Rich and Worried
This will begin a 2-part study on the issue of being "rich." Jesus said much about the condition of the rich. Among other teachings is the Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12 which is conspicuously followed by His admonitions against worrying. The connection becomes clear with closer examination.
The Parable of the Rich Fool
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”
15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop.
17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.
19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
The impulse to store up more and more wealth beyond one’s need flies in the face of Jesus’ teaching that God will provide for needs as we are faithful in serving Him and His purpose. God’s provision and man’s seeking riches stand in opposition to one another. Seeking riches is a form of faithlessness that endeavors to engineer ease and affluence through the exercise of carnal strength.
The question is “When is a person rich?” The answer is that material riches begins when one has enough to meet their needs but accumulates more to satiate their desires and make a life of ease for themselves. The problem is that rich people are always trading up to new levels of affluence. Jesus connects this former activity with its source of worry, which is a form of faithlessness.
Do Not Worry
22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.
23 Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.
24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!
25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
27 “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!
29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.
30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.
31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.
33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.
34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Simply put, worry over material gain leads to a desire for ensuring future ease. This is building a hedge against any future sense of need, but it is also a satiation of provision to human desire.
To head off all such hording of wealth, God divided land allotment equally among all families so they would have equal opportunity to provide for their own needs and the needs of the less fortunate. He also made a provision so that the most unfortunate among them would have their property restored to them every 7 years during Jubilee, giving them a fresh and equal start with all others.
From each Israelite’s abundance, provision was made for the needs of the less fortunate. Unlike misapplications by churches today, the tithe was used to provide for the needs of the “have nots” during ritual feasts and daily provisions.
Deuteronomy 14:28, 29
28 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns,
29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
In many churches today tithing by the wealthy is almost a reprieve for ignoring all the warnings against greed and love of needy neighbors. Unlike the law provisions, the tithe is often misused for financing the institutional needs for buildings, program budgets and paid professionals. The real culprit sited in Malachi 3 needs to be identified, not as the person who does not tithe, but as to the abused application of any such giving.
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings.
9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.
10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty.
12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.
While the tithe was God’s plan to ensure that the needy did not go hungry, it is largely used today to oil the machinery of the institutional church while many go away needy.
Rather than tithing, the early apostles modelled joyful giving among those that were in need and were not restricted to certain percentages of income. For more on NT giving, visit the "This Little Piggy Went to Market" blog on this website.
Jesus’ plan for corporate provision is for those with abundance to share with those in need. This is but one facet of the “one anothering” in the New Testament. How can one say that he or she loves his or her neighbor when they surround themselves with all sorts of toys and affluence when there are those near them who go without the basic necessities of life? This is not a call to financing welfare, but a call to extending all the feature of family to those without the security of loving family.