Use what God has given us — productively
Jesus wants us to be rich — abundantly so. It’s why He came to earth, becoming poor for our sake so that we could become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
This isn’t ‘prosperity gospel’. Let me make it clear that the richness Jesus came to bring is not material wealth. Many people in Jesus’ day tended to think that owning material possessions was a sign of God’s blessing. If you were poor, that was seen as a sign of being on the outer with the Lord. Jesus used many of His teaching sessions to challenge that thinking.
Like the day someone in a crowd called out to Him: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” (Luke 12:13) A reasonable request, it would seem. A request for fairness. But Jesus saw a deeper issue and far from acceding to the request, he used it as an occasion to remind the crowd of the Ten Commandments (the 10th, in particular).
“Take care,” He warned, “and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
You can imagine the crowd gasping at Jesus’ response.
To drive home his message, Jesus told a story about a man whose property produced abundant riches, but whose early death meant that he didn’t benefit from it. The man in the story faced a perilous eternity, called to account for behaviour described as foolish because he’d stored up treasure for himself, but had been not
“rich towards God”.
What does that mean, not being “rich towards God”? The story gives us some pointers. First, Jesus says that the man’s land produced great wealth. This really means that it all came from God, who provided his allotment in the first place and then the growing conditions that enabled it to flourish. Yet there is no hint of gratitude or thankfulness from the man for God’s blessings. Ingratitude eats away at the soul.
Second, the man holds it all for himself. He could have sold at least some of his surplus for others, or given some to the poor and still retained plenty. The Old Testament had taught the Israelites to at least leave the gleanings of their crops for the poor (see: Leviticus 23:22), but this man had no thought for anyone else. Such selfishness brings a poor spiritual return.
Thirdly, as I read this story, the man decides that he’s got enough to see him through for years to come and, so, stops producing from the land. His effort goes into storage, rather than continuing production. With his surplus he could have employed more people to continue to work his land, enabling them to share in the abundance God had provided. But no, he lets it go fallow and puts his feet up. He utters those famous words about eating, drinking and being merry – again with no thought for how God’s blessings to him could be used to help others to eat, drink and have some happiness in life. Such a lazy, presumptive attitude brings about spiritual poverty.
Jesus at no point criticises this man for having wealth, but He lays into him for his attitude and the behaviours that come from his thankless, selfish, presumptive failure to use what God had given him for the greater good.
In doing so, Jesus warns us. Anyone who similarly lays up treasure for themselves is a fool and is not rich towards God. This is not what Jesus wants for any of us. Rather, He calls on us to make our money matter – that is, to use what God has given us productively and, with a spirit of gratitude and generosity, to enjoy an abundant spirituality in close fellowship with our heavenly Father.
Executive Director, Uniting Financial Services