Bible Studies
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Thursday, 23 December 2004

Jesus' Parable of the Rich Fool cautions against excessive dependence on amassed wealth to the exclusiopn of trust in God. Jesus made it clear that we cannot serve both God and mammon, which is money gained or used in contradiction to God's will.

by Jim Jordal

And he [Jesus] spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

Luke 12:16-21 (King James)

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also….No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Matt. 6:19-24 (King James)

It was with good reason that Jesus proclaimed the impossibility of serving both God and mammon. The somewhat uncommon term "mammon" refers, not to riches per se, but to riches used as idolatrous substitutes for God, or in opposition to the Lord’s will. It is not mere possession of wealth that draws God’s displeasure, but wealth used wrongfully to oppress or exploit helpless people. Such misuse of money and its attendant power is condemned by Mosaic Law, the prophets, the apostles, and Jesus Christ Himself.

Christ’s parables teach moral and ethical values as vital today as then. If we can drop our defenses long enough to consider the rich man as a symbol of ourselves and our deeply held values, then perhaps we can learn something from this parable. Unfortunately, these evidences of folly are not unique to that deluded being, but afflict us all.

His first mistake was to hoard rather than invest his wealth. Hoarding of wealth can be indicative of a self-centered desire to care for oneself at the expense of others. The thought is preservation of wealth, not multiplying or sharing, as investment might accomplish. Hoarding helps only oneself, while investing benefits all. Free enterprise economic systems like ours depend upon investment to recycle wealth into productive enterprises uplifting to the entire society. Without investment we die economically.

The second error lay in his hedonistic desire to use accumulated riches to provide for himself an easy life of gluttony, drunkenness, and merriment. But his values and attention focused only upon himself and his pleasure. Where in his life was there room for charity, sacrificial giving, or empathy with the plight of those less fortunate? Where was his social consciousness? And where was his attention to Scripture or the will of God?

Modern American society seems plagued with pleasure-seeking, pain-avoiding thinking and behaving. Witness the endless commercial messages bombarding even small children with the values of possessing more "things." Then consider the thousands of daily messages touting pain-relieving medications as cure-alls for practically every uncomfortable human condition. We are a nation addicted to pleasure and to drugs.

Finally, consider the madness of professional sports, with entire communities held ransom to publicly-funded palaces of pleasure and escape, where athletes make thousands of times the average wage, and are worshipped as icons of our culture. But who says, "Wait a minute—the emperor has no clothes!" How long will we exalt athletics ahead of morality and decency?.

The rich man’s third error consisted in believing that his intended life of self-indulgence could be attained through his own efforts without the blessing of God. He conveniently forgot what God said concerning the power of wealth to cause people to forget their Maker, nor did he consider the Giver of all wealth as the source of his financial gains (see Deut. 8:10-20). In this respect he fell victim to a form of idolatry consisting of depending more upon wealth than upon God.

The fourth error resulted from his previous three: He laid up treasure for himself, but was not "rich toward God." In other words, his intent was to use wealth only for his own benefit, with no thought for sharing with others according to the will of God. He utterly failed to comprehend that upon his death, which would be that very night, the hoard that he loved so much, and which constituted his entire life, would pass to others who might not even remember what struggles he had gone through to possess it.

Being rich toward God means having the same values for the gaining, possessing, and using of wealth as does God. It means accepting whatever wealth comes your way as a gift from God, and using it as He directs for the benefit of His kingdom. This doesn’t mean giving away everything you have—few are called to that level of sacrifice. But it does mean that we must be generous in giving for the support of our churches and their programs, and in supporting worthy charitable needs as God indicates. In so doing we lay up treasure in heaven and strike a blow against the heavy hand of mammon attempting to control our lives.

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