Gracefully Truthful

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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

Luke 12:16-21

16 Then He told them a parable: "A rich man's land was very productive. 17 He thought to himself, 'What should I do, since I don't have anywhere to store my crops? 18 I will do this,' he said. 'I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and store all my grain and my goods there. 19 Then I'll say to myself, “You have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.”

20 But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared-whose will they be?'

21 That's how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."

The Original Intent

1) What prompted Jesus to tell this parable? (verse 16)

A common practice of Jesus was to use stories to communicate spiritual truths. We usually refer to them as parables.

To appropriately dig deeper into the specific parable found in verses 16-21, it is essential we don’t miss the important role parables played in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus used parables in over one-third of His teaching! Most of them are found in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and often contain some sort of shock factor for the first audience.

Jesus offers this specific parable (only found in the gospel of Luke) as a response to an ill-timed request made of Him. We read in verse 13 that someone in the crowd had blurted out a demand which did not fit the occasion. As Jesus had been speaking to His followers about reverence for the Holy Spirit (verses 10-12), this man’s appeal for intervention regarding a family financial dispute appears clearly out of place.

The only explanation for such blatant disregard of the setting and the message would be a preoccupation with money and self. It is obvious the man had been contemplating his financial woes and the family tension rather than listening to Jesus’ teaching. Still, in His wisdom, Jesus used the moment to teach a much deeper lesson regarding one’s possessions.

Since His parables were often tailored to His audience, it’s apparent Jesus was speaking to a crowd who needed a lesson on what matters most in the kingdom of God. Jesus prefaced the parable by saying to the crowd, “One’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.” (verse 15) It is doubtful this was the response the man was hoping for. Jesus, though, was never much for simply answering a surface question. He always went for the heart.

The Everyday Application

1) What prompted Jesus to tell this parable? (verse 16)

Jesus was prompted to share a parable due to a stranger’s interruption. Jesus was talking about the deep things of God and the seriousness of speaking against the Holy Spirit! Consider what it must have been like for Jesus.

Suppose you were teaching a group of students an extremely important lesson, when suddenly a voice from the class makes a random demand having no connection at all to what you’re teaching. I don’t know about you, Sister, but I probably wouldn’t have been so kind as to share a story at that moment! For one, I doubt I could make a connection that quickly. Also, I’d be incensed at the disruption and the complete disregard for what I’d said, oh, but, what a Christ we have!

The Lord Jesus knew exactly what was happening. He had come to reveal the hearts of all humanity. He didn’t deal with the rude behavior at all; He dealt with the deeper issue that mattered most, hearts of His hearers. The demand to fix a pressing problem came from a man with wrong priorities.

Jesus wasn’t interested in being a family financial counselor. Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6) of all creation, and He came to show us that HE is our treasure. (Colossians 2:3)

Interrupting Jesus to talk about his money crisis was not the man’s greatest wrong. It was his belief that riches should take precedence in his life. Focusing on what we have, or don’t have, will often keep us from noticing what Jesus has for us. Trusting in our productivity for peace and satisfaction will leave us empty.

Friend, Jesus is near. Open your heart and confess your need for Him to be your everything. He is trustworthy!

The Original Intent

2) What significance might we find in Jesus using the rich man’s thoughts (intentions) in the parable? (verses 17-19)

Jesus made it clear He had no intention of settling a business dispute at that time. (Luke 12:14) That is not why Jesus came. Instead, Jesus came to: do the will of His father (John 6:38); preach the good news of the kingdom (Luke 14:18); draw people out of darkness (John 12:46 ; bring life that would be full and everlasting (John 10:10).

Every moment Jesus walked the earth, His mission was exposing the heart of man in order to invite them into a relationship with Himself as the God-Man.

By sharing a story about the thoughts (verse 17) of the rich man, Jesus exposes the greed that dwelled within. A somewhat unusual parable, it doesn’t offer an illustration of the kingdom of God, of grace, or of salvation as most did. The only character does not have any obvious connection to spiritual concerns, which is why this parable carries such a punch.

Verse 17 portrays a man who “thought to himself: ‘What should I do?’” Interestingly, that’s exactly what the man in the crowd was doing. He was thinking to himself about himself instead of listening to Jesus. The picture in the story Jesus tells is of a self-absorbed man, “I will do this … I will say to myself …” (verses 18-19) The parable’s entire dialogue is a monologue! The only person the rich man talks to is himself.

His isolation indicates he neither sees nor cares for anyone but himself. As the man revels in his great accumulation of wealth (verse 19), he finally tips his hat to himself. His action echoes the self-indulgent mindset seen in Ecclesiastes before the author understood the meaning of life. (Ecclesiastes 8:15, 12:13-14) Jesus set the stage for the parable’s shocking twist and unhappy ending.

The Everyday Application

2) What significance might we find in Jesus using the rich man’s thoughts (intentions) in the parable? (verses 17-19)

I haven’t found in Scripture a hardcore atheist in the philosophical sense. Many of the pagans didn’t know anything about the one true God. Others believed there was a God, but they did not follow Him. Most thought of God as a distant deity with the idea that “There is no God here.”

The crowd of people could likely relate to the sin of the rich man who was living for himself just as we can. He didn’t see people and he didn’t see God. He talked to himself about himself. The man who interrupted Jesus seems to be the exact same way. He wanted Jesus to fix a problem he had. His heart wasn’t in tune with Jesus’ mindset or mission.

My Sister, I don’t want to lose sight of what God is saying to me, nor do I want to miss the people around me to whom I should minister or witness. Jesus’ story was about a man who hoarded his grain. That grain would be a great resource for the people around him. By stashing it away, this man was not a life-giver. Ironically, he lost his own life.

Jesus said of Himself, “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35) We don’t need to store up earthly treasures for ourselves because we have Jesus! We don’t want to spend all we have on ourselves because others need Jesus, too.

It is a tragedy when people think this life is all there is. But even more tragic is when we know there’s another life, but we spend all our time and resources investing only in this one!

Friend, Jesus asks us to hold our earthly possessions loosely so we can have freedom to carry people to Him.

The Original Intent

3) How do we know what Jesus meant by this parable? (verses 20-21)

Very pointedly, Jesus used this rich man’s reflection about himself and his possessions to express the devastating effects of pride and greed across all of humanity. He is, Jesus says with the authority of God, a “fool.”

This is no slip of the tongue by Jesus! It was intentional and meaningful. In the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, a fool was the type person who fails to notice how the world works; the type who would spit into the wind; the ones who saw off the branch they’re sitting on; or a person who would continue to row their boat against the current without awareness of why they can’t row.

Fools are un-teachable, they refuse to listen and learn, and they wallow in their folly.

Jesus’ words likely fell on the crowd with some heaviness. Though it was a parable, Jesus sets Himself as an authority to speak for God. Verse 20 says Jesus told them, “But God said…” Until now, Jesus had told a story about a nameless rich man. But now He provided insight into what God thinks about the man. God said something quite different to the man than he had said to himself.

We are suddenly introduced to the grave error of the rich man’s thinking. His mindset would cost him his life. And when he died, he would have nothing! What Jesus says next surely stunned the oblivious man in the crowd, “That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (verse 21)

There’s no record of a personal accusation by Jesus toward the man, but I doubt it went unnoticed. Spending oneself to gain an abundance of wealth was contrary to everything Jesus taught. One’s life is not in that!

The Everyday Application

3) How do we know what Jesus meant by this parable? (verses 20-21)

Jesus told the crowd they should be “rich toward God.” (verse 21) That’s what He meant by telling the parable. My husband and I went to a mission’s conference on our first date. Dr. E.V. Hill was preaching. As black preachers often do, he sang some of his message. One of his lines has stuck with me for nearly 40 years, “If God can get it through ya, He’ll give it to ya!”

The reality for the believer is that we don’t find life by gaining wealth on earth. We find life by using our wealth to love Jesus. The gospel of Jesus is about giving up everything to get Jesus.

Whatever God gives us materially in this life, He gives us to use for His kingdom. The believer doesn’t owe God anything for our salvation. In fact, we can’t do anything to earn it. Jesus PAID it all. (Romans 6:23) The material blessings of God come to us so that we can give back to God by loving others. This is how we are rich toward Him.

In the commentary, Exalting Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, Danny Akin quotes James Boice as saying, “If you are absorbed with money, you will miss everything else in life that really matters.” That’s what Jesus wants us to know.

We have a part in His mission. The mission to rescue the world from darkness. When we give generously to the gospel work of Christ, the Lord is honored and our gifts outlive us. That’s how to be heavenly rich!

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