One of the oft-repeated themes in Jesus’ earthly ministry was to contrast the temporal with the eternal. Luke chapter 12 offers an example–and one chock-ful-of-buts.
The setting had Jesus teaching among a crowd. Someone asked him to arbitrate a dispute between brothers concerning a family inheritance. Jesus’ reply included a warning: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
No buts about it–we could stop right there. That statement really speaks forcefully to our culture.
Jesus went on to illustrate his lesson with a familiar parable. There was a rich man whose fields produced an amazing harvest. Recognizing that he had more grain than he knew what to do with, he chose to tear down his barns and build bigger ones, saying to himself “I have plenty for years to come. I’ll take it easy! I’ll eat, drink and be merry!” Can you feel a big but approaching?
In the competing of things eternal and things temporal, a man’s trust and reliance upon God often take a backseat to his trust and reliance upon himself and his stuff. The man in the parable was an example. He recognized his great wealthy strike and began to hedge God out of the picture.
But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you’ve prepared for yourself?’
One might conclude Jesus is refuting wealth and success–he’s not. One more big but makes it clear:
“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
It wasn’t the great success of this man’s harvest that was the issue. It was that his attention and his affection had drifted from God to self and stuff. And Jesus pointed out how incredibly short-sighted that kind of living is. We’re never guaranteed a tomorrow. We don’t see the big picture. We may be running after prizes that don’t matter. Jesus warned, strive for the prize that means everything.