Rich Toward God
“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
We are told in Luke’s gospel of a time when an individual, who remains anonymous, asked Jesus to interfere in a family matter having to do with equitable distribution of inheritance. Jesus responded, as was His M.O., with a very direct statement indicating His position on the matter followed by a profound teaching intended to pierce to the heart of the matter, driving past the natural, physical inclination on the subject to explore the impact on the soul and spirit. In this instance, Jesus’ direct statement was “who made me a judge or arbitrator over you.” Like I said - direct. He followed with a teaching that we will unpack in this post. Let’s get started.
First, look at the statement found at the beginning of our post. Starting with words like “take care” and “on your guard”, helps us understand that whatever follows needs to be sincerely heeded. “Watch Out” or “Heads Up!” may be the way we would say it today. When Jesus decided to expound on the matters of having stuff (inheritance), he begins with an exclamation of warning - “On Guard!” Why? Because covetousness, all of it, is coming at you and it intends to steal your life!
We were not made to possess stuff. Humans were created as stewards, to “work” and “keep” the created world (Genesis 2:15). The life given to us was never intended to be used for accumulating possessions. God did not create people to horde up, but rather to organize, multiply and take care of that which He provided for their sustenance. Yet, we humans went in our own direction. This has led us to a philosophy of “he who dies with the most stuff wins.” But, according to the most influential person in history, having stuff does not make life. A possible response to this truth could be that while having stuff may not make life, it does make life better. Duly noted. However, let’s not focus on the wrong subject in Jesus’ warning.
The stuff is not the problem. The covetousness is. The existence of stuff in your life does not add or detract from your life, except to the extent you allow it. It may make you more comfortable. It may make you feel safer from potential loss. But it may also distract you, or even blind you from the life you are intended to live in the first place. Coveting the stuff you have will, without question, spoil your life and destroy the purpose in your existence.
Jesus goes on in Luke’s account to give a parable illustrating this principal. In His parable, Jesus explains that a “rich man” had land that produced “plentifully.” So we start out with a man described as “rich.” The man likely had what he needed in life before his land produced its plentiful abundance. It is also likely these additional riches did not change his position in the slightest other than changing his perspective on the stuff he had. He immediately begins looking to his abundance of crops and determines the right thing to do is “tear down” the barns he already possessed to build bigger. All this was to be done so that he could store his abundance and say within his soul that safety had been achieved - “relax, eat, drink and be merry.”
The parable ends with the rich man’s foolishness being revealed in his death as all that he had stored up for himself was lost. In Jesus’ parable, the rich man’s rationale was equated with a person who “lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” Rich toward God is a very interesting phrase. How can we be rich toward God?
We will use the next few entries to illustrate being rich toward God through the testimonies of givers. We will intentionally keep the anonymity of people described in tact while giving insight into how their actions were rich toward God.
[Note to the reader, this entry is not intended to disparage the actions of a wise manager who saves in times of plenty to weather the times of famine. Prudent managers are an inspiration and the actions exampled by the likes of Joseph in his position as COO over Egypt should be studied and followed.]