“Rich Toward God” (Luke 12:15-21)
Luke 12:15, “And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
Before Jesus shares a “parable” about a “rich fool” he warns his audience of the danger of “covetousness.” A quick survey of the Bible will help us see why this warning is necessary if a survey of life itself is not a primer. In the first sin, Eve coveted the forbidden fruit and was cast out of the garden (Genesis 3:1-7). Lot chose the well-watered plain of Jordan and subsequently moved into Sodom and Gomorrah which was eventually destroyed due to evil (Genesis 13:10-13). Jacob stole the birthright from Esau because he coveted the greater blessing and it caused a life of friction with his brother (Genesis 28-36). Achan coveted the spoils of war from Jericho and his entire family was punished because of his sin (Joshua 7). David coveted the married Bathsheba and committed adultery leading to a series of consequences (1 Samuel 12). Judas coveted 30 pieces of silver and betrayed the greatest man that ever lived because of his greed (Matthew 26). These are just a few cases, but in every case, covetousness had corrosive consequences! Yet, how can we detect a covetous heart?
“The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ 21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (12:16-21, NKJV).
In this parable, a covetous heart is seen when a person “lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). The “rich fool” was self-centered and self-focused. When blessed with a piece of land which “yielded plentifully” he did not go to God in prayer for wisdom in the dispersal of His blessings. Instead, “he thought within himself” (12:17). He did not view hisabundance as God-derived, but he thought of himself as a self-made man. He calls his possessions “my barns” and “my crops” and “my goods” (12:18). Just as he viewed the origin of his blessings from a selfish perspective, he also planned to use them selfishly. He would use them to “take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry” (12:19). It was all about him! His plan was never to “share” but to “store” and he would die remembered as a rich and self-centered hoarder.
Jesus used this text so we might cultivate hearts known for better things. He calls us to live for a higher purpose than self-gratification and material abundance. Too often, we play the part of the rich fool. We are generous with ourselves, and stingy with God. If we want to change a covetous heart, we must be people who sacrifice ourselves and choose to lay our physical prosperity at the altar as we are “rich toward God.”