Tony Evans - How to Truly Be Rich?
Jesus in chapter 12 of Luke has been teaching. He comes to this place where he's teaching about the Holy Spirit and how important he is and critical he is for time and eternity. His teaching is interrupted by one of the listeners, one of the persons who was there listening to the sermon. He blurts out in the middle of the message. "Someone," verse 13 says, "in the crowd said to him," a listener to his teaching, "'Teacher," because he's been teaching, "tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.'"
When he asked Jesus this question of intervening, Jesus has a curious response. He says in verse 13, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter over you"? Now, you need to know that the word "you" at the end of verse 14 is plural. You can be singular. You can be plural. It's plural, so Jesus is saying, "Who made me arbiter over y'all"? if he was speaking Texan. So, the brother is there. The brother that the brother is talking about is there, 'cause he talking to both of them. "Y'all want me to fix this money problem, this inheritance problem, these possession issues between the two of you"?
Why does Jesus respond to the man's request that way? Jesus was speaking about spiritual stuff. The man interrupts it with financial stuff, so Jesus responds by telling him, "If you invite me into your family dispute about your will, your daddy's will, then you have to understand that when the teacher, me, gets into your family discussion I'm not gonna limit my answer to merely your earthly dilemma. My answer has got to deal with the root and not mainly the question of the fruit. You asked me about arbitrating the conflict between you and your brother, but there is actually something deeper going on, so I not only want to deal with what you ask. I want to deal with the motive that made you ask me about it".
See, that's why a lotta folk don't want Jesus, 'cause they just wanna hang out with the fruit and not get to the root. So, Jesus now takes the conversation deeper than the question because he knew the heart that was behind the question and in taking it deeper. Verse 15, "Then he said to them, 'Beware,'" watch out, "and be on guard for every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions". Oh, Jesus, you done taken the man's simple question and turned it into something else. "No, I've turned it into what motivated him to ask me about it". See, 'cause that's the problem with Jesus. He gonna deal with your motives and not just with your information. It's like when you're talking to somebody, and you say to them, "Well, what are you really asking me"? He says watch out for every form greed takes.
Greed in biblical terms has to deal with whether you have placed the physical ahead of the spiritual. Greed has to do with whether your pursuit of things has blocked God out. You are greedy even when you love the money that you don't have, that you wanna have, because your passionate pursuit of it, even if you don't have it, has blocked out the priority of God, God's will, and God's kingdom in your life. And once God is made second, boxed out, and the physical trumps the spiritual, you have become greedy or, as the Scripture calls it, the love of money, or what money can buy has taken over you. Greed is the passionate pursuit of things at the expense of spiritual, so it is a priority issue, and it says greed comes in all forms.
Watch out for every form of greed, 'cause you can be greedy in a whole lotta different ways. Oh, there is religious greed, religious greed, where the Bible and God are used to place the physical over the spiritual. Even though you sprinkle Jesus's name on it it's called prosperity theology. God is not against prospering, but a theology that makes God your Santa Claus, that makes God merely your financier is an unrighteous form of greed.
Lemme ask you a question. When God told Moses to tell Pharaoh to, "Let my people go," where was God telling Moses to tell Pharaoh to let His people go to? Okay, I heard a couple of answers. Some said the Promised Land. Uh-uh. He told him to tell Pharaoh, "Let my people go into the wilderness to worship me," not to the Promised Land. Why? Why did he tell him? 'Cause most people think in terms of, "Well, he was taking them to the Promised Land". Uh-uh. He says, "You tell him," to tell him, "let my people go into the wilderness and meet with me". Why?
Before God ever wanted to give 'em the stuff, the land flowing with milk and honey, he says, "I want you to hook up with me where there is no milk and honey, where it's dry out there in the Promised Land, where you're gonna have to depend on me for water and manna and all to make it to the Promised Land. I want them to meet me before they meet my blessing, because if they skip me and go directly to their blessing they will get so enthralled with their blessing, that they will forget the me who met them in the wilderness". God does not mind you having a Promised Land, as long as you do not skip him when you get there, and so he wanted to make sure that they hooked up with him first so that when the days were better and things were rolling in, that the spiritual did not get lost in the physical.
My greatest concern is that you are a Christian and know of your salvation. Jesus Christ died on the cross in your place, as your substitute, to pay for your sins in order to give you eternal life. He has to give it away. It can't be earned, so if you'll go to Jesus Christ now, acknowledge your need for a Savior because you recognize you are a sinner, and then place your trust in Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins and for the gift of eternal life, he will grant that to you right here, right now. Go to him and simply say, "Lord Jesus, I'm a sinner. I recognize I need a Savior. I'm trusting you alone to be that Savior. Enter my life now. Cleanse me, forgive me, and give me the eternal life you promised". Do that, and you're on you way to Heaven.
He says watch out for every form of greed. Why? He says at the end of verse 15 because not even when one has more than enough does his life consist of his possessions. Now, what's this got to do with an eternal perspective? Well, Jesus begins and says, "Well, let me tell you a story". He gives a parable beginning in verse 16. He says, "I wanna tell you a story". "He told them a parable," verse 16, "'The land of a rich man was very productive".
So let's just stop there. We've got an entrepreneur. He is very, very successful. He's what every person dreams to be, productive in his life, and he was very productive, so this is the guy who worked hard, who took care of his business, and he is working out for it. Verse 17 tells us a little bit more about him. "And he began reasoning to himself, saying, 'What should I do, since I have no place to store my crops? This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.'" If you read this story you will see him referring to himself 14 times: I, me, my, you. He keeps talking about himself. He says, "I'mma do this, and I'mma do that, and I'mma plan this, and I'mma plan that".
And where are you going with all this, mister? He said, "And when I get all this stuff where I want it to be," he says, "then I will say to my soul," I will say to my soul, "'Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.'" It's time to retire, and he spent all of his waking, working time to make that dream of retirement occurred. Is that a problem? Is Jesus downing, planning for the future? No. Lemme tell you what he is doing. Jesus says, "But God said to him, 'You fool! You fool". You didn't hear me. "You fool.'" What's the problem? "This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared"?
Here is our problem with our productive entrepreneur. He had a major miscalculation. He was assuming something. He was assuming he was gonna get to retire. He was assuming he was gonna make it to social security. He was assuming eat, drink, and be merry. It was all about his party in time. He was doing what many people do today: put off God till I have time. Put off God till I don't have to work. Put off ministry to others until I can get around to it. "Right now I gotta build for my future", but he ran into two words, two words that can reverse for good or for evil any scenario at any time: "but God".
See, you can't leave those two words out of your equation, because those two words can totally reverse your situation for good or for bad. "But God". 1 Timothy chapter 6, verses 6 to 16 talks about those who are rich, those who wanted to be rich, and he says the love of money is the root of all evil. Not money, but the love of it. Why? Because you put it before God. He says if God gives it to you, he gives it to you to enjoy, but he expects you not to lose him in the process of gaining it and not to forget others in the process of using it. This guy made it, but what he forgot along the way was that everything he was using to make it depended on God.
Okay, let's review. He had very productive land, but I don't think he made land, so the very system that he was building his productivity on depended on God creating property. His land was productive, which means he had rain. I don't think he made rain. Well, his productive land depended on sun. He didn't make that. His productivity that depended on land, sun, and rain needed seed, but he didn't make seed in the lab. It came from crops that already existed, that had a system built into it to reproduce after its own time, giving him seeds for more productivity than he started with. And even his own ability to get up in the morning depended on oxygen being present, so his whole being, not only that, but the material he needed to build the barns in order to store the crop depended upon raw material that had already been created. The wood came from trees that God planted, so there is no productivity without God.
God does not want you to wait till you make it to include him. He doesn't wanna have to wait till you finish school, wait till you get that job, wait till you get that promotion, wait till you get that financial windfall, he doesn't want you to wait till because he could call your name tonight. And then, he says, "Now what will you do with what you have"? Nothing, 'cause you never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul. You do not get to take it with you. He is not condemning. He is not saying it's wrong, as long as it's legitimate.
We've got some business folk here or business folk wannabes, entrepreneur wannabes, okay? So, God has a special passage for you. It's in James chapter 4, verses 13 to 16. He says, "You businessman, you say, 'We're going to this city and that city to cut a deal and make a profit.' That's what you say. That's what you say". He says, "But what you ought to say is, 'If it's the Lord's will, we're gonna go to this city and that city and make a profit,'" because you leave God out of even the planning, of cutting the deal. You're on your own. Okay, so, God, what's your point? What you want? What do you want us to get out of this from an eternal perspective? He tells you in his closing verse, verse 21, "So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God".
There it is. He says, "Here is my point". He's talking to the man who wants Jesus to arbitrate between him and his brother. He says, "You wanna be rich for you, and there is no divine consideration in anything you are planning. You are planning this independently of God, cause I wanna get to the root". The more aware you are of your mortality, the more you live with different priorities. When our desire for stuff disconnects us from God, guess what he's saying? You're gonna miss life. Rich in life can make you poor with God. Not because rich is wrong, but because misplacing God is wrong. Jesus is saying, "Mister, don't be a fool. Don't be a fool. Yes, plan, yes, maximize what God gives you, but not at the expense of God," whatever level God gives him.
I, like you, sit down, and you watch TV, and they got commercials about medicines designed to make you better, that to heal your sickness, to heal your hurts and your pains, and they advertise these medicines 'cause they are there to give you a better life, to help you feel better. But then, comes the warning. Some commercials spend more time on the warning than the description of the benefit of the medicine. There is one commercial that says, "This medication will help you sleep. Beware it may give you suicide toughs". Duh. What? Another medicine, "This will heal you, but it could kill you".
This world offers you medicine, the medicine of prosperity, the medicine of notoriety, the medicine of security, the medicine of prosperity. It offers you the medicine, but what this world does not do is give you the warning. Our job is to give you the warning. That if you take the medicine of greed without the warning of danger, this medicine called affluenza can kill you. So, don't leave God out if you wanna have life and not just want to exist, because a person's life does not consist of the things that he or she has.
Did you know it's possible to be financially rich while being absolutely life poor? We define riches in the wrong way. Yes, you can be rich with money, but don't give up your life for it. You see, God's view of wealth or riches has to do with the wealth in the soul and everything else becomes a bonus. Nothing wrong with the bonus. We can buy things with the bonus, we can enjoy things with the bonus, but keep it as a bonus. It's not the source of authentic riches, having a full life, a meaningful life, a purposeful life, a productive life, an influential life, a spiritual life. Ah, that's life and all the other accoutrements, all the other extras that you can buy along the way, that you can own along the way, that you can drive along the way, all of those are wonderful bonuses.
I believe in bonuses, God believes in bonuses, but don't mistake a bonus for the basic and the basic is having a life that is full of value. It's rich toward God while you are gaining or enjoying the things that are on Earth, but when we are poor toward God we are poor no matter how much stuff we have. That's when people have to go and use their riches to buy things to give them the life that they can't find. Well, guess what? God wants to give it away. Jesus calls it abundant life. That is, a life of spiritual fulfillment. Don't sacrifice what money can buy for what money can't buy, because what money can't buy is life.