Many of the parables Jesus told during his time on Earth were related to money and possessions in some way.
One of the more memorable of these “money” parables is the parable of the rich fool found in Luke 12:13-21.
Not only is this parable memorable, but it has enormous implications for how we should view and use our money.
Just before Jesus tells the parable, we find him in the midst of a huge crowd of people…
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?”
And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Luke 12:13-15 (ESV)
Jesus then continues his response by telling a parable.
What if the parable would have taken place today though? What might Jesus have said to this man?
“The Parable of the Rich Fool” (take 2)
I think the parable of the rich fool could easily have gone something like this (the bold words in parentheses would replace the underlined words in my “modern day revision” to the story)…
And he told them a parable, saying, “The land (job) of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops (money)?'”
And he said, “I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones (open multiple retirement accounts), and there I will store all my grain (money) and my goods (wealth). And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods (wealth) laid up for many years; relax (retire), eat, drink, be merry.”
But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’
So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.'”
Luke 12:16-21 (ESV)
What is Jesus trying to say in the parable of the rich fool?
If he were telling the parable of the rich fool today, would he really mean that it’s wrong to save for the future and max out your retirement savings?
No, not necessarily.
But, depending on the state of your heart…it might be.
The dangers of being rich (and poor)
We see many places throughout scripture where God tells his people to save for the future and be productive in their work, but we see just as many stern warnings about putting our hope and trust in the money, wealth, and material possessions these activities will normally produce.
In fact, the verses immediately following the parable of the rich fool warn us of this exact thing (Luke 12:22-32).
You see, the problem isn’t money in and of itself, but rather, “the love of money” (1 Timothy 6:10).
Regardless of how wealthy (or poor) you are, it’s all too tempting to think…“If I only had a little bit more money, all my problems would be solved.”
Right…and if I only had a dollar for every time I heard that statement (or thought it myself!).
The spiritual danger with financial wealth (or a lack of it) is that we’re tempted to put our hope and trust in money and possessions to supply our every need, instead of relying on the One in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
So, how do we avoid this spiritual danger?
The spiritual solution to your money problems
I think Scripture gives us two clear ways to avoid this spiritual danger…
1. Repent and believe the Gospel
For starters, we need to repent of our “love of money” and believe the Gospel.
The Gospel is the Good News that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into this world to live the life we could not live, and die the death that we deserved, so that all who turn from their sins (like the love of money) and trust in Christ as their supreme treasure have been reconciled to God.
If you’re not a Christian, it’s what Jesus has called elsewhere in scripture “the one thing you lack.”
And if you ARE a Christian, although God pardoning us of our sin is a one-time (for all time!) event, the act of repenting and believing is NOT a “been there, done that” type of thing.
Rather, it’s a regular and ongoing process by which the Holy Spirit slowly transforms our desires and affections to align more and more with the will of God for our lives and we respond in continued repentance and faith.
In this example, he helps free us from the love of money and we learn to treasure Him above all else (instead of our wealth, as was the case with the parable of the rich fool).
We also begin to trust Him and Him alone for our identity and security, rather than the large (or small) size of our bank account.
2. Give like no one else
Practically speaking, one of the things God uses to help free us from the love of money is the act of regular, generous, cheerful, sacrificial giving out of a heart of gratitude for what Christ has done for you and what He’s doing through you.
In other words…
You’re not really living, until you start giving!
As I’ve already mentioned, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t save and invest for the future.
But while we’re investing for what we normally consider “long-term” goals we would be wise to also remember that, in God’s economy, the idea of a “long-term investment” takes on a whole new meaning.
When a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day (2 Peter 3:8), we’d be wise to invest a little more money in “…moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.” (Luke 12:33)
And we would be wise to remember that where our treasure is…there our heart will be also.
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