The Rich Man

Luke 12:13-34 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." 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."

Once upon a time there lived a boy in a small village in the Ukraine. His family was very poor and he dreamed of one day becoming rich and living the life of the people he saw who traveled past his home each day heading toward the capital city. One day his father came home from the temple where he was rabbi and announced that the family was moving to America. David’s eyes lit up with excitement while his mother’s darkened with apprehension. “How can this be?” she asked. “We have no money for such a trip, what will we do when we get there, how will we live?” Her questions gushed forth in a torrent; David bubbled over as well. “We will go on a ship, Papa? I will see the ocean? I will live in a brick building?” Papa smiled, but there was sadness in his eyes when he spoke. “Yes my David, you will see the ocean and a ship. And yes, my wife, we have not enough money and no way to live. You are both right and I feel the same as you. It is a hard thing to imagine and yet a wonderful thing as well. But we have no choice. Word came today about my brother; he is dying and we must go and be with him. I have enough money to get us passage and enough to support us for a short time. We will stay in his house for the immediate future and we will let G-d show us the rest.” And so they left their village and its poverty behind them. They travelled to the new world and found David’s uncle. They buried him and mourned him and then they looked around to see what plans had been laid for them by the Lord. Pawel grew up in Cleveland, a bustling city on the edge of the Midwest and on the southern shore of the mighty Lake Erie. Industry was strong in those days and Pawel’s father had no trouble finding work in the factories. Their poverty was not as great as in Romania but was still enough to make them aware. “No matter,” Papa would often say. “A man is not measured by his wealth, but by his soul. Keep G-d in your soul David, and you will always be a rich man.” But David’s eyes were on all that glittered and shone in the new world. Cars that were as big as his old home, clothes made in layers and layers for every part of the body, jewelry and trinkets, houses and money. Always money. Money just for spending on trifles. Spent on movies, and food, spent on things not in the least necessary or productive. It was extra money that he saw. And he wanted to live a life where he had more than enough to meet his needs and have extra left over to spend on his burgeoning wants. David grew and went to school. He graduated in time to go to war in Europe and he saw his old country from the air and was grateful to have escaped. He returned from war and worked for the military as a designer of publications. He had always shown ability in the graphic arts and Uncle Sam had cultivated that ability and exploited it wisely. Upon discharge David went to work for the largest and newest greeting card company in the world. He led a department of fifty artisans creating new and novel ways of expressing gratitude, love, and humor in print. And he was paid well. He married the daughter of

the company president and inherited even more. His life was becoming just as he had dreamed and he was young enough to enjoy it fully. David loved his wife and they had two children together. When the time came to teach them about things spiritual David no longer remembered the training of his youth. G-d had become ‘god’ to him and he didn’t waste much time worrying over it. His children were sent to temple to learn the required tradition and he made sure that the family observed the holy days accordingly. But his real god had long since become life itself and seeking ways to procure more of it for himself and his loved ones. He retired early from the company and opened up his own studio where he pursued artistic interests of his own, and with the money he had earned and inherited he did quite well, making a name for himself locally and nationally. His children grew and he was able to give both of them entrance into the best universities this country affords to those who can pay. And his children did well and married well and lived well in the tradition of their father. The only thing left this man was to secure for himself a legacy that would ensure his name would live forever in the community that he had so carefully forged. He set aside monies to be used to establish a Foundation in his own name. The Foundation would purpose to safeguard all that David had accomplished with his studio. The work would live on. It would be cared for and protected. And the Studio would continue on as a working example of David’s own beneficence. The studio would offer classes and workshops. It would give lectures on art and would showcase much of the art of the region. David would live forever, at least as well as any man could expect to after his death. But at the apex of all of his planning and legacy building the unexpected came and showed its ugly face on his doorstep. David received news that he was dying. During a routine physical it was discovered that David had a form of cancer that is exceptionally vicious and, accordingly, incurable. David would be dead in less than three months. His shock was enormous. Having won at life in ways that most men can only imagine, David was faced with the one opponent that was sure to defeat him. He tried valiantly to beat it, researching and trying drug after experimental drug, but the inevitable became very certain. He was going to die. Pawel visited him regularly during those last few weeks. He had known David for several years, having worked as his primary assistant at the studio. Pawel visited David at home and in the hospital and kept him apprised of the goings on at the studio. Several projects were still open and Pawel worked diligently to get them done in time. The last project was the completion of David’s headstone. David had considered every detail of his legacy, even down to his burial, and weeks before he learned of his cancer he had commissioned the carving of his family grave marker. One day in October Pawel visited David to tell him that this last detail had been finished, the headstone was done and ready to be placed. “Thank you, Pawel. You have done well; you are a good friend.” “There is one more thing, David, if you will allow it,” Pawel said. “What is it?” David asked, his eyes clouding with renewed worry. “It is your loss of God, sir. You have one last preparation to make before you die and that is to turn to God and ask Him to take you home. Jesus loves you, David, and He wants you to love Him in return.” David smiled, but it was a sad smile. God; he had once known Him and had even loved Him. His father had loved Him with all of his heart and soul and had passed on that love to David. But David had forsaken that love for the love of money, and as you well know, man cannot serve both God and money. It may have been this idol alone that kept David from making his final legacy one that truly mattered; or it

may have been his Jewish roots. But he turned to Pawel and said, “I cannot do that Pawel. I cannot call Jesus my God.” “He loves you David. I love you too and I want you to know Him before you die.” “Thank you, Pawel, but I simply cannot.” Pawel held David’s gaze and saw its emptiness. David refused the Lord when acceptance would have guaranteed him bountiful riches beyond compare. Pawel saw for the first time a man devoid of life even before death. Pawel saw the truth of the Master’s words that belief in Him guarantees either eternal life or eternal death. Pawel was looking at a man both dead in body and in spirit. David held on for several more days but to Pawel’s knowledge he never repented of his decision to refuse the Lord. May it be understood that it was most certainly a decision. Man does not only reject God when formerly asked the question but he rejects God daily in his choices and behaviors. It was not in the last moments that David made his decision but in eighty three years of seeking after his own kingdom upon the earth. David died a rich man with houses and wealth rivaling the richest among us. He was buried with great ceremony and display of affection. But within two years his studio was rented out to an independent artist, the Foundation had been closed permanently and his artwork left without its protective cover. Those whom he had entrusted to carry on in his stead were idolaters themselves and sought instead to seek their own kingdoms with what David had left to them. His legacy quickly became non-existent except in the hearts and minds of those he touched during his life. And Pawel feared that that legacy might not be as grand as David had hoped. On his last night before he died, David lay in a coma in a private room in a nursing facility. Pawel slipped in late in the evening for one last visit and to pray. There was no need because the God who had been rejected by David in the world had not neglected His lost sheep in death. At the foot of David’s bed was a nurse, hired to provide the last bit of comfort to a dying and comatose body. She was deep in prayer and immersed in the Word of God. God had sent one last angel to call His son home.
And He said to His disciples, "For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life's span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Mike Spencer/ April 2010

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