Jump Start # 2435
Luke 12:20 “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?’”
Our verse today comes from the parable of the rich farmer. This is not a happy story. It doesn’t have a good ending. Folks don’t live ‘happily ever after’ in this one. Jesus told this story as part of a response to someone who wanted Jesus to settle a family dispute about an inheritance. Throw in the topic of money, and family members, best friends, and work partners can become bitter enemies. Money is something that everyone wants and very few believe that they have enough. The love of money distorts our vision, changes our priorities and invites all kinds of trouble and problems. The thirst for money can be a drug and like drugs, it can consume us and control us and lead us to doing things that we never thought possible.
The man who asked Jesus to settle the family squabble about inheritance had a greed problem. In this parable, the rich farmer is the man who asked Jesus the question. He needed to see where he was at.
Now, there are some impressive things about this farmer. First, he’s successful. I couldn’t do what he did. Farming isn’t easy. There are so many factors beyond your control, such as weather, soil conditions, and bugs. Too wet in the spring, too dry in the summer, too wet in the fall can be disastrous for a farmer. This guy, the farmer in Jesus’ story, was sharp. He was successful. He was not only very productive, but it had made him rich. Second, he’s forward thinking. He had great plans. The current barns couldn’t hold all his crops. He had plans to expand. Larger barns. Many wouldn’t know what to do. Many would be afraid of the risks. Not this farmer. Full steam ahead. Third, he saw an end point in his future. Stay at it, build those new barns and then take it easy. Taking it easy and being a productive, rich farmer do not fit in the same sentence. He was looking to retire. He was going to slow down. He was going to let the crops in his new barns be his future. On paper, all of this looked great. This wasn’t a pipe dream of some young guy who never worked a day of his life. All the pieces were coming together and this farmer knew what he was doing.
Except he made one large mistake. He didn’t know. There were a series of things that he didn’t know. What he didn’t know changed this story. What should have been a picture of success turned into a tragic story of loss.
First, he didn’t know what time it was. The pop group Chicago had a song, “Does anyone know what time it is?” We can tell the time by our watches, but that’s not the time the famer needed to know. He was figuring on a future. He was counting on the barns, the crops, and himself. He didn’t know that he was going to be taken out of the equation. He never counted on dying, at least not then. Not now. He thought he would see the completion of the barns. He thought he’d get to enjoy the results of his hard work. He thought he’d finally get to rest. He simply didn’t know what time it was. God didn’t give him a week to get things together. God didn’t even give him another day. The text says, “This very night.” Too late to make secondary plans. Too late to contact someone else. Too late to make adjustments. The farmer went to bed and never work up in this world again. His soul was cast into eternity. Had he known, or had he been mindful of these things, he may have made other plans.
Someday will be our last day. For many, they will never know it is their last day. The day may begin as every day begins. Nothing special. No notice. No indications. But by nightfall, they have been ushered through the door of death and will not be coming back. Our farmer was prepared to live but he was unprepared to die.
Second, he didn’t know how poor he was. Now on the surface and in the bank, he seemed to be very well off. The text even calls him “rich.” Yet the story ends with these horrific words, “…not rich towards God.” He had a zero balance when it came to God. And, it wasn’t that he was a “Bad” person, as society uses that word. Nothing in the story points to drunkenness, sexual sins, abusing neighbors, theft, mean spirited, unforgiving or cheating—you won’t find that there. By all indications, he was honest as a farmer. But what you do find, by his own words, is a lot of talk about himself and no mention of God. It’s his crops, his barns, his future, his plans. Me. Me. Me. He doesn’t thank God for the favorable weather that allowed him to be productive. He didn’t thank God for his health that allowed him to do what he could. He didn’t indicate that he was glad to have so much so he could share with others and give more to the Lord. Those thoughts don’t cross his mind. It’s all his and it was all going to be used for him. Rich as he may have appeared, he was poor to God. An empty heart that has no purpose, and a life void of God is truly a waste. The steps of this farmer are followed by the masses today. Back in Jesus’ story, neighbors would be impressed with how well this man did. They would have envied having the ability, finances and need for larger barns. Most would be happy with a single barn. This guy had many barns. And today, it’s not barns, but the size of a house. It’s a sports car. It’s the latest and the greatest. I get notices from some online auction sites about up-coming auctions. One caught my attention the other day. It was an estate sale of a “reverend.” I was hoping for books. Nope. High dollar jewelry. Very expensive watches, worth thousands of dollars. Expensive art. High quality antiques. I looked at all the listings and was amazed that this was an estate belonging to a “reverend.” We can get more impressed with stuff than we can faith, conviction and commitment to the Lord. It’s better to be a poor farmer who walks with the Lord, than a rich one who doesn’t know the Lord. Without God, success is defined by what you own. But with God, those are simply things and what really matters is faith, love and trusting the Lord. This world is not our home and someday all these things will be destroyed.
The farmer had no idea how poor he really was.
Third, he didn’t know who would now take possession of his possessions. That night he died. All his stuff went to someone else. It may have been family. It may have been sold. It may have been neighbors who bought his land. It may have been other farmers who got his equipment. None of that matters. He was in eternity and someone else was enjoying what he never got to. Someone else took over. The stuff stays here. The work stays here. The plans stay here. The barns stay here. The productive fields stay here. The money stays here. It all stays, but the farmer left. He didn’t think about that. That wasn’t in his plans. His plans included him being here.
Now, a sharp person will have a will. A wise congregation will be thinking of a legacy. Who will preach when our preacher is no longer around? Who will be the next shepherds, when these are no longer around? The kingdom is bigger than we are and those are thoughts and discussions that wise stewards ought to have.
Fourth, this farmer didn’t know that the story could have had a different ending. He could have been rich towards God. He could have been thoughtful and thankful. His problem wasn’t being productive. Being rich isn’t a curse. His problem was that his heart had no room for God. And, it isn’t a matter of squeezing a little space in the back row for God to fit in. It’s about allowing Jesus to live in us. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, is how Paul stated it. With God, he still would have died. With God, however, his death could have touched others and his example could have helped others spiritually. He could have been an example of godliness. He could have made a difference in the lives of others. Rather than being known as the rich farmer, who could have been known as the godly brother. Kindness, joy, spirituality could have been his conversations rather than crops and barns. It didn’t have to end this way, but he didn’t know that.
And, as Jesus tells this story, we must look in the mirror ourselves. How will our story end? What is it that we are not aware of? How could our lives have a different ending? We don’t have to follow the steps of this foolish farmer. While there is life in our bodies, we can make changes. Do our plans include God? Does our conversations thank God? Barns, crops, future…but where’s God?
Sure makes a person think about himself doesn’t it…