Man’s Selfish Quest for Earthly Possessions

(a meditation on Luke 12:16-19)

Luke 12:16-19
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “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. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

The agricultural setting and terminologies of this parable perfectly fits the situation in Jesus’ life and time. Undoubtedly, the images Jesus presenting to His audience were understandable to them because Israel was largely a rural and agricultural community. So what’s the point of this parable?

The parable can be divided into two sections. Each section contains one major point. Each point is derived from the action of each character mentioned. The two characters are the rich man (v. 16) and God (v. 20). The division would be: (1) the rich man’s selfish quest for earthly possessions (vv. 16-19); and (2) God’s solemn judgment of man’s senseless life (vv. 20-21).

The first section tells us of man’s good agricultural harvest (v.16) and his boasting about the kind of life which he can enjoy as a result of his great material success (vv. 17-19). The second section, however, gives us a sad picture of man’s destiny in the hands of God who will demand a reckoning of his life. This second section is notably marked by the contrasting word ‘but’.

The Rich Man’s Selfish Quest for Earthly Possessions (vv. 16-19)

The point of the first section of the parable is not to show the readers that acquisition of material wealth is sinful, nor to remind them that good stewardship of one’s wealth is wrong. The Bible itself does not condemn money or any earthly goods. What is ‘foolish’ in the rich man’s action was his selfish or covetous pursuit of acquiring wealth.

Covetousness is surely a sin, a breach of the essence of the tenth commandment that says, “You shall not covet.” This surely hinders one’s relationship with God for as Paul says in Col. 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: ... covetousness, which is idolatry.” A selfish quest for wealth is indeed idolatry for it draws man away from God unto mammon.

Greed also destructs one’s devotion to God for as Paul again warned Timothy in 1 Tim. 6:10 that, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

Indeed the rich man in the parable is preoccupied with self and his quest for more wealth for selfish indulgence. This is obvious by the text’s repeated use of the personal pronoun “I” and the words ‘relax, eat, drink, be merry,’ which also imply a kind of life void of godliness.

In general, the point here, as one author puts it, is that, “A purely selfish accumulation of possessions is incompatible with true discipleship.” The problem with this man is that, in his great material success he did not bother to ask, “How much shall I give to the cause of God?” Nor did he inquire, “How much of this shall I give to the poor?”

Let us always remember that everything we call our own comes from God and they belong to God. He gave them to us in order to serve Him and others better. One day we will give account to Him for the use of these things, whether money, talent or gifts.

Jesus is saying, “If you want to follow me, you must be willing to give up the things in your hands. You must be willing to suffer loss. You must be willing to assume other’s loss and trust me to repay you. You must make me your greatest treasure in life and in death.”

Unless we accept this challenge, we cannot be true followers of Christ. Do you really want to follow Christ? You must be willing to die yourself so Christ could live and rule in your heart. Instead of striving for your self, work hard to help others as well, especially those who are in the family of God.

Giving up our pride is necessary to be able to consider others as important as we are. Sometimes as a pastor, I have the tendency to present myself as if I know a lot. The truth is, I don’t. There are certain areas that others know more than I know. Women know a lot about housekeeping, cooking and baking. I know very little. Our children know more about computers and how to use them than we do.

The world does not revolve around us. We are not the most important people in this world. We must therefore learn to give up our rights and privileges in order to serve others in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let's use our time, our talent and our treasures not to boost our pride but in order to serve our neighbor and fellowmen. Give up anything Christ requires from you. Put Him first. Stop saying, “I will do this and I will do that so I can be happy.” Instead say, “If this is pleasing to the Lord and beneficial to others, I will do it.”

A meaningful and successful life is a life that obeys the will of God and cares for the welfare of others. Christ Himself exemplified this life by living and dying for the glory of God and the redemption of His people. God defines success in life. He is the judge who evaluates our lives. What kind of life do you live? God judged the man in the parable. God’s judgment of this man’s life is that it is a senseless life.

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