Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tomorrow is Not a Given

The magnificent Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC
     More than one family has been divided over who gets the largest inheritance.   It happened in my family and sadly it has brought some relationships to a dead end.  That is not how families are supposed to work, and well meaning parents put certain terms in their will thinking their children will work it out in harmony.  Rarely is there any agreement when it comes to an inheritance,  but Jesus took time to explain what is really important for us all to live by.
     In Luke 12:13-14, a man asked the Lord to help him with the family inheritance:  "Someone in the crowd said to Him, 'Teacher tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.'  But He said to him, 'Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?'"  When Jesus received the request of this fellow, He declined because He knew what was in the heart of this man.  The rule for inheritance according to Deuteronomy 21:17 was to take the matter to the rabbis to decide if there was a dispute.  In the case of this man in the crowd, he merely wanted a decision in his favor not necessarily a just arbitration.  As a result Jesus told a parable to the crowd as a warning to their hearts.
     Luke 12:15-21 reads:  "And He said to them, 'Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.'  And he told them a parable saying, 'The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?'  And he said, 'I will do this:  I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'  But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared whose will they be?'  So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.'"
      This simple story told by our Lord has many implications for us today.  Most of us have seen the bumper sticker that reads, "The one with the most toys when he dies, wins!"  Yet, Jesus said that the opposite is really true.  On one hand, our Savior pointed out that covetousness was a sin because our lives consisted of more than mere possessions.  Having an accumulation of stuff that you cannot take with you after you die is really senseless.  This is why Jesus labeled the rich man a "fool".
     Instead of looking at the abundance he had and seeing that it was God who supplied it, the man in the parable only thought to build larger barns and sit back and relax.  His treasure was in earthly things. He was not rich towards God, nor did he praise Him for all he had been given.  This is the sad part of the story for God told him that his soul would be required of him that very night, and who would get all he had accumulated?
     No one is guaranteed tomorrow.  People put off salvation. " I will commit my life to Christ next time I hear an invitation."  Or they may work endless hours building up their portfolio while neglecting their family who is starving for their attention.  The question is, what if their soul is required of them tonight and there is no tomorrow?  All that time lost on work could have been spent drawing nearer to God and to our family.  Don't misunderstand.  It is good to work and to build a steady income to care for our loved ones, but never at the expense of relationship with God first and family second.
     What made the man foolish in the parable is that he left God out of the picture.  He failed to realize that his life was in God's hands not his own.  While he was planning his comfortable life on earth, he failed to plan for eternity and store up treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not consume them.  Furthermore, he could have shared what God had blessed him with to help those less fortunate than himself. Yet, this man did neither.
      We all need to remember that life is more than all the toys we can gather in a lifetime.  Jesus died for our souls not our material possessions.  When we leave this earth, we can take nothing with us.  Are we preparing our souls in light of eternity?  Are we longing for heaven and meeting God face to face?  If our future does not include the Lord over all creation, than we are as much a fool as the rich man in the parable.
     David said that our lives are like the grass that is here today and withers tomorrow.  Knowing this, we must keep our hearts from coveting what our neighbor has and spend time building our relationship with God and our fellow man.  Arguing over inheritance, fighting over goods and cutting off family members because we don't get what we want is not glorifying to God.  Let us be careful to hide our treasures in heaven where they will never fade away because tomorrow is not a given for any of us.  Selah!

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