Dr. Ed Young - The Idol of Greed
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Charlotte, North Carolina, a man bought a box of rare cigars, very, very expensive cigars, and he insured them. And before he made his first payment for covering those cigars by insurance, he reported a fire in which a series of little fires destroyed all of these valuable cigars. He made a claim for $13,000. The insurance company said, "Ridiculous! You smoked those cigars, the series of little fires. We're not gonna pay". And so the man sued the insurance company, and the judge looked at the case and said, "This is obviously a frivolous lawsuit, but in the insurance policy, it didn't specify the kind of fire that would destroy them," so the judge ordered them to pay the man $13,000 for those cigars.
The insurance company immediately charged the man with intentionally setting fire to that which they had insured, and the evidence was by his own testimony, a series of little fires. So the man lost the case, was ordered to pay $25,000 to the insurance company, and serve 2 year in prison. How silly is our world? But how wonderful it is to see moments in the history of Jesus Christ as we've looked upon him as the autobiography of God, living in flesh and see fabulous moments of his teaching, and that's what we've been doing. We've walked through the life of Christ, and we're all the way to Luke chapter 12. And I noticed there in the first verse something I had missed before.
Luke 12. It says, "Under these circumstances, after so many thousands of people had gathered together, they were stepping on one another, He began to teach". And I'd never noticed "thousands of people gathered together, stepping on one another". When's the last time you've been in a crowd like that? Thousands of people gathered together, stepping on one another. And Jesus began to teach. And you read the first part of Luke chapter 12. How profound was his teaching. In this first section, he talks about the unpardonable sin. He says the sin against the Holy Spirit, when the Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin and we reject the powerful leading of the Holy Spirit and do not respond to Jesus Christ, you have committed a sin that cannot be forgiven.
Boy, we listen to a sin that is unforgivable, a sin that is unpardonable. And then Jesus talks about if you take two pennies, you can buy five sparrows, but he says those sparrows are so important, if one of those sparrows, all five bought for 2 cents, if just one falls or gets in trouble, God knows and God cares. Therefore, how much more does he care for you, does he care for me? Profound words of teaching. And then he talks about that if we confess Jesus before people, before our fellow man, we put up our flag and say "I'm a part of his kingdom. I'm on his side," it says our heavenly Father will say, "Hey, that's my son; that's my daughter"! God will confess that we are part of his family.
So Jesus is giving us more kingdom principles, remember? That's what we're talking about? "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done," and we've all decided that we'd all like to be citizens of the kingdom of God, wouldn't we? I haven't found anybody who'd say, "You know, I don't want to be a citizen of the kingdom of God". You don't find that. We love to know that we're in fellowship with God, that we are family, that we are in the kingdom now, and tomorrow, and forever. So we're talking about kingdom principles, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven," and Jesus tell us, has related to us how we become a part of the kingdom, how we know we're in the kingdom.
Now he's talking about kingdom living. If you're a kingdom man, a kingdom woman, a kingdom teenager, this is how you then live. And He has given us these beautiful little parables that sort of nail everything down. So here in the first part of this 12th chapter, he has got us high and lifted up. Confession. The unpardonable sin. How valuable we are. And then I want you to listen to this. It's amazing, right here, almost the middle of chapter number 12 in verse 13: "Someone in the crowd said to Him, 'Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.'" Jesus is interrupted by some numbskull, some crazy, looney-fruit toon guy as he has us up in profound ionosphere of insight and life. He says, "Hey, teacher! Would you tell my brother to divide his inheritance with me"?
What a crazy time to interrupt our Lord. By the way, you can look through the life of Jesus and see all the times he was interrupted, pshew, pshew, pshew! By something totally unrelated to what he was talking about. Totally crazy and obscure because the guy had nothing to ask. In this day and time, let me tell you how every estate was handled, one way clearly for hundreds of years. The firstborn, the older brother, got two-thirds of the father's estate, period. The rest of the children divided one-third of the father's estate. This guy who said, "Hey, teacher, tell my brother to divide..." What? It was a done deal. There was no if, and, buts, "let's bring in 16 lawyers to decide about the estate". It was what was always done.
So his question was foolish. It was silly. It was just an interruption of Jesus while he was talking about exceedingly profound things. But look how Jesus handled it. Interesting. First of all, he put the guy in his place. He said, verse 14: "Man, who appointed me a judge, or an arbiter over you"? What is he saying? That law is clearly established. "What in the world, fruit loop, are you bringing this thing up about"? But Jesus used the opportunity, verse 15, as he did every interruption. "Then He said to them, 'Beware. Be on your guard against every form of greed.'" And he warns those who are listening, the thousands, against greed. You know, it's rare that any of us would admit, "Lord, forgive me of my greed". It's related to covetousness. It is an idol.
What is an idol? Anything who takes the place of God is a counterfeit, and that becomes an idol. And greed is a big thing. Covetousness means not that I want that automobile that you drive, but I want your automobile. And an idol takes the place of God, and we're warned against greed, can be an idol. What are some of the idols of our day and age? One philosopher said that sex will replace God in the western world. But we know that Frederic Nietzsche, or if you pronounce it Nietcha, if you have the new pronunciation I heard recently; Frederic Nietzsche said generation before, "No, no, no! It is money that's going to replace God".
So in our day, we have a contest. Will sex or money win as the idol that's in current vogue of our culture? Which will be the center? Right now money is winning, but sex is closing fast. What's going to be the idol? Can it be money? Covetousness? I like the old quotation. Somebody asked John D. Rockefeller, "How much money does it take to satisfy somebody"? He said, "Just a little more". That's the way it is, isn't it? Beware of greed. He's talking about how greedy we are. And you can be greedy and be poor. My mother, we had very little when I was coming up, but my mother was basically a greedy person. She held on to every penny that she could touch. My dad, he was very generous. It's a good thing they got married.
So you can have little and be greedy, and stingy, and narrow; or you can be generous and have little, or you can have much and be greedy, and you can have much and be very generous. So that's not the issue. There's no merit in being rich. That is not an attribute. There's no merit in being poor; that is not an attribute. There's not an ethical problem there. In fact, in the Bible you see that Jesus commended the centurion who built the synagogue in that village. He commended him. He was a rich man. We see Mary, and Martha, and Lazarus. They had an upper middle class family, we're assured, and Jesus went there, and that's where he found rest and refreshment for him and his apostles; so there's no merit to be up and down. It's just simply, we have to beware and be warned. Jesus is saying, "Look out for greed"!
So as we deal with this, think about, "Am I greedy"? Are you greedy? "Well, I'm just frugal". No, you just, you don't just, you get more, and more, and more. He said, "Beware of greed," and then he says something about life that's very profound in the second part. He said "Beware," verse 15, chapter 12, Luke, "and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions". In other words, a lot of people are defined by the economic status. In other words, are you defined by your economic status? The Bible would teach us, we're not defined by our possessions or our position. Take anybody here.
Pull you out of the crowd, stand you up and say, "Okay, zip! You've lost everything that you have, all assets in this world. You've lost your family name. You've lost your position. You've lost everything you have. What do you have left? Stripped down to zero, what's left of you? What's left of me"? Jesus says we can't be identified by our possessions, by our education, by our power, by our family, by being up or down in some kind of phony socioeconomic status ladder. He said, "That is not the essence of who you are and who I am. That cannot define our life". And for so many people, it does. And then he gives us a deadly parable. Whew! Remember, he's interrupted. In verse 16, he says: "He told them a parable, 'The land of a rich man was very productive.'"
Now, here's the problem this guy, we're gonna know him as the rich fool. By the way, that's not an oxymoron. We're gonna know him as the rich fool. He said his land was very productive. I'm gonna tell you up front what his problem was. He did not know the source of his blessings, and therefore, he did not know that he was responsible for those blessings, and the purpose for those blessings. If God blesses you, if God blesses me; if we don't recognize he is the source of those blessings, then we don't have a clue how to use those blessings that he's given us! You see, that was the problem with this, this rich, rich, rich fool, this farmer. He had a great year! My goodness! It was a fabulous year! He said, and we'll read it "My crops, my harvest, my possessions".
You see, here is a guy who didn't understand that everything comes... Does anybody here think you've done anything, or accomplished anything and you've done it? Anybody that stupid? That foolish? That short-sighted? That egotistical? Does he think, "Boy, we had a great crop! I did it myself! Well, it did rain at the right time. Ohh, oh yeah, and the sun shined, and I, and I had the right kind of seed in the ground, and the right kind of soil, but you know, I did all of that, and that's the reason I've got these barns that are full! Look what, heh, heh, look what I did"! When you don't realize the source of your blessings, you have no idea what those blessings are for in the first place. This was the problem with this rich fool.
And by the way, Jesus called him a fool! Let's look at see what his problem really was. First of all, we're gonna see he was focused on the wrong things, and he began reasoning to himself saying, "What shall I do since I have no place to store my crops"? Then he said, "This is what I will do. I will tear down the barns and build larger ones there. I will store all of my grain, and all of my goods, and I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have many goods laid up for yourself for many years to come. Take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry!'" Do you realize he said "I" six times? In the Greek, he said it eight times! He said, "My" four times.
You see, he focused on the wrong thing. He focused on himself. He was a narcissist on steroids! "I, I, I, me, me, my, mine". Like the poet talked about a lady named "Edith". He said, "There stands Edith surrounded north, south, east, and west by Edith". "It's all about me, ladies and gentlemen! It's about who I am, and what I've done". Like the guy who wrote a little book and he went to a reception, and he was telling this crowd around him all about where he'd been, and who he knew, and what he'd accomplished, and how he had this, and how he had this, and how... He went on, and on, and on, and everybody was saying, "Eh, enough of this guy," until finally he said, "Oh, enough about me! Let's talk about my new book"! Here's this guy, "I, I, I". Notice how the Lord taught us to pray. "My Father who art in heaven..." No, no, no. That's not it. "Our Father who art in heaven". "Forgive me of my..." "Forgive us our sin".
You see, it's not I, me, my, and mine. It's our, it's we, it's us, it's family. This rich fool was all about himself, and what's the next thing he was about? Pleasure. "Man, I've got my barns full. I'm gonna eat, drink, be merry, have a big time! Man, I've got security! It's laid up! I can go where I want to go, do what I want to do, I can do all these things. Man, I've got real security". He was all about pleasure! Sound familiar? By the way, this is the only passage I know in the Bible that deals with retirement. There may be others, I just don't know of them. Here's a guy, evidently middle-aged, or young, and he had it made. He said, "Man, I'm shuttin' it down! I'm not working! Look what I've done! My barns, my crops, I'm gonna build bigger ones! I'm gonna eat, and drink, and be merry"!
By the way, it wasn't bad that he would eat, and drink, and be merry. They said Jesus came eating and drinking, and he certainly had a fabulous life, didn't he? So that's not the issue. He was, that was all he was going to do. If God blesses you, and man, you have a chance to quit normal work and say, "Boy, I'm gonna go here. I'm gonna go to all..." I remember there was one time in my life when I was young, I said, "You know, if I had plenty money in the world, I'd go to the Super Bowl every year. I'd go to the World Series every year. I'd go to the NBA playoffs..." and I had a little thing in my own humanistic, childish way. Boy, if I could do all that, I'd really... A lot of people think like that, folks!
You know the problem when your life is filled with pleasure, pleasure, pleasure, pleasure, pleasure, and pleasure for me, pleasure for me, your life, even though it may be long will be ferociously empty and invalid. He was blessed. Why? To be productive. There ought to be people just storming the body of Christ and say, "Man, I'm ready to work, I'm ready to serve". His barns were full. You reckon you, he could find anybody up the road whose barns were empty? Do you reckon there was anybody around who was a widow who didn't have enough to live on? Do you reckon there were any children there who didn't have a father? Do you reckon there's any need there? "Oh, my barns are full, and I'm gonna take care of myself! Eat, drink, and be merry"! What was his problem? His problem was he was all about himself, and his problem was... deadly, deadly problem here, "I did it my way".
Frank Sinatra style, and God called him a rich fool! A rich fool. So, look at the next thing we run into. He was not only a rich fool; he, he focused on that which really doesn't count; and then he forgot those things that were right. He focused on those things that were wrong: himself and pleasure, and he forgot those things that were right, and look what was right. "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you, and now who will own what you have prepared?'" My goodness! He wasn't gonna live a long time. The next day, he was gonna hold an accounting. This man, you know, "Just now get everything together, and I got my life all worked out".
Notice some people who retire, and they die quickly? I wonder why? I don't know. I'm not making a judgment on anybody, if that happens; but it could be that God said, "Well, he's just gonna breathe more air and use the resources he has". You see, God gives in order for us to be a difference to him on things that last forever! In heaven, there's not gonna be all this other stuff, folks! There's gonna be the body of Christ, and that's it! The body of Christ! That's it. And we see, he missed, he forgot things that he should have remembered. You know what he forgot? He forgot time: T.I.M.E. time. Important. Time.
The chief devil was sending out three little devils to work on the earth, and one little devil says, "When I get on Earth, I'm gonna tell everybody there's no God"! Man, the head devil said, "No, don't tell everybody that! They know there's a God. If they look around, most people can figure that out". The other little devil said, "When I get down to Earth, I'm gonna tell 'em there's no hell"! Big devil said, "No, don't tell 'em that! They'll see enough hell in life to know there's a hell in the afterlife". Other little devil said, "Well, I'm gonna go down. I'm gonna tell 'em, 'You got plenty of time, don't worry. Just wait tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.'"
So many people I've seen come up in the church their children get gone, and now they have responsibility, and they just whew! They don't have the need for Bible study, the need for worship. They don't see this is a chance for them to pray, to go, to do, to discover spiritual gifts to make a difference for Jesus Christ! We misunderstand, when he gives us privileges and opportunities. I don't find any place in the Bible where somebody is to retire, and we need to remember, Jesus Christ did not die for the American dream. All of our politicians, "Oh, we want to achieve..." I'm for the American dream, but a dream without God, without Christ in his church is a nightmare! So here is where we are. Look what else is involved here. It's very, very interesting. He forgot time, and look at what else he forgot. It says, "So the man who stores up treasure for himself," he says "Now, who will own what you have prepared"? He forgot people! It's all about, he forgot other people! "I just want..." Other people!
How tragic that is. Little mid-western town, this couple, he became a successful banker. Had five daughters. The oldest daughter left home and got a degree in UCLA and became a teacher in a university, got married and stayed on the West Coast. The other four daughters stayed at home. The father died, so the daughter and her husband from the West Coast came back and saw the other daughters who lived in the immediate area of this little mid-western town. And when they got there for the funeral, they went in the home and discovered the four sisters who remained had already put the home on the market to be sold, and they'd gone around the house, and they tagged everything with their name on it. "Mary, Josie, Alice, Carrie". They tied everything in that, everything had the name of one of the other daughters on it before the older daughter got there with her husband. And they'd already arranged for their pitiful mother to be put in a little home to be looked after, and so there was tension over the estate.
Now folks, if you haven't had anybody to die in your family and leave anybody any money, anything, you don't know what I'm talking about. If you have, it's amazing, even though it may be little, it may be much, the tension that can come in the air. "Oh, that belongs..." Everything was tagged! So they're eating a meal together, and it's kind of stale and uncomfortable. They'd sort of x'd out the older sister and her husband, and after they got through the meal, the husband stood up, the in-law and said, "Well, everything here's covered and house is on the market. Everything in the house is tagged". Even his razor, and said, "You know, the truth is," he says, "We don't want any benefits from the house. We don't want anything that you girls have tagged, but there's one thing that you've not tagged, and that's the one thing we want". And he went over and kissed his mother-in-law. People. People. Say, "We want Mom. We want mom"!