Possession of great riches involves a tremendous amount of responsibility. The proper use of riches determines whether we are pleasing in the sight of the Lord. Jesus made the statement in the Sermon on the Mount: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal.” (Matt. 6:19.) When Joseph finally revealed his identity to his brethren, he gave them changes of raiment with silver. (Gen. 45:22.) In taking the city of Jericho, God had commanded that they should not take anything of the city, but we find that Achan disobeyed God. “When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.” (Josh 7:21.) Our attitude toward material things determines what we really are in this life. Jesus tells us no man can serve two masters without hating one and loving the other. (Matt. 6:24.) Our purpose in this lesson is to teach us the proper use of our means, whether they be little or much, and the dangers involved in failing to use them in the manner God intended.
Jesus Teaches Against Covetousness
No doubt this man had engaged in a dispute with his brother about the settlement of their inheritance. He knew Jesus had great influence over people; he endeavored to get him on his side of the question and thus gain his point. Jesus refused to be drawn into the controversy. He left that up to the laws of the land. It is true; Jesus gave principles, which if they were followed would settle all such controversies. (Matt. 7:12.)
This afforded Jesus an excellent opportunity to teach against covetousness. Covetousness, is greedy or unlawful desire, for something — usually that which belong to others. In the next verse Jesus teaches a lesson we all should learn: “…. for a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses.” (vs 15.) Many today spend their days in fruitless effort to find happiness in storing up the material things of this world. You can drive down the streets of some town and see a fine ten-room brick house, spacious grounds, two or three fine cars; they have servants and maids, and no doubt you will say: “I am sure the people living there are very happy.” Some of the most miserable and unhappy people on earth live in luxurious surroundings, and some of the happiest people may live in poverty, in a shack by the side of the road. The wisest of all men gives us the true recipe for successful living. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Eccl. 12:13, 14.) It is true a covetous man cannot be saved. (Eph. 5:5.)
The Parable of the Rich Fool
(Luke 12: 16-21)
This parable shows the folly of riches, and that a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things he possesses. We know that riches did not save this man. This man was very successful as far as this world was concerned. His ground had brought forth plentifully, and he decided to pull down his barns, build larger, then he would have room to store his goods. Just when he thought he was prepared to live, he was snatched into eternity — unprepared to meet God. Isn’t this true of many good people today? I want to just make a few more thousand, live in ease, and then I will prepare to live with Christ in the other world. You may be like this man– start preparing for eternity too late. There are many good lessons learned from this parable.
(1.) Wicked men are often very prosperous. We see some Christians living on the bare necessities of this life, and think God is unjust. Let us remember God doesn’t settle all accounts in this world.
(2.) Riches always bring a load of care and anxiety. Those that have riches usually worry for fear someone will steal their money and possessions.
(3.) Riches tend to steal affections from God, and place them on worldly things.
(4.) Riches cannot prevent death, nor the grave. Paul said: “And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Heb. 9:27.)
(5.) If we trust in our riches, we are fools in God’s sight.
(6.) True wisdom is what Jesus said in Matt. 6:33: “But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
The Danger in Great Riches
(1 Tim. 6:7-10)
So many people think if they had great wealth they would be satisfied and content. Paul teaches that wealth alone cannot bring contentment. “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Tim. 6:6.) Godliness brings its greatest gain in eternity. I must remember that I didn’t bring anything into this world, neither can I carry anything out. So, when I live a Christian life, and have the things necessary for the body, why not be content? Paul shows this should be true of all Christians. “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he has said I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5.) Those that desire to be rich will fall into many temptations. They will resort to various schemes to accomplish their purpose. They are scraping, gathering and heaping up riches, and scarcely taking the necessary things of life out for themselves.
Many get their wealth by stealing the wages of those who work for them (Jam 5:1-5). We see this today by those who want to prevent the minimum wage from rising in order to gain even more wealth from those who have little. Remember the prophetic words of the prophet Jeremiah who wrote: “As the partridge sits on eggs, and hatches them not; so he that gets riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool” (Jer 17:11).
Sometimes the Bible is misquoted here. Money is not the root of all kinds of evil, but Paul said: “For the LOVE of MONEY is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Tim. 6:10.) The love for money will cause people to lie, cheat, steal, and commit murder.
Paul’s Charge to the Rich
Those that are rich should remember that we obtain all temporal blessings from God. So many of us are inclined to think that by our power and wisdom we obtain great wealth. Let us notice what God said to the Israelites. “And you say in your heart, My power and the might of mine hand has gotten me this wealth. But you shall remember the Lord your God: for it is he that gives you power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he swore unto your fathers, as it is this day.” (Deut. 8:17-18.) We are not to trust in our riches, at best, they are uncertain. Riches do not constitute an impossible barrier to heaven, but for those that have wealth, it will be more difficult for them to be saved. “And Jesus looked round about, and said unto his disciples, how hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answered again, and said unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!” (Mk 10:23-24.) A person may be as rich as Bill Gates and be saved, if the riches are used as God intended, or as poor as Lazarus and be lost. Let us remember poverty is not a passport to heaven. (Prov. 11:4.) However, it would be far better for us to be rich in good works, than in this world’s goods.
Conclusion: The apostle Paul said: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” (1 Tim. 6:17-19.) Remember, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required (Lk 12:48).