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The Rich Fool

Luke 12:16-21
19 August 2001
Greyfriars Church

Introduction
It has been well said that the world's financial markets are driven by two things: greed
and fear.

The free market-driven economic boom of the late 1980s gave us the slogan of the
age: "Greed is Good!" , epitomised by films like Wall Street, along with the line
"lunch is for wimps" . After the fear-driven crash that it led to—and the stories of
stockbrokers jumping from the windows of their offices—we like to think that we've
now moved on to a less materialistic and spiritually deeper age. But this is simply not
true: greed and fear continue to drive the world's markets, as the very recent rise and
fall of the tech stocks has revealed.

This should come as no surprise to us. Greed and fear are deeply rooted in our sinful
hearts, and they have been for thousands of years. In this chapter 12 of Luke's gospel
we find Jesus tackling them head on. So please keep your church Bibles open at page
1045

In verses 13-21, which we had read to us, Jesus discusses greed. Prompted by a
dispute about an inheritance he says Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of
greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.ref and goes
on to tell the parable that we heard.

In verses 22-32 he deals with fear. He repeatedly says "do not worry" , and in verse
32 says Do not be afraid, little flockref.

He deals with these two together because greed and fear are flip sides of the same
coin: a lack of trust in God.

Since our morning series is on Jesus' parables I'm only going to deal with the greed
side of things in the parable of the rich fool. If your problem today is the other side,
fear, then your homework is to look at the second part of the text. But keep listening,
because you will find that many of the conclusions are the same.

So let's look at this fellow in the parable. First, he is a financial success story, and
that's my first heading:

A financial success story

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By our standards and the standards of that day the guy in this parable had made it,
hadn't he? He'd achieved that great financial goal that we all aspire to; he'd stashed
away enough money to put his feet up, to retire, and take it easy.

He'd had a good year; his farm had produced more grain that he knew what to do
with. There was so much of it that to store it all he had to tear down his existing barns
and buld bigger ones, and he had acquired so many great possessions as a result of his
windfall that he had to store those in the barn as well. Perhaps he had a particularly
fine collection of chariots. Anyway, now he could relax. He'd achieved financial
security. He could say to himself those wonderful words, You have plenty of good
things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merryref. This guy had
made it!

Now, I have a confession to make: I am an avid reader of financial news. I know it's
not everyone's cup of tea, but I just find it fascinating, all the ups and downs of the
stock market, the arcane financial instruments like derivatives and zero dividend
preference shares, and the complex tax avoidance schemes. I often turn first to the
financial pages of the newspaper, sometimes even before the sport pages.

One of the types of article you sometimes find in these pages is the "Money
Makeover", where a panel of experts advise someone on how best to invest what they
have. What would such a panel make of our Rich Man?

The expert from BarcWest had this to say, Mr Richman should be commended for his
ample provision for his retirement. However we are concerned that his portfolio is
overweight in grain, and that he is therefore overexposed to the volatile commodities
markets. We recommend diversifying, perhaps into promising new technology
markets such as bronze-making and aquaducts.

All the expert from Midlifax had to say was this, In view of the harsh local tax regime
we suggest Mr Richman move some of his barns off-shore to take full advantage of
the available tax breaks.

I think it's pretty unlikely that we would find any serious criticism of him in the
article. In this day and age, there's seen to be nothing wrong with this rich man's
lifestyle.

And the same would have been true in Jesus' day as well. Right up to verse 19 of the
parable, Jesus' listeners would have been unperturbed. They might even have thought,
"This man is an example to us; Jesus is giving us something to aspire to" .

They would have seen nothing inherently wrong with this man being wealthy. After
all, wealth and riches, especially in the Old Testament, are a sign of God's blessing,
and the early church certainly had well-off members. No, this man's wealth was not
what Jesus had in his sights, and we should not be embarassed about the wealth that
God has given to us.

In addition, Jesus' audience would have seen nothing inherently wrong with this man
making provision for his future. Don't the Proverbs say that we should learn prudence
from the ant, storing up provisions in the good times to live off in the bad? No, this

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man's prudence is not what Jesus had in his sights, and we should certainly be careful
to take measures to ensure that we and our families are provided for if we should fall
on hard times.

Furthermore, Jesus' audience would have seen nothing wrong with this man enjoying
his wealth. They might have thought of Ecclesiastes chapter 5, where the philosopher
says,

When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to
accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God.ref

Christians are not ascetics: we are allowed to enjoy what God has given us.

No, then as now, up until the end of verse 19 nothing would have been seen to be
wrong with this man's lifestyle. He is a financial success story.

However, as usual in Jesus' parables, he's inserted a wicked twist in the tail in verse
20. This rich man might have been a financial success story, but he also had a false
sense of security. And that's my second heading:

A false sense of security


If you study the really, really tiny print at the bottom of financial advertising you will
usually find a phrase which says something like this: "Past performance is no
guarantee of future returns" . Well, never has that been truer than for this man. All his
carefully made investments are about to be wiped out overnight.

You fool! God said to him, This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then
who will get what you have prepared for yourself?ref

In a world where death is the end and there is no life to come, this man's behaviour
makes perfect sense. And that is just the kind of world that many people believe we
are living in. In this worldview a person's life does consist of the abundence of his or
her possesions. But we know that there is more to come. One day we will come face
to face with God, and those who belong to Jesus will go on to eternal life with him.

This man is a fool because he has neglected to invest in the life to come. He's put
everything he has into one singularly terrible investment—an investment in the things
of this world—and one day it will be literally wiped out; he will be left with
absolutely nothing. And there won't be anyone to sue for compensation.

Don't you think it is ironic that this man has striven to provide financial security for
himself, but he had neglected to insure against the one event that was certain to
happen to him: his appearance at the Day of Judgement? His earthly security was a
false sense of security; when the things of this world were taken away from him he
had nothing left.

And that's a danger for us too. This is the attitude that Jesus had in his sights as he
told this parable: the arrogance of trusting on our own provision for ourselves on

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earth, but neglecting the far more important matter of trusting in God. It's a
consequence of forgetting verse 15: a man's life does not consist in the abundance of
his possessionsref.

That's why it's hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Because a well-
off person does not need to rely on God to cope with this life, it's so easy for him or
her to forget to rely on God for the life to come. That's why, I believe, in this wealthy
country that we live in spiritual awareness is at an all-time low. Everyone has
forgotten how to trust in God, because from day to day they just don't need to. But the
Day will come when they have nothing else to rely on.

What will you be relying on on that day? Are you in danger, perhaps, of having a
false sense of security, because your job and your investments and your house insulate
you from the need to trust in God? Wouldn't it be unspeakably awful to appear before
God on that day and hear him say not well done, good and faithful servantref but you
fool!ref

That brings me to my third and last heading: This man was a financial success story,
but he had a false sense of security. Now I want to show you a far superior strategy.

A far superior strategy


Virgin Finance's current advertising slogan is "you could be better off if you see
things differently" . This statement is truer than they know. A Christian must see
things differently from the world. In verse 21 Jesus insists that we must not merely
store things up for ourselves, but we must be rich towards God.

Of course, the only way that we can be rich towards God is to make Jesus our Lord,
loving him and obeying him. If we make sure that we are rich in that way then we will
truly find that we have everlasting treasure and security in heaven.

How can we know if like this man we are merely storing things up for ourselves, or if
we are really being rich towards God? Well, I want to suggest to you three tests that
we might apply; three behaviour patterns that can help us to see if we are really rich
towards God, or if we are only storing things up for ourselves. Think of them as three
dials on the dashboard indicating your spiritual state of health. These three dials are
labelled: generosity, stewardship, and carelessness. I'll deal with them each in turn.

Generosity with what we have


The first dial is generosity. The Bible is clear that someone who is rich towards God
will find themselves being a cheerful giver. If we put a true value on the things of this
world in relation to the things of the next then we will be happy to give away what we
have, because our security comes from trusting in God. The state of our giving is a
very good indicator of our spiritual health.

On the other hand, if we find that we are reluctant or grudging givers then that may
indicate that we are more interested in storing things up for ourselves than in being
rich towards God.

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Practically speaking, then, how much giving is healthy; how generous should we be?

Well, the Bible seems to teach that a Christian should give a tithe, a basic 10% of
income as a foundation to his or her giving. But that 10%: should it be out of our
gross income, our net income, or our disposable income? And doesn't our income tax
fulfill the Biblical function of the tithe, anyway?

If these are really issues for you, then perhaps that in itself is a suggestion that you are
overly concerned about storing up for yourself, and not being rich towards God, like
the pharisees who weighed even their spices to give precisely a tenth away. Let our
tithe be whatever we have prayerfully resolved between ourselves and God it should
be.

So, the tithe—whatever we have decided between ourselves and God it is to be—is
the foundation of our giving. It's been suggested to me that we should give our tithe to
the church, and what we give over and above that is where the real measure of our
generosity begins, and that seems right to me.

So I encourage you to go home today and review your giving. It's probably the surest
indicator of whether you are storing things up for yourself or being rich towards God.
Sacrificial giving is a direct measure of how much we are prepared to trust in God
rather than ourselves. For Jesus it's so important that in verse 33 he urges both the
greedy and the fearful to sell their possessions and give to the poor.

Stewardship of what we have


If the first dial on the dashboard is labelled generosity, then the second should be
labelled stewardship. By this I mean what we do with what we have.

The point is that all of our money and possessions come from God in the first place;
they've been given to us for a purpose. The rich man in the parable had forgotten this
purpose: he had just stored things up for himself so that he could take life easy; eat
drink and be merryref.

But God's purpose is a bit different: he urges us to invest what he has given us here in
things that will last forever; to provide for ourselves a treasure in heaven that will not
be exhaustedref as it says in verse 33.

What is this heavenly treasure, and how can we invest in it?

Well, I think that to a large extent it is the relationships that we build that will last into
eternity, and it is those whom we bring to God who are our treasure in heaven.

At the end of what is at first sight a rather peculiar parable in Luke chapter 16 Jesus
says, I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is
gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellingsref.

Jesus is clearly not talking about the kind of easy-come, easy-go friends that you
acquire by buying a round of drinks at the pub. No, he's talking about using what we

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have to invest in our relationships, to build them and to enrich them. This is good
stewardship of what God has given us.

So, if you find that you are often using your home to welcome people and as a place
where those in need can find a refuge then perhaps you are rich towards God. If, on
the other hand, your home is your castle where only the carefully selected may enter,
and then only after they have taken their shoes off, perhaps you are more interested in
storing up things for yourself.

If you find that you are always giving people and their furniture lifts in your car, and
you are happy to lend it out to whoever is in need, then perhaps you are rich towards
God. However, if you really want that new car as your status symbol, your sign to the
world that you have arrived, if you find yourself thinking things like, "Ha, he's only
got a Ford Fiesta" , then I'm afraid you are probably storing things up only for
yourself.

If you find that you are happy to lend out your power tools on a regular basis to
whoever asks, then perhaps you are rich towards God. If the very idea fills you with
horror, then... and so on and so forth. You get the idea, don't you?

The point is that those who are rich towards God will be using what he has given
them to build up their relationships with others, not to horde material things for
themselves. It is the quality of our relationships that will last into the hereafter,
especially when they point people towards Jesus himself. The other things may be
gone tomorrow.

Carelessness of what we have


So, the first two indicator dials I've called generosity and stewardship. The third is
called carelessness: carelessness of what we have.

Now, I'm not using carelessness in the sense that we should go around dropping
things and spilling them all the time. I'm using it more in the sense of "I couldn't care
less" . That is, we should not be too concerned about our possessions; or we should
take no heed of them.

To be careless about our possessions shows that we understand that they are only of
this world, where things decay and rust, where things break and get spoilt, where
things get lost and stolen. If we are people who have learnt not to care too much about
these things then we are perhaps learning to be rich towards God rather than storing
thing up for ourselves.

Let me give some examples.

Alice invested money in a technology fund that crashed, and now she's left with just
30% of what she started with. "Oh, well" , she said, "you win some and you lose
some" and she put it down to experience.

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Bob came out of the supermarket to find a great dent in the side of his brand new car.
"Bound to happen eventually" , he thought to himself. "What does it matter anyway,
it's only a box on wheels after all."

When Camilla's husband dropped her favourite vase on the kitchen floor, smashing it
into a thousand pieces, she said to him, "Don't worry love, that's what it was destined
for anyway" .

That's how you and I would have reacted in each of these little scenes, isn't it?

The point is that each of these people had a carelessness of their possesions that came
out of their understanding that what we have in this world is impermanent. They will
decay, degrade and be destroyed. So what's the point in clinging on to them?

This is a truly liberating attitude, if we can cultivate it, which ought to give a
wonderful freedom from being possessed by one's possessions.

If you find that you are careless of your possessions, in the sense that you are not
greatly upset when you no longer have them, then perhaps you are rich towards God.
Otherwise, take care that you are not merely storing things up for yourself.

In summary, to be greedy is one of those irregular verbs. It goes something like: I am


prudent, you are acquisitive, he is greedy. We are not objective judges, so how are we
to tell if we are really just being prudent, or if we've become greedy people. Well, I
hope that these three little indicator dials will help you to work out whether you are
truly being rich towards God, or merely storing up your possessions for yourself:
generosity, stewardship and carelessness. I urge you to check them often.

Conclusion
To conclude, this man's mistake was to forget that a man's life does not consist in the
abundance of his possessionsref, and, driven by greed, he stored things up just for
himself, without being rich towards God.

You and I may or may not be financial success stories, but, whatever our
circumstances, let us not, like this man, have a false sense of security, but let's take
that far superior strategy of investing for ourselves in permanent wealth; the treasure
in heaven that comes from loving and serving the Lord Jesus.

Sermon delivered September 6, 1997

by Pastor Don J Gettys

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McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

God Saves Rich People


Several people died this week. June Zeigler, Princess Diana, Mother Teresa...
Probably thousands of others. I know the news has been talking about Princess Diana
most of the week. That certainly was a tragedy. When you live sixty or seventy years,
or eighty, you think, "Well, I've lived most of my life." But when you get it cut off in
the middle, it's even worse. From the time Diana became a princess her life was one
of tragedy and turmoil. She has been stalked by those who follow her with high
powered telescopic cameras trying to capture some mistake or some moment that
would make news in some grocery store tabloid. She has been a victim, all because of
her success and her beauty. She did live to help the unfortunate. She helped a lot of
people.

For Princess Diana there is no tomorrow except perhaps in eternity. Her life is gone.
Gone are any plans for marriage. Her engagement is over. A $200.000 diamond ring
will not be worn by her. Her hopes for the future were bright. And now, they're all
over.

We are in a similar plight today. Planet Earth rushes toward the year 2000 at a
frightening speed. Those in control of the affairs of this planet are drunk. The
chauffeurs of this planet are many times over the legal limit of spiritual sobriety.
They're drunk on the cares of this life. Every moment we are hounded by the devil's
temptations following us everywhere we go, like photographers on motorcycles. Try
as we might we can't shake them it seems like. And yet we continue to plan for future
as if tomorrow were guaranteed. Tomorrow might never happen for us.

I don't know what the future has in mind. Like Princess Diana we all have a date with
destiny. We wake up in the morning little knowing what the events of the day will
bring. Planet Earth is running out of time. Signs of the end are all around us. Never
before have we seen so many "angel encounters." Never before have we heard of so
many "apparitions of the virgin Mary." Never before has the Papacy had such a global
influence in modern times.

Yet God's people plan as if tomorrow were guaranteed. We plan about the same way
as the successful farmer did in LUKE 12. We plan as if our future were endless. Look
at the terrible mistake made by one of the most successful and prosperous farmers in
Jesus day. Maybe you can gain from this story today enough information so as not to
make the same mistake. This man wanted to plan for tomorrow. But he never got the
chance, like Princess Diana.

LUKE 12:16-20 (NIV). And he told them this 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

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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?'"

The first mistake of this rich farmer, that God calls a fool, was to give the credit of his
good harvest to the GROUND. "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good
crop." When we get a good crop, do we credit the ground? We're pointing in the
wrong direction, aren't we? Whenever you get a windfall, whenever you get a
blessing, who should you give the credit to? You should give it to God. Give God the
benefit of the doubt. God is the fountain from which ALL blessings flow. Never take
credit for what God has done.

Now, if I would have read this, I would have thought that this man was surely a
successful business man. He knew how to raise crops, but God called him a fool. No
parable in all the Bible is so packed with the words "I", "me", "my", "Mine"; All these
personal pronouns! A little boy was asked by his English teacher what part of speech
those words were and he said, "They are Aggressive pronouns!" The rich fool was
aggressively selfish. When he was blessed with a superfluity of goods the thought
never crossed his mind to share any of those goods with anyone in need. He was
going to build bigger barns to store them for himself.

This prosperous farmer's attitude was just the opposite of what Jesus taught in the
entire Bible. He was going to hoard the benefit. He was going to keep the increase for
his personal net worth. There is a little thought-of commandment in Exodus 20:17 that
says, Thou shalt not covet. When God give you a windfall, when you get a big
increase, don't consume it all upon yourself. Don't covet it. Whenever we set our heart
on the blessings that God sends to us and begin to covet their benefit exclusively for
ourselves, God is about to lose a follower.

Our farmer poured over his blueprints. He thought, Boy, if I could just tear this barn
down, and these little barns around here and build me some really nice barns, I could
have it made. I could store up all my crops and I could just retire in comfort. Just as
he was planning for tomorrow, he was disconnected from the hereafter by some
unexpected catastrophe. We humans can't depend on tomorrow. But one thing we can
depend on is Jesus Christ.

Kefa Sempangi (whose story is told in the book A Distant Grief) was a national pastor
in Africa and barely escaped with his family from brutal oppression and terror in his
home country of Uganda. They made their way to Philadelphia, where a group of
Christians began caring for them. One day his wife said, "Tomorrow I am going to go
and buy some clothes for the children," and immediately she and her husband broke
into tears. Because never had they been allowed to talk about tomorrow. Tomorrow
was very uncertain; people being killed all around them, being tortured. They had not
used the word "tomorrow" for many years.

Their terrifying experiences forced them to realize what is true of every person here
today: there is no assurance of tomorrow. You can't depend on it. The only time we
can be sure of having is the moment we have right now. You could drive out here on
McDonald Road and be killed. To the self- satisfied farmer who had grandiose plans
to build bigger and better barns, the Lord said, "You fool! This very night your soul is
required of you" (Luke 12:20). He had already lived his last tomorrow. It was already

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gone. He didn't know it. He was planning on one more. The rich fool had thought of
years in the future, but could not even depend on one more day.

James 4:13,14 (NIV). Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to
this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do
not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that
appears for a little while and then vanishes. That's all life is.

Back to our parable in Luke 12:15 (NIV). Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on
your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of
his possessions." Those big barns aren't life.

A south African miner had worked in the mines all of his life; 50 years he had worked
in the mines! And he retired and he was going to move to England. He invested all his
lifetime savings in one big beautiful diamond that he was going to take back to
London to sell and make some money off of and retire. On board the ship bound for
London he showed the treasure to many passengers. He said "Here represents my
whole life's savings in this one stone. I would rather lose life itself, because this
diamond represents 50 years of hard work!"

One day he was out on the deck of the ship holding this diamond up so people could
see the sun refracting off of it and see its beauty. The ship gave a lurch and he lost
hold of the diamond and it went up and he stretched his fingers out to catch it and it
just grazed the tips of his fingers as it went overboard, down into the deep blue depths
of the Atlantic ocean. He was a ruined man. His whole life, gone. He was a fool,
wasn't he?

Some would call him a stupid man! But we behave just as badly. Imagine a Christian
who has eternal life, and he is going out and playing with sin. His eternal life sinks
low. He is a lost man.

Mark 8:36 (NIV). "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his
soul?" Selfishness is like inflation, the more selfish we are the less valuable we
become to the cause of God.

Had the rich farmer been content with what he had, Jesus would never have
condemned him.

There was once an unhappy King who was told by his counsellors that if he wanted to
be happy he should go and find a contented man and you wear his shirt and you'll be
happy. Finally a poor man was found who fulfilled the conditions exactly, but this
poor fellow did not have a shirt!

Hebrews 13:5 (NIV) Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with
what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake
you."

So, who needs bigger barns? Do we need bigger barns? Do we really? Is that good
planning to have bigger barns? Larger barns could indicate spiritual Myopia. The rich
fool's only point of reference was himself. He was the center of the universe. It was

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his crops, his assets, his pleasure. That's all he could think about. He didn't think of
accountability to God. How often we fail to think of others or beyond today. Here is
something interesting I want to show you in Proverbs 19. You know, rich people have
a problem. Every rich person I have ever seen has this same problem: Where to
INVEST THE MONEY. Are you going to put it in the stock market? You know, the
stock market is just like a big roller-coaster right now. It';s going up and down.
You've got to hang on! Are you going to put it in bonds or CDs? You're not going to
put it in the savings account because that only draws 2 or 3 percent interest. Where
are you going to put your money? Every rich person has this problem. "Where am I
going to invest my money?" The rich farmer had not seen the PROSPECTUS in
Proverbs 19! Look at verse 17 (NIV). "He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD,
and he will reward him for what he has done." Do you get what this is really saying
here? If you have money, where should you put it? If you give to the poor, you are
lending to the Lord. You're giving your money to Him and He is going to give it back
to you, with interest.

If you give of your means to the Poor your portfolio is invested in heaven. That's
where it is. God will pay you back again; it's guaranteed over $100,000, the interest is
out of this world and if you give to the needs of your fellow brothers and neighbors
you are investing money with God, with the bank of heaven. If you place your funds
in the Lord's storehouse, His Church, your blessing will be more than you originally
invested.

You know, I think we could be wrong in standing up here and appealing for these
offerings and say, "We want you to give. We've got some real needs here." I think the
word "give" might be wrong. Do we really give an offering to God? According to
Proverbs, we are actually loaning it to God. When you place your money in that
envelope, you are INVESTING with the safest institution known. At the time when
you need it, God will pour out a blessing upon you (Malachi 4), and all your money
will come back with interest. That's where to put your money.

Matthew 6:33 Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these THINGS shall be added
to you.

When a windfall comes to you as it did to the rich farmer, don't invest it in a bigger
barn. Do not consume it upon yourself.

We should trust in the Lord of harvest and not bigger barns. The same God who
bountifully blessed the crops that filled up the barns in the first place will be able to
take care of you in the days ahead. He's going to provide for your future. To demolish
the old barns and construct bigger barns seems to be a slap in the face to God. Are we
really trusting Him? He provided the crop in the first place. He can do it again.

Life does not consist in the abundance of our accomplishments, our applause, or our
possessions, our CDs. All of these were done in God's strength. They were provided
by God. As wise stewards we must never forget the Source of these blessings, our
success. Some day we will render an accounting of the use of our wealth, the use of
our talent and the use of our time.

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You know, you can't count on the construction of a new barn tomorrow. The last sand
may run out of your hourglass before construction even begins. I Timothy 6:6-11 -
"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world,
and we can take nothing out of it." Who's going to get all these things? was the
question the Lord asked this farmer. When you die, who's going to get all those
things? Are you going to take them with you? You never se a hearse with a U-Haul
trailer behind it. Nobody can take anything with them other than what God has given
you: your character, your love, your salvation.

"But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to
get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that
plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of
evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced
themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue
righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness." That's the type of
assets we ought to be working for.

If God has blessed you with enough resources, that is great! It isn't wrong to be rich.
Don't ever think that it's wrong to be rich. It's not! Just don't consume your riches on
yourself. The thought never came into that rich farmer's mind that he ought to share a
little bit of his increase with somebody else. He just thought of building bigger barns
and keeping it all right there.

Princess Diana and Mother Teresa invested much of their life in helping the poor and
unfortunate. Princess lived a short life, but she did help a lot of people. She shared the
blessing as she lived her life. Why did millions come to honor her at her untimely
death? Because of her generosity. Because she gave while she was living.

It is not a sin to have money, only to hoard it for our self. Clutching the increases that
God gives to us... Grasping for more... That was the problem of the rich farmer. He
planned to eat and drink and squander the blessing all on himself. God said, this very
night your very life will be demanded from you.

Let me show you something fascinating. God says that ONLY RICH PEOPLE ARE
GOING TO BE SAVED!!! - LUKE 12:21 "This is how it will be with anyone who
stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." You need to be rich toward
God. If you're going to be saved, you need to be rich toward God. In other words, rich
people that are rich toward God are the ones that are going to be saved.

Is God against Rich people? NO! In fact God is saying here that only Rich people will
be saved! Poor folk will be lost. You've got to be rich to be saved. God saves rich
people. Only Rich folk will enter heaven. Rich in spirituality, rich in Jesus, rich in the
truth. Have Spiritual riches!

You can become rich toward God by being a millionaire in salvation. If you love
Jesus with all your heart and are willing to share the blessing with those who are in
need, you demonstrate the meaning of this verse. Mother Teresa did that. Princess
Diana did what she could to assist the unfortunate and if we are willing today to be
generous with the blessings of God we are in fact airmailing our assets to heaven.

12
Opening Hymn 39 Lord in the Morning.
Scripture Reading: Psalm 103:1-8
Closing Hymn 426, I shall see the King

Sermon delivered September 6, 1997

by Pastor Don J Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

God Saves Rich People


Several people died this week. June Zeigler, Princess Diana, Mother Teresa...
Probably thousands of others. I know the news has been talking about Princess Diana
most of the week. That certainly was a tragedy. When you live sixty or seventy years,
or eighty, you think, "Well, I've lived most of my life." But when you get it cut off in
the middle, it's even worse. From the time Diana became a princess her life was one
of tragedy and turmoil. She has been stalked by those who follow her with high
powered telescopic cameras trying to capture some mistake or some moment that
would make news in some grocery store tabloid. She has been a victim, all because of
her success and her beauty. She did live to help the unfortunate. She helped a lot of
people.

For Princess Diana there is no tomorrow except perhaps in eternity. Her life is gone.
Gone are any plans for marriage. Her engagement is over. A $200.000 diamond ring
will not be worn by her. Her hopes for the future were bright. And now, they're all
over.

We are in a similar plight today. Planet Earth rushes toward the year 2000 at a
frightening speed. Those in control of the affairs of this planet are drunk. The
chauffeurs of this planet are many times over the legal limit of spiritual sobriety.
They're drunk on the cares of this life. Every moment we are hounded by the devil's
temptations following us everywhere we go, like photographers on motorcycles. Try
as we might we can't shake them it seems like. And yet we continue to plan for future
as if tomorrow were guaranteed. Tomorrow might never happen for us.

I don't know what the future has in mind. Like Princess Diana we all have a date with
destiny. We wake up in the morning little knowing what the events of the day will
bring. Planet Earth is running out of time. Signs of the end are all around us. Never
before have we seen so many "angel encounters." Never before have we heard of so
many "apparitions of the virgin Mary." Never before has the Papacy had such a global
influence in modern times.

Yet God's people plan as if tomorrow were guaranteed. We plan about the same way
as the successful farmer did in LUKE 12. We plan as if our future were endless. Look
at the terrible mistake made by one of the most successful and prosperous farmers in
Jesus day. Maybe you can gain from this story today enough information so as not to

13
make the same mistake. This man wanted to plan for tomorrow. But he never got the
chance, like Princess Diana.

LUKE 12:16-20 (NIV). And he told them this 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
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?'"

The first mistake of this rich farmer, that God calls a fool, was to give the credit of his
good harvest to the GROUND. "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good
crop." When we get a good crop, do we credit the ground? We're pointing in the
wrong direction, aren't we? Whenever you get a windfall, whenever you get a
blessing, who should you give the credit to? You should give it to God. Give God the
benefit of the doubt. God is the fountain from which ALL blessings flow. Never take
credit for what God has done.

Now, if I would have read this, I would have thought that this man was surely a
successful business man. He knew how to raise crops, but God called him a fool. No
parable in all the Bible is so packed with the words "I", "me", "my", "Mine"; All these
personal pronouns! A little boy was asked by his English teacher what part of speech
those words were and he said, "They are Aggressive pronouns!" The rich fool was
aggressively selfish. When he was blessed with a superfluity of goods the thought
never crossed his mind to share any of those goods with anyone in need. He was
going to build bigger barns to store them for himself.

This prosperous farmer's attitude was just the opposite of what Jesus taught in the
entire Bible. He was going to hoard the benefit. He was going to keep the increase for
his personal net worth. There is a little thought-of commandment in Exodus 20:17 that
says, Thou shalt not covet. When God give you a windfall, when you get a big
increase, don't consume it all upon yourself. Don't covet it. Whenever we set our heart
on the blessings that God sends to us and begin to covet their benefit exclusively for
ourselves, God is about to lose a follower.

Our farmer poured over his blueprints. He thought, Boy, if I could just tear this barn
down, and these little barns around here and build me some really nice barns, I could
have it made. I could store up all my crops and I could just retire in comfort. Just as
he was planning for tomorrow, he was disconnected from the hereafter by some
unexpected catastrophe. We humans can't depend on tomorrow. But one thing we can
depend on is Jesus Christ.

Kefa Sempangi (whose story is told in the book A Distant Grief) was a national pastor
in Africa and barely escaped with his family from brutal oppression and terror in his
home country of Uganda. They made their way to Philadelphia, where a group of
Christians began caring for them. One day his wife said, "Tomorrow I am going to go
and buy some clothes for the children," and immediately she and her husband broke
into tears. Because never had they been allowed to talk about tomorrow. Tomorrow

14
was very uncertain; people being killed all around them, being tortured. They had not
used the word "tomorrow" for many years.

Their terrifying experiences forced them to realize what is true of every person here
today: there is no assurance of tomorrow. You can't depend on it. The only time we
can be sure of having is the moment we have right now. You could drive out here on
McDonald Road and be killed. To the self- satisfied farmer who had grandiose plans
to build bigger and better barns, the Lord said, "You fool! This very night your soul is
required of you" (Luke 12:20). He had already lived his last tomorrow. It was already
gone. He didn't know it. He was planning on one more. The rich fool had thought of
years in the future, but could not even depend on one more day.

James 4:13,14 (NIV). Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to
this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do
not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that
appears for a little while and then vanishes. That's all life is.

Back to our parable in Luke 12:15 (NIV). Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on
your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of
his possessions." Those big barns aren't life.

A south African miner had worked in the mines all of his life; 50 years he had worked
in the mines! And he retired and he was going to move to England. He invested all his
lifetime savings in one big beautiful diamond that he was going to take back to
London to sell and make some money off of and retire. On board the ship bound for
London he showed the treasure to many passengers. He said "Here represents my
whole life's savings in this one stone. I would rather lose life itself, because this
diamond represents 50 years of hard work!"

One day he was out on the deck of the ship holding this diamond up so people could
see the sun refracting off of it and see its beauty. The ship gave a lurch and he lost
hold of the diamond and it went up and he stretched his fingers out to catch it and it
just grazed the tips of his fingers as it went overboard, down into the deep blue depths
of the Atlantic ocean. He was a ruined man. His whole life, gone. He was a fool,
wasn't he?

Some would call him a stupid man! But we behave just as badly. Imagine a Christian
who has eternal life, and he is going out and playing with sin. His eternal life sinks
low. He is a lost man.

Mark 8:36 (NIV). "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his
soul?" Selfishness is like inflation, the more selfish we are the less valuable we
become to the cause of God.

Had the rich farmer been content with what he had, Jesus would never have
condemned him.

There was once an unhappy King who was told by his counsellors that if he wanted to
be happy he should go and find a contented man and you wear his shirt and you'll be

15
happy. Finally a poor man was found who fulfilled the conditions exactly, but this
poor fellow did not have a shirt!

Hebrews 13:5 (NIV) Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with
what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake
you."

So, who needs bigger barns? Do we need bigger barns? Do we really? Is that good
planning to have bigger barns? Larger barns could indicate spiritual Myopia. The rich
fool's only point of reference was himself. He was the center of the universe. It was
his crops, his assets, his pleasure. That's all he could think about. He didn't think of
accountability to God. How often we fail to think of others or beyond today. Here is
something interesting I want to show you in Proverbs 19. You know, rich people have
a problem. Every rich person I have ever seen has this same problem: Where to
INVEST THE MONEY. Are you going to put it in the stock market? You know, the
stock market is just like a big roller-coaster right now. It';s going up and down.
You've got to hang on! Are you going to put it in bonds or CDs? You're not going to
put it in the savings account because that only draws 2 or 3 percent interest. Where
are you going to put your money? Every rich person has this problem. "Where am I
going to invest my money?" The rich farmer had not seen the PROSPECTUS in
Proverbs 19! Look at verse 17 (NIV). "He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD,
and he will reward him for what he has done." Do you get what this is really saying
here? If you have money, where should you put it? If you give to the poor, you are
lending to the Lord. You're giving your money to Him and He is going to give it back
to you, with interest.

If you give of your means to the Poor your portfolio is invested in heaven. That's
where it is. God will pay you back again; it's guaranteed over $100,000, the interest is
out of this world and if you give to the needs of your fellow brothers and neighbors
you are investing money with God, with the bank of heaven. If you place your funds
in the Lord's storehouse, His Church, your blessing will be more than you originally
invested.

You know, I think we could be wrong in standing up here and appealing for these
offerings and say, "We want you to give. We've got some real needs here." I think the
word "give" might be wrong. Do we really give an offering to God? According to
Proverbs, we are actually loaning it to God. When you place your money in that
envelope, you are INVESTING with the safest institution known. At the time when
you need it, God will pour out a blessing upon you (Malachi 4), and all your money
will come back with interest. That's where to put your money.

Matthew 6:33 Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these THINGS shall be added
to you.

When a windfall comes to you as it did to the rich farmer, don't invest it in a bigger
barn. Do not consume it upon yourself.

We should trust in the Lord of harvest and not bigger barns. The same God who
bountifully blessed the crops that filled up the barns in the first place will be able to
take care of you in the days ahead. He's going to provide for your future. To demolish

16
the old barns and construct bigger barns seems to be a slap in the face to God. Are we
really trusting Him? He provided the crop in the first place. He can do it again.

Life does not consist in the abundance of our accomplishments, our applause, or our
possessions, our CDs. All of these were done in God's strength. They were provided
by God. As wise stewards we must never forget the Source of these blessings, our
success. Some day we will render an accounting of the use of our wealth, the use of
our talent and the use of our time.

You know, you can't count on the construction of a new barn tomorrow. The last sand
may run out of your hourglass before construction even begins. I Timothy 6:6-11 -
"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world,
and we can take nothing out of it." Who's going to get all these things? was the
question the Lord asked this farmer. When you die, who's going to get all those
things? Are you going to take them with you? You never se a hearse with a U-Haul
trailer behind it. Nobody can take anything with them other than what God has given
you: your character, your love, your salvation.

"But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to
get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that
plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of
evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced
themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue
righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness." That's the type of
assets we ought to be working for.

If God has blessed you with enough resources, that is great! It isn't wrong to be rich.
Don't ever think that it's wrong to be rich. It's not! Just don't consume your riches on
yourself. The thought never came into that rich farmer's mind that he ought to share a
little bit of his increase with somebody else. He just thought of building bigger barns
and keeping it all right there.

Princess Diana and Mother Teresa invested much of their life in helping the poor and
unfortunate. Princess lived a short life, but she did help a lot of people. She shared the
blessing as she lived her life. Why did millions come to honor her at her untimely
death? Because of her generosity. Because she gave while she was living.

It is not a sin to have money, only to hoard it for our self. Clutching the increases that
God gives to us... Grasping for more... That was the problem of the rich farmer. He
planned to eat and drink and squander the blessing all on himself. God said, this very
night your very life will be demanded from you.

Let me show you something fascinating. God says that ONLY RICH PEOPLE ARE
GOING TO BE SAVED!!! - LUKE 12:21 "This is how it will be with anyone who
stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." You need to be rich toward
God. If you're going to be saved, you need to be rich toward God. In other words, rich
people that are rich toward God are the ones that are going to be saved.

Is God against Rich people? NO! In fact God is saying here that only Rich people will
be saved! Poor folk will be lost. You've got to be rich to be saved. God saves rich

17
people. Only Rich folk will enter heaven. Rich in spirituality, rich in Jesus, rich in the
truth. Have Spiritual riches!

You can become rich toward God by being a millionaire in salvation. If you love
Jesus with all your heart and are willing to share the blessing with those who are in
need, you demonstrate the meaning of this verse

18
The Parable of the Rich Fool

Luke 12:13-21:

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; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his
possessions.”
And he told them this 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 man
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 anyone who stores up things for himself
but is not rich toward God.”

One of the last letters that Paul ever wrote was to young Timothy. I want to read a
couple of verses as my introduction to this parable that we have just read. In 2
Timothy 3:1-3 Paul says:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of
themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents,
ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal,
not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than
lovers of God....

This parable from Luke 12:13-21 of the rich fool has very important lessons for us
living in these last days. Number one, we are living in a capitalist country and
number two, we are living in a time when materialism has become the god of
mankind. It is therefore important that we understand what Christ is trying to get
across in this parable.

First of all I want you to look at the background. Jesus was teaching the multitude.
He was exposing to them vital truths pertaining to the kingdom of God about God’s
providential care; about the danger of rejecting the gospel and the promptings of the
Holy Spirit; about our response to His kingdom. Then suddenly while He was
talking, this young man pops up his hand and he’s asking a question. That’s in Luke
12:13:

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance
with me.”

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You will notice that the request was completely out of context. Obviously this man
had not come to hear Jesus Christ; he had come to use Jesus Christ. We have people
today who come to church for various reasons and this young man had done the same
thing. Now what was the problem? To understand his request you will have to
understand the background of this man’s culture.

According to the Jewish culture, something that was quite commonly known in the
times of Jesus Christ, the division of inheritance was not done like it is done today.
Number one, the wealth went only to the men — to the sons — because the daughter
got it from her husband’s side. Number two, if there were two sons, which seems to
be the case because there were two brothers, they did not get the equal share of
inheritance. According to Deuteronomy 21:15-17, the inheritance was divided into
three parts if there were two sons and the first son — the elder son, who was known
as the firstborn — always got a double portion:

If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons
but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love, when he wills his property to
his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in
preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love. He must
acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share
of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father’s strength. The right of the
firstborn belongs to him.

This young man was not happy with this policy because he happened to be the
younger of the two. I think he would have agreed with it 100 percent if he was the
older. But he wasn’t; he was the younger and, by this time, Jesus had already made a
name for Himself for being a nonconformist. He had already attacked some of the
rules and traditions of the Jewish religion.

This young man, aware of the reputation of Jesus Christ, thought that he could use
Jesus Christ to fight for what he felt were his rights. He felt that the inheritance
should have been divided equally between him and his brother. Notice how Jesus
reacted. Verse 14:

Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”

After answering this young man, Jesus turns to the multitude and notice what He says,
because the lesson He brings out is for us too. Verse 15:

Then he said to them [that is, the multitude], “Watch out! Be on your guard against
all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Covetousness is one of the major human problems. It is one of the reasons why this
world has so many problems.

Having warned them, He gives this parable. The New English Bible puts it this way:
“Beware! Be on your guard against greed of any kind” for two reasons. Number one,
possession is not everything. That’s the first thing Jesus says in verse 15. Possession
of material things is not everything and number two, wealth does not give you life or
happiness.

20
With this in mind, turn to Luke 12:16-21, which is the parable for our study. The
parable is about a man, obviously a farmer, who had great success in farming. I read
in verse 16:

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good
crop.”

As we read the parable, we discover there were three problems with this young man.
Number one, you will notice that he only thought of himself. No plans were made for
God and no plans were made for his fellow man.

Notice verses 17-19 and count the number of times he uses the personal pronoun, the
word “I” and the word “my.” You will find that the word “I” is used six times and the
word “my” is used at least five times in the original language:

“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 man
years. Take life easy [remember, in those days there was no Social
Security, so this man felt that he now had everything he wanted to his
dying day]; eat, drink and be merry.”’”

Now that’s an incomplete statement. He should have finished it by saying, “Eat,


drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die.” God had to tell him because God
responds,

“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 man had an “I” problem and this is the major problem that faces the human race
because we are all born egocentric. I want to give you a passage that brings out the
same issue. Turn to James 4:13-16. I want to show that what James is saying here is
very similar to our parable. This is discussing a group of people who have the same
mentality as this young man in the parable:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a
year there, carry on business and make money.”

Here is a group of people who feel that they are going to make money. Verse 14:

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are
a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Remember, in the Middle East it doesn’t rain very much, but every morning, because
of the tremendous change of temperatures between day and night, there’s a kind of a
mist that hovers over the ground and that’s what he means by the vapor. As soon as
the sun comes up, that all gets burned up and disappears. James is using that as a
metaphor.

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You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Our life is like a vapor. Once I witnessed a very tragic death and my wife had to
remind me of something I had forgotten. The first time I ever came to Walla Walla,
Washington, was in December 1982 to speak for the Ministerial Club at the College
and the family that put me up were a very godly couple. They were both younger
than I and their lives were snatched like that. Our lives are like a vapor. I thank God
that they died in Christ. That is the wonderful hope that we have.

Christ is warning us against people who have allowed money, who have allowed
materialism to take the place of our confidence and our wealth in Jesus Christ. So
James goes on to say in this passage, James 4:13-16 in verse 15,

Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

In other words, we must always place God in our plans. We must always allow Him
to be at the head of our plans. God is not against our making our plans. He has given
us the privilege of making our choice but we must never make plans without God.
This is what the text is saying.

Verse 16 adds:

As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.

Anyone who does not have God in his plans cannot succeed. God has no objection to
you becoming rich but He does warn you that if you are seeking for wealth without
Him that eventually you will end up a pauper.

Let’s go back to Luke 12. God is against anyone who is living independent of Him.
This was the second problem. He thought that he could gain happiness; he could
enjoy life through his own personal effort and material gain. He equated material
blessings with happiness. He thought that riches could give him everything he
wanted. I have news for you because wealth does not bring you happiness. In my
life, I have lived in two countries that may be considered the richest countries in the
world. One is the United States and the other one is Sweden. Sweden is supposed to
be the richest country in Europe and probably one of the richest countries in the
world.

Both these countries have a very high standard of living. About three years ago I had
to speak for a publishing department seminar in Portland and the head nurse of the
Portland hospital who was a missionary with us in Ethiopia took me out for a meal.
She took me to a very posh restaurant. I’ve forgotten the name; I don’t think I will
ever step in there again. It was a very expensive meal. Next to us was a Swedish
family who was visiting America from Sweden. They were discussing America not
knowing that this African bush preacher understood Swedish.

I was listening and they were comparing Sweden with America. I remember one of
the girls saying to her brother, “This country is not as great as our country.” They
were comparing the things you can get here and the brother said, “Well, yes, but they
have things here that we don’t have.” They were comparing the materialism of both

22
countries. But do you know that the highest suicide rates in the world are in these two
countries? Do you realize that there are greater social problems in these two countries
than in any other country in the world? Money does not bring happiness; it brings
problems.

One dear lady in Africa told my wife, “When I leave the house, I don’t even lock my
door. Do you know why? Because I have nothing to be stolen. You overseas people
have to lock your door. You have to have a dog there. You have to have a guard.
You must be miserable.” She was right; the more you have, the more you are
concerned.

I want to give you a text which is in this light that materialism does not bring you
happiness. It is given to young Timothy because it is in our youthful years that we
think wealth is happiness. I want you to listen to what the apostle Paul is counseling
this young man. 1 Timothy 6:9-10, the same idea that Jesus is bringing across but
coming from a different angle. Verse 9:

People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and
harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.

Now these are strong words. In other words, Paul is not saying and God is not saying
it is wrong to get rich but to those who want to get rich, Paul is saying “Be careful”
because riches is one of the snares of Satan. Then he explains what he means in verse
10:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil....

Notice Paul is not saying money is the root of all evil but the love of it, the coveting of
the money is the root of all evil.

Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves
with many griefs.

The Protestant Christians can be divided into basically two camps: Armenians and
Calvinists. One of the differences is that the Calvinists say that if God has chosen you
to be saved, it is impossible for you to be lost. It is on this doctrine of predestination
or rather double predestination that you have the idea of “once saved, always saved.”

But the Armenians teach that it is possible for a believer to fall from faith. You see,
there are two extremes that we must avoid. One extreme is the Calvinist extreme
which says that if you have accepted Christ and you are saved you can never be lost.
That is unbiblical. The other extreme is just as bad and many Armenians fall into this
trap. The Calvinists fall into the trap of “once saved, always saved.” The Armenians
fall into the trap that every time you make a mistake you become unjustified.
Nowhere in the Bible does it teach that. Both of these extremes are unbiblical.

Since we are justified by faith, it is possible for us to lose justification by unbelief.


Unbelief is the deliberate, willful turning of our backs to God. Satan has many ways
of doing this. Persecution is one of them. But the other two we need to be aware of.
Perverting the gospel is one of them. That is how he tried it on the Galatian

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Christians. Notice that Paul says anyone who moves from justification by faith to
justification by works of the law has fallen from grace and Christ has become of no
value. Galatians 5:2-4:

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will
be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be
circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be
justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

The third way that Satan destroys our faith is by dangling the trinkets of this world
before us — materialism. I tell you, it is not easy to avoid it in a materialistic
country. When I was at a college one weekend, some of the young students who are
very sincere asked me a question, “How can we walk in the Spirit? How can we
maintain a living connection with Jesus Christ?” I had to confess to them that it is
much easier to walk with Christ in a country where persecution exists. In Ethiopia, it
was easy for us to walk in the Spirit. In Uganda under Idi Amin, it was easy. It is
extremely hard to walk in the Spirit in a country like America where it is so easy to
get everything.

I want to warn families coming from poor countries to America: please don’t let the
materialism of this country get you because now you are facing that danger. You
never faced it in your own country; you are facing it here. But we who live here have
to take this message seriously. That is why in 1 Timothy 6:12a Paul says,

Fight the good fight of the faith.

Now this young man did not realize this. He did not realize that true happiness does
not come from material wealth. I would like to read a couple of statements. In
Ecclesiastes 2:3-11 is a man who is talking out of experience. This is not some
philosophy; this is out of experience. He says,

I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly — my mind still
guiding me with wisdom. [What he is saying here is, “I tried to get the
best of two worlds.”] I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to
do under heaven during the few days of their lives.
I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted
vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit
trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I
bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in
my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in
Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the
treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers,
and a harem as well — the delights of the heart of man. I became
greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my
wisdom stayed with me.
I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no
pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the
reward for all my labor.

Here was a man who did everything for himself. Now look at verse 11:

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Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the
sun.

Do we have to repeat the same thing? Why can’t we learn from this preacher (that’s
what Ecclesiastes means)?

When I was teaching in our college in Ethiopia, one young man stood up in the class
and said, “You know, Pastor, we agree with all that you have taught us. We agree
that Christ is everything but it’s easy for you to say that Christ is everything because
now you are an old man. We would like to enjoy this world and, when we get to your
age, we’ll accept Christ.” Now that, by the way, is one of Satan’s greatest traps for
young people and that is why I would like now to turn to the third problem that this
man faced.

Please go back to Luke 12. This man said to himself, “I’m going to eat, I’m going to
drink, and I’m going to be merry.” Luke 12:20:

“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?’”

In other words, this man did not take into account — and it’s a problem that all young
people face — the fact of the problem of death. Death can overtake you at any time.
Do you know that the young man who spoke those words is dead today? He was shot
in the Marxist revolution. He did not live to my age. He never reached the age I was
when I was teaching there. I don’t know whether he accepted Christ because this
happened after we left the college.

Young people, there are two things that you need to keep in mind. Number one, death
can come any time. You don’t have to live in difficult countries. We have had the
experience of two people whose lives were crushed in a split second. Number two,
every time you resist the Holy Spirit you are hardening your conscience further and
further so that you will reach a point of no return. Many, many young people who
said, “We will enjoy life until we get old.” Many of them became old and never
accepted Christ because they reached the point of no return.

Judas was one of them. Judas did not respond and, as he failed to respond, his
conscience became harder and harder until he reached the point of no return. There in
the upper room we are told that the devil entered into him and that was the end of
him. So as we turn to this parable Jesus says in verse 21:

“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich
toward God.”

You have to choose between God and wealth. Remember in the Sermon on the
Mount where Jesus said (Matthew 6:24a):

No one can serve two masters.

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You can’t serve money and you can’t serve God. God has no problem with you
becoming rich. Abraham was rich but he always put God first.

Our scripture reading stopped here but I would like to read you the rest of the
passage. Jesus takes this parable, turns to the disciples — His followers, not the
multitude but His followers — and He warns them (Luke 12:22-24):

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, 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 no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you
are than birds!

Then He goes on about our stature and then about the lilies. Then in verse 29 He
says,

And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.

Now comes the punch line. Verses 30-31:

For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need
them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

But some of you say, “We have been seeking the kingdom of God but I have
problems; I have financial problems; I have house problems.” Well, listen to the next
verse (Luke 12:32):

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the
kingdom.

Sometimes God withholds things from you because He wants to give you the
kingdom. Sometimes He allows you to go through problems so that your faith may
be strengthened to develop patience.

It is my prayer that in all your planning, especially young people, you put God first
because the material world doesn’t give you happiness. Also, the material world
doesn’t guarantee you eternal life. Your only hope is Jesus Christ. It is my prayer
that, in spite of living in the world around us, we all will learn to put God and His
kingdom

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