Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbitrator 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.”
It must have been so noisy. With thousands of people trampling on each other to get closer to Jesus, I imagine many voices were crying out for healing and answers to theological questions. He could never answer every question. But he chose to respond to this one.
In the presence of the greatest teacher of all time, the questioner's focus was on the wrong thing. Instead of learning about the kingdom of God, he was concerned with his own kingdom on earth. Jesus clearly tells him that His purpose is not to arbitrate between financial disputes. He warns his listeners to be on guard against greed.
Examples about of the truth of Jesus' statement, "life does not consist in an abundance of possessions". Many extremely wealthy people are miserable. The more wealth and the more possessions, the more "things" you have about which to worry. In the shanty towns of South Africa I found families that were among the happiest, most hospitable, and giving people I have ever encountered. Things do not equal happiness; in fact they can equal sadness.
Over Lent some friends and I made the conscious decision to examine the clutter in our own lives, giving away or throwing away at least one thing a day. One friend took the additional challenge of only wearing clothes that were at least one year old. I made the effort to eat from my pantry and freezer instead of hoarding food. We all learned that we have far too much "stuff" that takes our eyes off the kingdom. Each bit of clutter or belongings in your house represents time and money - time to clean it, think about it it, and move it around and the money used to purchase it. We could all live and thrive on far less. The ESV reads "be on your guard against all kinds of covetousness". The possessions we have can be a barrier between us and God, and the things we desire for ourselves can be as well.
"Eat, drink, and be merry. For tomorrow you die." The rich man in the parable was blessed with a great harvest. He made plans to kick back, relax, and live off this surplus. Instead of sharing the surplus with his workers or the poor, he tore down his barns to build bigger barns to store it all. Can we relate with our garages, attics, and storage sheds? A friend recently related that her family came to visit from England. They were shocked at the size of our houses, continually questioning, "Why is her house so big?"
I'm not suggesting that we should all sell our houses, move into tiny apartments, and live as monks. But any possession that we hold as "ours" and not "God's" is an idol and a barrier between us and Him. Hold your possessions loosely in your hand, and be ready to give them up if so instructed by the Holy Spirit.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. - Matthew 6:19-21