When given the chance, Jesus refused to intervene in the details of a specific relationship break over money. If he had addressed this issue directly, we might be able to draw some counsel for the times we’re at odds with someone over money. That might have been helpful a time or two throughout my life, and perhaps yours.
Instead, he offered the man some investment advice that is applicable for everybody everywhere all the time, because we all need to know how to think about our possessions.
Possessions, money, stuff, wealth. How do we get it? How do we keep it? How do we make it grow? Jesus took the opportunity of this conflict to speak to these universal concerns. He gave advice about investing for all of us.
As usually, Jesus told a story. It was about a man who received an unexpected, unearned windfall and needed to decide quickly how to invest it. By following this man’s example, we can have a guaranteed outcome. Jesus tells us that this is a sure thing. There is a way to a guaranteed return…of zero.
Jesus’ Three Simple Steps to Lose It All
Step 1: Forget about God
Step 2: Seek your own security and comfort above all
Step 3: Die anyway
The man in the story was already rich. The ground produced the crop. This was a divine gift, not a hard-earned bounty. God gave him this wealth. You might say he got lucky. You should say he was graced (12:16). His problem was not how to produce the wealth, but how to keep it (12:17). The solution was more storage. Bigger barns would allow this divine provision to lie unproductive until it served his purposes (12:18). The future was secure. He could relax and enjoy retirement (12:19). His plans were short-sighted. He forgot the rest of the quote from Isaiah 22:13, “Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.” The people of Isaiah’s day were short-sighted, too, but at least they remembered their own mortality. This farmer planned with no notion that his life was just as dependent on God as his crop was (12:20).
Anyone who lives like that makes no provision for his eternal life and loses access to worldly wealth, too. The alternative (12:21) is to be rich toward God. How can we be rich toward God?
What’s so disturbing about Jesus’ story of the rich farmer is that this is how we all do things. How many hangers do you have in your wardrobe? What are they for? They are for storing the clothes you aren’t using until they suit you, literally. Who has a refrigerator or freezer or pantry in their home? What are those appliances for? They are for storing the food you aren’t using. Who has a bank account? Who has more than one? What are banks for? They are safe places for storing the wealth you’re not using. Who of us can fault the man for his approach? It seems reasonable to store what you can’t use yet. But to Jesus this is a guaranteed investment. Guaranteed to fail.
Thankfully, Jesus didn’t leave it there. He went on to describe a guaranteed risk-free eternal investment with no downside.
The rest of Jesus’ investment strategy can be heard in the message on this passage, Investment Advice from Jesus.