“Rich Toward God”

Intro: If you suddenly were rich, how would it change your life? I realize that by many standards of this world we are already physically rich – at least richer than most. But we do not often consider ourselves among the rich, particularly as we strive to obtain more.

But how would you react if you became wealthy. There is little doubt that it would change things for most of us. Most people would visualize positive changes. They would be more secure; be more fulfilled; have less anxiety.

I want to consider another parable of Jesus – one we alluded to this morning.

  • Luke 12:14-2113 Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” 15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” 16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ 21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

In one of the most sobering parables of Jesus He tells of a rich man who took the time to prepare for the disposal and security of his riches, but forgot about God.

I. “Teacher, tell my brother…” The story itself emerges as a response to a request made to Jesus to settle a family dispute over an inheritance. (Doubt that Jesus liked being put in the middle any more than we do). But Jesus’ response is a clear rebuke – I am not an arbiter of these matters. The Rabbis were often utilized to mediate into matters of family inheritance right – the law spoke to such matters in some cases. But Jesus did not come for this purpose. He made a clear distinction here between himself and the ordinary Rabbi.

A. But we also notice that Jesus does not leave it there. He looks closer and addresses the real reason for the request. V. 15 – take heed (pay attention) to covetousness. Life is more than things. How many problems (family or otherwise) could we solve if we lived by this FACT? We mention at the funeral home, but seldom live our lives by it.

II. “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully”. The story is about a man who already has riches. But that is not the problem. The problem lies in his response to receiving more. He did not know what to do with the surplus. “I have no room” – one of the most profitable and viable businesses today is the self-storage lots- Cubicles of space for people who have too much stuff.

A. What shall I do? (“Oh I know what I would do with more… I would give to the poor, help my family… I would give it all away”) there is a better answer than the one he comes up with.

B. His only solution is to build bigger barns. As we mentioned this morning, he prepared for the physical, but not the spiritual. God assessment was that he was a fool because his soul was required of him that very night. Things didn’t turn out the way he planned. He was not prepared for that reality.

III. Not rich toward God… Notice how Jesus applies this parable. Luke 12:21 – “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”The concept and language of laying up treasure would have been easily understood by this rich fellow. If you want to have something later on, you better lay something up now. You must prepare. Jesus flipped the concept of investing on its head. He spoke of “laying up treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20) as he condemned the sin of anxiousness among his disciples. In His application of the parable of the unrighteous steward in Luke 16, He spoke of using what physical resources we have to acquire “true riches” (Luke 16:11). What does this language express to us?

A. Our Lord is playing on the appeal of physical riches to point us to a greater yearning. A desire to be rich in the truest sense. Just as greed is what fuels Satan’s world, intense spiritual hunger, or a desire to be “rich toward God” is ever present goal of those in God’s kingdom. Where do you fit in? Do you want to be rich?

IV. How can one be rich toward God? What type of wealth is this? What does it look like? How do I obtain it?

A. Rich in Understanding: Col. 2:2 – “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ,” The truth must be taught in order to be effective. Jesus said “you shall know the truth and the truth will make you free.” No one can come to God without coming to understand what God has said in His word. Many today are ignorant of the truth, easily being led toward destruction by Satan. They can never be saved apart from knowing the truth.

1. But just as becoming free from sin requires understanding, so staying free from sin also requires a growth in understanding. We need to hunger for a better understanding of God’s word. Many Christians are satisfied with a superficial knowledge of parts of scripture – just enough to keep me out of the denominations and make me feel superior to them. They are content to live in poverty when it comes to the knowledge of God

2. Notice Peter’s words in 2 Pet. 3:1-2 – Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, (NKJ) They needed to be reminded, and have their minds stirred up about what had been written. After telling of the coming judgment he concluded, “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 3:17-18)

B. Rich in Faith: Faith is trust, and is the spiritual response to knowing what God has said. James 2:5 says that God chose the poor of this world to be “rich in faith”. God’s plan to help the poor of this world – to make them rich in faith. We have been convinced that material wealth will provide security for the future. But it is actually the riches of faith that make us secure. – “O Ye of little faith” – “increase our faith”

1. But faith in this sense is not a one-time accomplishment. It is a constant seeking and growing. An anticipation of more through testing (ex. of the putting the first dollar bill you earn on the wall… You expect to make more – If you don’t you are out of business.)

C. Rich in Godliness: 1 Tim. 6:6 “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.” What is this godliness? Some have described godliness as “god-likeness”, but that is inaccurate. It is more precisely “God – consciousness” – or a glad awareness that God is near and a real part of our lives. In that awareness we seek to submit to His leading.

1. In Acts 17 Paul told the Pagans that the true God was “not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:27-28) He was not an inanimate object, or a far away mystical force, but one who was intricately involved in the lives of His creatures.

2. Paul links godliness with contentment because a true awareness of God convinces us that we need nothing else – He is enough. Godliness will cause us to put physical possessions in a proper perspective and seek the Kingdom of God first. In fact material possessions can become the enemy of true godliness.

3. Godliness is therefore closely linked with faith or trust. As we trust in God, and put His word to the test, he does not disappoint us. We become more aware of God’s presence and work, and that leads to more trust (faith).

a. There are no “get rich quick schemes” in acquiring godliness. You make it like Smith Barney makes money – the old fashion way – you earn it – by suffering in righteousness, and choosing to submit to God in every part of your life.

D. Rich in Good Works: Jesus was a selfless man. He was the consummate example of what God expects of us. He was rich in good works. Peter tells us in Acts 10:38 that Jesus “went about doing good”.

• 1 Tim 6:17-19 – 17 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

1. What God calls for is an abundance of good works, not just a sporadic few.

2. Have you ever been to a rich person’s funeral? What was it like? There is record of one in the N.T. in Acts 9:36-39 – “At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did. But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. And since Lydda was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them. (NKJ)

Conclusion: God wants you to be rich. Rich toward Him who made you and loves you. The riches He offers you far surpass any treasure you might acquire without Him. What if a man gains the whole world and loses His own soul? What would you give in exchange for your soul?