The parable of the rich fool has engendered one of the most famous sayings known alike to believers and the world. In the parable, “a certain rich man” is consumed with obtaining and maintaining wealth, tearing down barns and building ever bigger ones to warehouse his wealth. Inebriated with success, he commends himself: “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease,” (and now comes the famous saying) “eat, drink, and be merry” (Lk. 12:19). Everyone familiar with this parable remembers God’s rejoinder: “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (v. 20). Then follows our text. “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (v. 21).
We might be uncertain about the meaning of the phrase “rich toward God” had the Holy Spirit not placed it in contrast with the activities and state of the rich man in the parable. That man was rich toward himself. All his time and attention were devoted to amassing temporal wealth with the view of becoming so secure that he could finally relax and enjoy it. This description does not sound significantly different from the objective of most Americans or, sadly, the actual experience of many Christians. Like the rich fool, we live lives that can aptly be said to be rich toward ourselves.
Where is the Christian man or woman who will say today, “My single-minded objective is to be rich toward God”? Where is the Christian young person who will say, “Let others live for the approval of men; I want the approval of God”? Where is the one who will say, “Let others amass prosperity and prestige here, I want to hear my Lord say ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’”? Where is the Christian who will take to heart Paul’s exhortation in Colossians: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection [“mind”] on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (3:1-3)?
The rich fool was alive but unwitting of the fact that he was about to die having made no preparations for eternity. We believers are “dead” and are about to truly live eternally, yet many of us are consumed with adorning a corpse that is about to be buried. We live as though the most precious thing in the world is to dress our about-to-be-buried corpses in the most extravagant wealth possible. With superior smugness, we deride the ancient Egyptians and their building of great pyramids filled with natural provisions that were intended to enhance their afterlife. But is such sincere ignorant behavior more foolish than the behavior of those of us who, knowing that time is short, occupy it with temporal pursuits? The Egyptians knew no better. We know better, yet behave in much the same way as they did.
How it must grieve the Lord, both for his glory and our blessing, that we are so carnally shortsighted. What opportunities to invest in eternity have we forfeited already? What opportunities even now await those with willing, loving hearts? Who can fathom the eternal blessing awaiting those who are rich toward God?
May we all be stirred up to be rich toward God, to invest in eternity, to devote ourselves to prayer and Bible study, to give ourselves to serving the Lord whenever, wherever, and however it pleases Him. May we give our bodies a living sacrifice, knowing that "when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall... [we] appear with him in glory" (Col. 1:4).
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