“Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” Luke 12:15
Quite a few years ago we took my parents on a ferry trip to Fremantle from Perth. Someone was giving a kind of commentary which almost exclusively focused on who owned which mansion and how much it cost. That person was defining people by what they possessed. It is a sad thing when a person believes that their employment or their possessions define who they are.
In this parable of a wealthy but foolish man Jesus does not criticise the fact that he was rich but that his motivation in life was to possess “treasure for himself” (v 21). In pride he then spent some of what he had on providing greater capacity to keep what he had for his own pleasure. One does not have to have great wealth to have this heart motivation.
There are three errors in this man’s thinking. First, he believes that his ability to create wealth and accumulate wealth defines him. Secondly, he won’t live to spend his wealth. The third and biggest mistake is in believing that he is the sole reason for his ability to create and retain wealth and that it is for him.
What did he have that was not given to him? Yes, he had to take advantage of his environment and his talents but these were given to him by God. No one chooses where or when they will be born or who their parents will be. No one chooses their genetic makeup that may or may not grant mental and physical capacities as well as other inheritable traits.
Jesus goes on to teach that we have no need to be anxious about our earthly needs because God will provide for us. He gives the birds and flowers as examples of His gracious provision. Since our earthly life is so brief Jesus urges us to have our minds set on things above and lay up heavenly treasure. What is His logic? “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (v 32).
Whether it is one’s employment or accumulated wealth, or lack thereof, a person is not defined by these things. Some people have taken Jesus at His word, “sell what you have and give alms: provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in heaven that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.” (v 33).
A person is defined first by the fact that they are created in the image of God. Everything we think we possess is actually His and Jesus affirms that what He seeks are faithful stewards. The key error of the person in the parable is that he believed his wealth was his and for himself (v 15, 21).