“Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 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 my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain 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 from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (LUKE 12:13 – 21 NIV)
This parable became necessary because a man came to Jesus simply to satisfy the dictates of his greed. Obviously from the reply of Jesus when his intervention in a family squabble was sought, the man’s request was not an honest request for something he was entitled to. It then means he was asking for more than his rightful share and that is greed. Jesus addressed the real issue that needed to be dealt with. He said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Verse 15) That is the essence of the parable of the rich fool.
The first question that strikes my mind then is, “When we come to God laden with prayer requests of all kinds, what are our true motives?” Jesus looks beyond the request; He sees the motives behind our prayers. That is why He said in James 4: 3 that, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Our prayer requests my spring from a genuine need backed up by the right motive otherwise, it will not receive God’s attention. This is a profound lesson we need to bear in mind in our ever needy world. Our motives play a great part in determining God’s response to our prayers. A genuine prayer request sponsored by a negative or ill motive will receive no positive response from God.
I am amazed at the alarmist approach Jesus adopts towards the issue of greed when He said “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed”. It presupposes that if we are not careful and watchful, greed can creep into our lives unawares and taint our desires and request. The phrase “all kinds of greed” equally presupposes that God may see as greed what ordinary you may not consider to be greed. What is greed? It is an excessive or reprehensible desire to acquire; covetousness. Wikipedia defines greed as the inordinate desire to possess wealth, goods, or objects of abstract value with the intention to keep it for one’s self, far beyond the dictates of basic survival and comfort. It is applied to a markedly high desire for and pursuit of wealth, status, and power. Any desire for something which is intended to be used for a just purpose cannot be inordinate. So it is not in the quantum of the thing requested but in the motive behind the request. When the motive is wrong, the desire is inordinate and therefore tainted by greed.
The next issue Jesus wanted to deal with is the worth of a man’s life. He said, “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” When a man wants to judge his success in life by the quantum of worldly possessions he has been able to acquire to himself, he has only found the wrong parameter for self evaluation. Our worldly possessions are not an end in themselves. They are a means to an end. When our pursuit for them becomes our ultimate aim or goal in life and we feel acquiring them is all that approximates to success, we miss the mark and fulfillment in life will be very far. After acquiring everything possible, one sure emotion that will flood our hearts will be that of emptiness; deed emptiness that will make a man cry out, “vanity upon vanity, all is vanity.” That phrase is attributed to King Solomon the man who went in search of all forms of human possession and having acquired all the delights of men’s heart was amazed at the emptiness of all his enterprise. (Ecclesiastes 2).
What then should be the correct measure of life? Measure your life by the fulfillment of purpose. All your pursuits and desires in life should be towards the actualization of your divine purpose in life. When our purpose in life is held in proper perspective, we will not misuse or abuse the blessings of God that come our way as worldly possessions. We will see them for what they truly are; raw materials for the enhancement and actualizations of our divine assignment in life. (Watch out for part 2).