February 20 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 12)

Submitted by Sunny K. of Gracepoint Austin Church

Luke 12:15 

  • If a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions, what does it consist of?

What Jesus says is so true! This is so true in our world, where even superstars, people at the “top of their game” regularly make headlines about their overdependence on substance abuse/alcohol/various addictions to placate the deep longings, emptiness felt even they have achieved so much materially. I remember even as a non-Christian I knew what Jesus said was true because I witnessed people around me whose lives were out of control. This led me to become spiritually curious 20 years ago to find answers to questions, such as, if a man’s life/worth/purpose was not to achieve greatness in this lifetime as evidenced by so many discontent, lost people imprisoned by their own wealth, what was it then? What was the point of life if not to amass much wealth?

Jesus says that a man’s life/worth/purpose is in being rich towards God – to pursue being in a relationship with God, and once I did, it’s taken a long time (and in fact, I think it will take my entire lifetime) to really unpack the weightiness and value of what being in a relationship with God means and is all about. It’s been more substantive, fuller, more beautiful, more personal, more exciting, more thrilling, more satisfying than any other relationship I’ve ever had. After being in a relationship with God all these years – I can testify to the truthfulness of Jesus’ words here – that I’m ever more convicted than when I first became a Christian, that the purpose of my life, of any human life is to relate with and have a wonderful relationship with God. That is ultimately what life is about. To pursue Him, to do His will, to love others as He does, to be burdened and broken by what breaks Him in this world, to utilize everything I’ve been given towards this effort. This is the goal of my life now.

Luke 12:16-21 

  • What can we learn about the nature of greed from this parable?

One thing that struck me about the nature of greed is the narrowing effect it has; how greed pushes out anyone else from occupying space in your world. By nature, greed has only one winner and “space” for one person to secure the most in the abundance of their possessions.  Greed doesn’t allow for two people to occupy that space. Hence, what happens when people trust in the abundance of their wealth and the pursuit of it – they begin to mistrust the motives of others and shut themselves off to anyone else around them. The nature of greed is to achieve a world of pre-eminence, where only one person remains. It’s scary to actually write it out – to think of what in the end will satiate our greed. It’s when all other potential competitors or threats are eliminated, are obliterated from our lives, our world. Genesis 4 and Cain/Abel come to mind–how Cain could not be satisfied until the threat of his own brother was no longer. I am frightened at what my greed – unless I deal with it head on every time it enters into my heart/mind – can compel me to do when left unbridled. So, every opportunity God exposes my greed, I commit to deal with it each and every time before it has a chance to gain momentum in my life.

  • Count the number of times the words “I” and “my” appear in this passage.  What does this reveal about this man?

The number of times these words appeared in this passage is 10 times. What this reveals about this man is that he sought advice, guidance and wisdom from no one outside of himself. This is another effect of greed because you end up not trusting anyone other than yourself and you become your own source of wisdom. This man evaluated his great crop and then, committed his first mistake – he immediately thought of how to preserve, how to hoard it all up for only his benefit. He thought of no one else, he saw no one else, other farmers who might be struggling and how they could benefit from this good crop. Again, the narrowing effect greed has upon a person’s life and perspective. It’s downhill from that point on. You could hear it almost in his voice–the excitement he feels as he discusses his plans with himself–of building bigger and bigger barns to store crop for his own enjoyment, for his own security. What a sad, tragic picture of a human life!  He is deluded about reality and misjudges how to best handle this abundance.  He doesn’t think about possibility of crop rotting, catching on fire, or being blown away by a storm because he has allowed no one to speak into his life to alert him to such frailty and reality. There is an overconfidence he has that assumes life will go his way as it has up to this point and he will continue to amass what he has thus far. I meet people like this quite often. They have had some success in life and rather than those successes causing them to feel more vulnerable to the reality of their own frailty and finiteness, they just assume life will continue on as it has up to this point. They are not open to discussion of such topics of their own mortality of who is God and what He has to say about their life, etc. It saddens me because I see this downhill spiral of their greed really deluding them to such a point where they no longer have an accurate read of reality. Who is controlling who in this passage? Is this man really in control of his wealth and possessions OR is it other way around and he is being controlled by his greed of great wealth and abundance? I think it is the latter.

  • What made the man feel so confident and secure?  On what basis do people (do you) feel confident and secure?

What made the man feel so confident and secure was the fact that he had produced a good crop and there was a lot of it. He had an overabundance of crop. What about me? For me – that crop used to be seeing a large number of people coming out to our church. I remember for a while this was what I placed my confidence and security in–how many people I had in my small group and how many people were getting saved. And while that did provide some amount of confidence about myself as a minister, of what we were doing as our church, but over time, I learned not to place confidence/security in such things anymore, as ministry got more challenging and I learned that growth in numbers is not always linked to increased spiritual hunger or due to something spiritual always happening. I knew there were other factors that played into growth as well. And so, I’ve learned to place my security and confidence in something far more solid and firm and unchanging – which has been my standing as a child of God. I think also through seeing more and more of what a sinner I am, I have little confidence in myself and realize everything I touch is so tainted by my sin. Thus, I remain amazed at God’s love and promise of forgiveness in my life. These facts have fueled my confidence and security as a Christian, as a minister, as a mother, a wife, friend, etc.

Submitted by Maurice C. from Gracepoint Austin Church

Luke 12:16-21   

  • What can we learn about the nature of greed from this parable?

One thing we can learn is that greed has a spiraling effect. The man begins to talk to himself – epitomizing the selfishness and self-regard that is characteristic of greed–concern only for the self. And he experiences his abundance of crops as a concern, because he can’t find a place to put it, let alone use it all. It doesn’t enter his mind that he could possibly use it to help others. And as he continues to talk to himself, he exacerbates the greed issue: he decides the only solution is to accommodate himself all the more, to amass for himself all the more, and provide the means to get more and more by building bigger barns. And what will he do if his subsequent crop is even bigger? Tear down his barns and build even bigger ones. The cycle will never end, because greed will cause him to want to build upon himself and himself alone, over and over, piling crop upon crop. And this is true to our experience of greed. Once we get caught up in something, whatever it is – amassing clothes, video games, gadgets, money, whatever it is that strikes our fancy – we want more and more. The old ones are no longer sufficient. We see others with something nicer or newer and we want it. It’s precisely because of this self-directed, self-affirming, self-perpetuating cycle as illustrated here.

So, greed makes one utterly self-directed, and oblivious to others, and how one could bless others with the things one amasses. It has a self-perpetuating characteristic. But it is also deceptive – because in his greed, he thought he would experience happiness for many years, he thought that he material possessions guarded against all possible harm in the future. But he didn’t bank on the fact that his days were numbered. He didn’t anticipate the fact that his life could end that very night. And no matter who we are, no matter when we are fated to die, no amount of money or possessions can guard against that, period. But this man’s greed and amassing of goods made him falsely think that he was protected from it. I’ve experienced this. In the pursuit of whatever interest, hobby, whatever stand-in for crops that our greed and desire to pursuit our own agenda that makes us be self-directed and uninterested in God and others, the very act of pursuit itself gives me a false sense that if I just get whatever the object of my pursuit is, I’ll experience happiness, fulfillment. And so as I pursue it, I fall victim to the inherent deception of greed and avarice that nothing else matters. It blinds me to the fact that there are more important issues at hand. Like my spiritual condition, whether I am aware of God or not, whether I am treating others like I ought to be.

  • Count the number of times the words “I” and “my” appear in this passage.  What does this reveal about this man?

It shows his self-absorption, it shows his level of self-deception – because he doesn’t consult God’s opinion, he doesn’t care about what God wants for his life, how God had intended him to live. He doesn’t care about others who might be able to use the surplus crops he has. He contentedly lives in his own little bubble with his own thoughts and self-affirmation – which would be fine except for one thing that he in fact does not know everything, that he in fact does not have power and control over his own life. And so he deludes himself and cuts himself off from the One who actually does know the full picture of what’s going on, from the One who gave him the very means to grow those crops in the first place. This danger of self-affirmation, I encounter as I think about my character. In my own mind, analyzing the things I say and do by myself, I am too lenient on myself.  I think I’m fine most of the time. Because I have a self-affirming bias. I give myself leeway. I don’t know how my words or actions affect others. I don’t have a natural sense of how God views it all. Hence we need the church, hence we need to allow others to be a mirror to ourselves, as well as to go to the Bible and allow God’s Word to convict us, to be unafraid to identify ourselves in the different portraits found there. And even if that process of allowing others and God’s Word to be a mirror to ourselves is painful, it is better than the alternative – to be so deluded about reality and our condition and end up having a rude awakening like the rich fool. I recently had a chance to get a raw and honest look at some aspects of my character, through talking with my leaders and one of my peers. It was painful, but in the end I was grateful for it because ultimately, anything that brings me closer to reality, is a blessing. Not only this, an accurate picture of myself is something that I can almost guarantee I cannot provide myself. It is the nature of sin; it is the nature of pride. The man in this parable was going to affirm himself to death. But if I allow others to speak into my life, if I am willing to take the Bible’s Words at face value, I can be saved from the fate of the rich fool.

  • What made the man feel so confident and secure?  On what basis do people (do you) feel confident and secure?

The man felt secure because of material possessions, and the promise they held of securing his future with wealth and protection from lack. I sometimes feel secure if I’m able to dispatch my duties at work, church, and get it all done – basically, trusting in my own (supposed) competence, thinking that it can get me through life, ignoring the fact that I am weak and frail and so contingent upon God and others’ help and grace. I’ve seen others bank on their looks and the attention it brings and doors it opens; still others might bank on their youth and life however they want, thinking that their youthfulness will last forever. I’ve seen some people rely on their smarts and education to make them feel secure, not just physically, but even making them feel like they are “special” people because of it, greater in some way than the common man. I guess people can end up feeling confident and secure in any number of things – and while some may be more popular than others, in the end they are all equally foolish, because they each do not factor in God and the finality of our impending death.

  • What does it mean to be rich towards God?

it is the definition of lordship – to put him first, in our time, in matters of money, in every area of our life. We can consider our resources as something that can be “spent” – time spent reading the Bible and in prayer, money used for God’s work and for others, mental and emotional energy spent for God and his concerns – and to be rich toward God is to “spend” those resources lavishly upon Him and what he cares about. To be willing to give him the best parts of what we have. To prioritize our relationship with him. To not be richer to anyone or anything else in our lives than Him.

  • In what ways can I be rich towards God?

I can be rich toward God by spending more time reading the Bible, in meditation upon his Word, and in prayer. Making myself available for people, not just in terms of time, but also in terms of openness of heart, willingness to hear them out, to care about what they are going through, and not being stingy with my heart and emotions and caring only about what’s going on in my own life. The thing is that to be rich toward God is also going to bless my own self – because it is part of storing up treasures in heaven rather than on earth, because it grows our relationship with God as we build into it with acts of devotion and love, which even if done in secret, God sees and knows (Matthew 6).

PERSONAL PRAYER                                                           

Dear Lord, thank you for not sending Jesus as a judge of our lives, but as our rescuer from our sins. Having been given the gift of salvation, help me never to value any other thing or person more than you – I commit to trying to be aware of and fighting against the different ways I can be self-concerned and “greedy” – materially, with my time, with my emotional resources. Because that path is a path of blindness, of self-destructive self-affirmation. But you are a God of mercy, you give us the warning via this parable to be wary of living a life closed-off from you and your concerns. Lord, I commit to being rich toward you, and toward those whom you love (all of humanity), specifically in the area of placing others before me and becoming servant-like. I know I have a long way to go on this, and that too often I am emotionally closed off and inward-directed. I want to let that go – and there isn’t even anything to let go there, because in being “rich to myself” in this area, I am actually robbing myself of genuine fellowship with you and others – and experience the blessing that comes from being rich toward you, because you are a generous and merciful God who not only created this world and myself in the first place, but who wants to also bless us with true blessing.

Submitted by Debbie F. from Gracepoint Austin Church

This man is so typical of how people view God.  Rather than viewing God properly, the man views God, not as the Master of his life and of all creation, but as a cosmic bellhop, who should go fetch his slippers so that he can be more comfortable.  He sees God as responsible for getting him what he wants, which is typically security in this world.  To this, Jesus responds, essentially, “who do you think I am?”  This is the grand question I need to answer, and one thing that needs to be very clear is that God is NOT there to spoil me in this lifetime, because this lifetime will only end in death.  Rather, God knows what I really need, which are the things of God that last forever.  But even more than that, God, though he certainly does promise to be there for me, is not merely there FOR me.  He is the owner of my life, the Lord over all that I am and have, and my question cannot be, “Lord, what can you give me?” but “Lord, what may I give you?”  He is, in fact, Lord.

“What shall I do?… “This is what I’ll do.”

  • This man bounces his ideas off of himself.  He is his own reference.   When it comes to how I should live my life, the best reference is the one who designed life in the beginning.  My prayer ought be like the psalmist’s like in Psalm 25 “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior…”  To even start with heeding this parable of Jesus, to “Watch out!” and “Be on [my] guard against all kinds of greed,” and recognize that my “life does not consist in the abundance of [my] possessions” is where I can start.  God is teaching me to not heed the advice of the rest of the world which insists that accumulations of wealth is the way to live, but to rather be rich towards God.

Bigger barns, plenty of goods, many years.

Confidence, security, judgment.

  • What are these things that the man is striving after?   He says to watch out for greed, for seeing your life as consisting of an abundance of possessions.  It’s the fact that the man had defined his life by what he owned, and placed his hope, his confidence, his security upon these things that, in the end, is a house of cards.  It doesn’t actually take too much to pull this rug out from under your feet.  That’s what makes the man utterly foolish.
  • This world sees living a life of greed as being so prudent.  I need to build a bigger home, I need to store my grain and my goods, and accumulate until I can sit back and relax, be secure with the “plenty of good things laid up for many years.”  This is what everyone wants, and hopes will afford happiness.  But this life’s pursuit is the most deceptive.  To live for an accumulation of wealth and goods quickly enslaves, as there’s always more to have.  Though you may actually have enough, you look across the street and see someone who seems more comfortable, you look across the room and see someone who seems to happily have more, and what should have been enough to satisfy ends up being too little, but you don’t realize that everyone is comparing what they’ve got to everyone else.  All it takes is looking at a child: my child could be given a cookie, which she didn’t have before, for which she could be grateful; it’s the fact that the other child has two cookies that makes her miserable.
  • What does Jesus say with regards to greed?  Watch out!  Be on your guard against it!  This is a strong warning, because greed is so deceptive.  Jesus has to spell it out for us, because we just don’t get it, or we have such a hard time believing it.  “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  But so many of us actually think that it does.  We’ve all bought into this idea that the more we have, the more secure we’ll be, and thus the merrier we’ll be.  Every single advertisement out there is out to convince us of that.
  • Jesus clearly states that this is utter folly, this is the perspective of a fool.  I need to be able to see it just as Jesus sees it. To live to increase your abundance of possessions is a waste of a life.  It’s a never-ending pursuit, a chasing after the wind, and it’s a foundation of sand.  Before death, which comes to everyone, it’s useless.
  • Jesus says, “Watch out, be on your guard!” because greed also blinds you to things of greater importance which Jesus again spells out as richness toward God.  In his parable, the man is blinded to the fact of his mortality, of his death, of the eternity that he will soon have to face, and of a God who will take account of his life (Hebrews 4:13 Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account).  His perspective has led to tragedy, because he believed what the world told him, that he needs to take care of himself and secure himself plenty in this world, he found that the world could do nothing about his death.  He spent his whole life trying to find security but he died anyway, and found out, too late, that he completely missed the point of life.
  • So what is the warning for me?  “Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed!  A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of _____.”  What is that _____ for me?  The ____ that I think that I’m poorer for it, if I have any less of it?  Time is probably one of the most precious commodities for me.  I can still be greedy about my time, time to have alone, time with my family, time to read books in a comfortable chair, time for more sleep, time to go on a relaxing trip out into nature.  Again, these aren’t bad things, but when I start thinking that my life consists in the abundance of “my own time,” I will start to look suspiciously at anyone or anything that threatens it.  People who are greedy about their time are ugly people.

Rich toward God.

  • Instead, I want to be rich (with my time, for one) toward God. What makes Jesus so beautiful?  His time was given to God, he lived his life according to God’s timing, and that timing was to give himself fully for the world, to heal as many people as he could touch, to love as many people who would receive him, to teach crowds of thousands or a roomful of disciples, and to suffer and die to save us all.  There wasn’t a minute that he hoarded.  Sure, he sought rest with his friends, some personal time in prayer early in the morning, but he so easily allowed interruptions of these times, as he saw the interrupters as sheep without a shepherd, harassed and helpless, and he responded with compassion and generosity of his time and heart.
  • I need to be rich in my relationship with God, which is eternal.  This is by far the wisest investment.  To spend my life knowing God more and more deeply, personally.  Knowing more about what He values, what He cares about, what He detests, what He grieves over.  To do this, I must invest more time in His word, allowing each page of the Bible to fill my thoughts, transform my attitude and perspective, correct my worldly and deceived ways of thinking, and see life through God’s perspective.  I need to read His word, memorize it, mull over it, discuss it with others, try it out in my life and become more convicted of its truth.
  • I need to be rich in my communion with God, and see that my times of prayer are more valuable than the things I can accomplish in a certain day.  My times of listening for that gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit (1 Kings 19), times of being still that I may know that He is God (Ps 46:10).
  • I need to be rich with my resources toward God, knowing that all I have is His to begin with, since I am not my own, I was bought at a price (1 Cor 6).  My home is God’s home, my money is God’s money, my food is God’s food, my time is God’s time, so I’m to use it, spend it, share it as God would.
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