The Abundance of One’s Possessions

Christmas giftsDuring the holiday season, it can be easy to become distracted by the “things” of this life. Instead of focusing on one’s blessings and being grateful to God for them, many people choose to focus on the things they do not have. There is certainly nothing wrong with enjoying the blessings of this life. There is also nothing wrong with giving gifts to friends and family. However, we need to keep everything in the proper perspective. We must avoid jealousy, discontent, and materialism. Failing to avoid these attitudes can ultimately lead to eternal destruction.

Jesus warned about such a misplaced focus when he spoke with a man who was jealous of his brother. Afterward, He used the opportunity to expand upon the issue in a familiar parable.

Someone in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But He said to him, ‘Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?’ Then He said to them, ‘Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions’” (Luke 12:13-15).

Jesus’ first point was that we must not be jealous of others. This man believed that it was “not fair” for his brother to receive the inheritance alone. He thought his brother ought to divide it with him. We might be sympathetic to this man’s grievance and human reasoning may lead us to think that his request was “fair.” Yet Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth was not to make such judgments between men. His purpose was “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). This man was only focused on one thing – an earthly inheritance – which, in the end, was not all that important. Men often appeal to “fairness” to justify their greed and jealousy of others. Others may be blessed more than we are in this world’s goods; but that gives us no right to be jealous, which is condemned as one of the “deeds of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-20).

Second, Jesus implicitly made the point that we must be content with what we have. When this man complained about not receiving what he thought was his fair share of the family’s inheritance, Jesus warned against greed. Then He said, “For not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). The apostle Paul learned what this man, at least to this point, had not – to be content (Philippians 4:11-12). Contentment is possible when we appreciate Jesus’ statement. Our life is not defined by what we possess. Too many people in our society judge others (and themselves) based upon the “things” they have. Yet all of these “things” will one day “be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). We must display an attitude of “contentment,” because “we have brought nothing into the world, [and] we cannot take anything out of it either” (1 Timothy 6:6-7).

And He told them a parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, “What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.’” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?” So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God’” (Luke 12:16-21).

Jesus made a couple more points in this parable. The first is that we must not make material things a priority. The rich man in Jesus’ parable had an abundant crop. Such prosperity was not wrong. After all, the blessings we enjoy in this life are “the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:19; cf. James 1:17). There was also nothing inherently wrong with this man’s plan to “tear down [his] barns and build larger ones” (Luke 12:18). His sin was in the neglect of his soul. He believed he could focus on his spiritual well-being later, and make his physical and financial well-being his priority in the present time. This spiritual neglect led to the forfeiture of his soul (Luke 12:20). We must not fail in the same way. Instead, we must “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). The things of God must be our first priority in life.

Finally, Jesus said we must strive to be rich toward God. The rich man of Jesus’ parable did not do this because of his misplaced priorities. How can we strive to be “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21)? We need to do what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount: “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20-21).

There is a proper way to enjoy the temporal blessings of this life, but we must remain focused on God’s eternal promises. Remember Paul’s admonition to the brethren in Colossae: “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3). Let us not allow the things of this life to distract us from what is truly and eternally important.

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