very much alike to the verse in Ecclesiastes 2:18 as it reads, “I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me.” The first point we need to understand is that we should not singularly devote ourselves to the accumulation of riches or wealth that are limited to the physical world. One day we will leave it all behind for someone else. Keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with working and living a good life, but if that is our primary focus then we deprive ourselves of the real and eternal riches we should work to accumulate (which we will look at shortly).

The second point to take away from this parable is that we are blessed by God so that we can become a blessing to others, and continue building the Kingdom of God (As Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 9:6-15).  In fact, Psalm 62:10 warns us that if our riches increase, to not set our hearts upon them. You see, the whole purpose of God increasing our earthly riches, is so that we can honor Him with it. When we honor God with the riches He has blessed us with, He then blesses us more so that we can honor Him even more – do you see the pattern?

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine (Proverbs 3:9-10).
In doing so, we not only remain rich in our earthly possessions, but we also remain rich in our relationship with God – which is what Jesus is encouraging us to focus on.

Final Thoughts

You see, the true measure of our riches are not measured by how much we accumulate here on earth. What we accumulate here on earth is no longer accounted for once we leave it. Just like the man in the parable Jesus spoke of, we could have abundant wealth but if we are not conscious of honoring God, remaining faithful to Him, and making ourselves available for Him, then we remain spiritually BROKE.

if we are not conscious of honoring God, remaining faithful to Him, and making ourselves available for Him, then we remain spiritually BROKE
It is for this reason that Jesus also reminds us in Matthew 6:20 to 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.” The riches we store in heaven are eternal.

The man in that parable stored so much of his earthly riches, but was not rich toward God – the eternal richness. This type of richness translates to our relationship with Him; to how much of a priority we make Him in our daily lives; to how obedient we are to Him; to how much we strive to please and honor Him with what we do, and what we have. The scripture reminds us that life is not about what we possess, or how much of it we have. Rather, it’s about understanding that our greatest sense of richness, is our pursuit of Him.

our greatest sense of richness, is our pursuit of Him.
Written by Christina Girma

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