As Jesus traveled the countryside of Judea, He continued to bring Truth and Light wherever He went. As He healed people of their blindness, their lame feet, and the demonization, He showed the world that the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom was already on it’s way. As He taught Truth against all the corruption, greed, and suffering of society, He made clear the difference between the ways of God and the ways of sinful humanity. The wretchedness and betrayal of this earth was not His desire for the human race, but it is what we have chosen for ourselves. Jesus came to bring the peace…the shalom…of God’s promises, and they have been increasing on the earth ever since. When He returns, He will restore total shalom, or total blessing in every possible way, to all that call on His name.
While Jesus was preaching in Judea, a man stood up and asked Him a question. It was about the amount of money he should inherit from his parents. He wanted his brother to share with him. Normally, for the Jewish people, the answers to these kinds of questions were answered in the Law of God. The Jewish people would simply do what the Law said, and it kept everything straight and fair between them. It was a wonderful gift from God. It created an orderly society with a powerful, unified sense of justice that was shared by everyone. But sometimes, there were problems the Law didn’t cover. So the people would go to their rabbis, or religious teachers, and ask them to make decisions where the Law wasn’t clear.
The man stood before Christ and the crowd and asked the Lord to decide in his favor against his brother. But Jesus was given a very specific task by His Father, and deciding this man’s case was not part of it. So the Lord said, “‘Man, who appointed me a judge or arbiter over you?’” The Son of the Living God was standing before this man with power to heal, with words of stunning Truth, and all the man cared about was his inheritance! The Lord would have none of it. Jesus had come to draw people to the riches of God, not to the riches of money.
Then Jesus turned to the crowd and said:
“‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’”
Then, to make His point, Jesus told a parable.
“‘The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.”
“‘Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry.”
“‘But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded of you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”
“Then Jesus said, ‘This is how it will be for anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.’”
In this story, it is important to listen to what the man said so we understand the motives of his heart. God provided him with a wonderful harvest, but he showed no gratefulness to God…it didn’t make him trust God more. In fact, the abundance of his harvest seemed to make him even more greedy. His only care was how to make life good for himself for as long as possible. His main purpose became comfort and ease. He was totally absorbed by selfish greed.
What other choices did the man in the story have? Well, he could have given part of his plenty back to God in thanks. He could have served God by using some of the extra to care for the poor. He could have been a part of God’s generous love for those who suffer…God’s shalom. Instead, he found a way to hoard all of it for himself. Doesn’t this man seem wretched when you think about all the good that he could have done but failed to do with his wealth?
Meanwhile, the Lord Jesus said that giving to those in need is like giving directly to God Himself. Isn’t the compassion and mercy of God beautiful?
Money wasn’t the only thing that Jesus called His followers to surrender to the will of God. They were meant to surrender their right to their very lives! It was a radical request…and it was something that Jesus was preparing to do first Himself.
As Jesus continued to preach, He knew that His declarations against the religious leaders put Him in increasing danger. His disciples knew it, too. As they stood by Him in each town and village, their allegiance to Him was made clear to everyone, and it put their lives at risk as well. The longer the disciples continued on their path with Him, the more clear it became that they were leaving behind many of the things that bring a sense of security and safety on earth. They were men without homes, on a persevering journey, facing real enemies, proclaiming a volatile, powerful Truth.
As Jesus spoke, He had a clear view of Heaven where His heavenly Father reigns in absolute power on the throne. As a human being who had perfect faith through the power of the Holy Spirit, He knew exactly His position in the universe and was absolutely confident about God’s plan. One day soon, He was going to return to His home of eternal glory, and the temptations of this world seemed like shabby waste next to the gleaming things of His Father’s Kingdom.
But for His disciples and all who followed Him, their eternal vision was still growing. The comforts and pleasures of this world, the opinions of other people, and the fear of pain and death all loomed large in their hearts.
Jesus wanted to teach them to understand themselves as members of the Kingdom of God. They were to look at life as if it was just the staging ground for going to Heaven. They could live this life with an abandon and freedom, trusting that God Himself was on the Throne and would take care of them while they were here on earth. He said:
“‘Therefore, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have not storerooms or barns; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”
“‘But seek His Kingdom, and all these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’”
Do some of these ideas seem familiar? These words are from the book of Luke, but Matthew recorded many of these things in the Sermon on the Mount as well (Matt. 5-7). These ideas were so important to Jesus that He continued to teach them wherever He went. He knew how hard it is for us humans to stop looking at the things of this world and put our hope in God. It takes time and growing faith to take hold of the reality of His glorious Kingdom.
God knows that His children need food and clothing in this life. But He longs for His children to trust Him to provide these things, instead of scratching it out for themselves in their own strength or demanding far more than they really need.
How lovely is the heart that cares more for the needs of the poor than having something new and shiny for themselves! It is their privilege to take part in the unfolding of God’s Kingdom shalom!
How whole and strong the heart that is absolutely confident that God will take care of them, even in their poverty!
How Jesus longed for all of His followers to make Him their great treasure! He is the one necessary thing!