Luke 12. 13-21
Kenneth Bailey, who has written many books on the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus, with great insight into life in the Middle East, having lived there for decades, has opened my eyes into understanding a clear interconnection between the Old and New Testaments. All the parables and teachings of Jesus have roots in the Scriptures of the Hebrews. Jesus didn’t create new stories but rather capitalized and expanded on what was already known by His audience, the lost sheep of Israel.
Ecclesiastes 6 continues with a theme started in chapter 5 about the folly of the pursuit of riches. In chapter 6 he talks about those who pursue wealth to the point of not even being able to spend it all. Such is the futility of riches, when a man has joy only in the pursuit of a goal and never in the goal itself. In other words, this one could be living a spartan lifestyle himself, while investing everything back into the business he has started, and never relaxes his pursuit of wealth.
Luke 12. 13 – 21 Jesus revisits this wisdom in the parable of the rich man who had a bumper crop one year and didn’t have any more storage space for it. Understand here that the man in this story was already wealthy. He didn’t need more, yet that was his pursuit, enough is never enough to many like him. It’s been suggested by writers in the past, Augustine of North Africa, that he could have stored his crops in the ” bellies of the poor,” or sold that grain and given the proceeds to those in need, yet that didn’t occur to him either. He chose to tear down his barns and build bigger ones, saying, “then I will be satisfied.” Yet we all know that he would not be satisfied even with that.
In verse 17 we find this man reasoning with himself, he has isolated himself from all others, as Isaiah 5.8 says will happen in the pursuit of wealth. The rich man trusts no one’s counsel but his own. In the Middle East culture even the smallest decisions are debated endlessly amongst the men of a community. They might reason with each other all day on the purchase of a cart, rather than the wisdom of repairing the old one. Pro’s and con’s are revealed and debated by all present, and all options are considered before a decision is reached. Yet this man in the parable has no one to reason with, in his selfish pursuit, by his own choice, which is another weakness of the pursuit of wealth.
Now Jesus starts to reveal the vanity of this train of thought in the rich man. What if God were to require your life in your vain pursuits. If your life is taken unexpectedly, and you are an isolated “Scrooge like” person, where will your wealth go? Jesus says someone else will spend it, and they might be a fool with it. (Usually when wealth comes unearned to someone, it is squandered, like so many state lottery winners.)
We are to be wise with the resources that God gives us, we are to work hard, enjoy the result of our labor, and be generous to the needy. Those who teach us the scriptures, and pastor us, are well worth their hire, and should be amply compensated. The missionaries that are doing what God has called them to do should not be forgotten, but also rewarded for the good work they do. The poor and homeless should also be remembered, many are there by their own doings, but nonetheless they need help. And many homeless are victims of evil done to them, through divorce, lawsuits, poor decisions, and evil trickery. We are not to judge, that is entirely up to God, we are to give generously.
If God has blessed you, and He has, you should also bless others. Not out of the excess of your gain, but out of the first fruits. Malachi 3.10 ” Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there might be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says Jehovah, ” if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”