The idea that we’re to store treasure in heaven sounds a bit abstract. A bit odd. We find it much easier to think of treasure as something solid and visible.
But in these verses you’re given a different perspective on your own life and your own possessions.
The passage falls into two parts. In the first part, Jesus is speaking generally to the gathered crowd – so that’s very much for you, whether you consider yourself a Christian or not. He gives us the parable of the rich fool.
The second part was to his disciples, so that even those with a heart for God need to think about what it means to store treasure in heaven.
Be rich toward God (13-21)
Last time we looked at the end of Luke 11 and start of Luke 12. Jesus was speaking about religious hypocrisy:
- Beware any kind of religion that’s just for show.
- Also beware religion that’s all about works (religious stuff you have to do for God) rather than God’s grace to you.
- And we thought about the dangers that every Christian faces, and how none of us acts with perfect integrity (which is why we need to learn to forgive one another so much).
Given that that’s what Jesus has been speaking about, you might wish you’d been there to ask some questions yourself: You might want to ask Jesus about the Bible, or spiritual things. But Read Luke 12:13.
- Really? You’d ask him that?
- Rather than eternal matters or spiritual insight?
The exact situation that prompts the man’s question doesn’t matter. Jesus answers him with correction:
Read Luke 12:14-15.
- Jesus wasn’t going to arbitrate on stuff like that.
- He has come to bring salvation to humanity!
His answer is to give a powerful proverb: “…one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.”
- Most of us would agree, in principle.
- It’s sometimes said that the most important things in life aren’t things.
But even so, we don’t actually live that out in society or in private.
- If you ask how are we doing as a country we find things measured financially: The economy shrank; interest rates are up; inflation is high; GDP is… etc.
- We don’t have measures for fairness, justice, kindness, compassion.
- At a personal level, our lives are full of things. Just ask anyone who’s ever moved house. We’re all laden.
Wealth or greed?
Is it wrong to have lots of things? Is wealth bad? Jesus doesn’t say that. He says, Watch out and be on guard against all greed.
When I was analysing products and business functions in my old job, I often used to start by “following the money”.
- What does this company sell and who pays for it?
- What does this company buy and where do they get it?
- What are the big costs within the company internally?
You can do something like that in your own life. Think about where your money comes from and where does it go? What does that say about you and your motives? Do you feel you have enough? How much would you like?
Jesus told a parable to highlight what it looks like to get it wrong.
A rich fool
Read Luke 12:16-20.
His actions aren’t morally wrong. But his motives are. Follow the money. Where does it all end up? At the rich man. Read Luke 12:21.
- He stored up treasure for himself.
- He might have been satisfied as he was (already rich).
- Or he might have been generous (a food bank?).
- But he chose to be selfish.
Jesus told you that parable to highlight something important for you to grasp: You don’t only exist in this life. You will die, and then you will face God.
Someone might have asked the rich man’s solicitor, “How much did he leave?” The answer: “All of it.”
Follow the money: He worked for more and more income all the benefit of which stopped at him. 100% selfish. And within a moment, he’s standing before God with neither riches nor poverty.
- When you stand before God it won’t matter if you’ve been rich or poor in this life.
- Remember, “one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.” But God will demand an account of your actions and motivations.
It needs to be said that wealth isn’t a sin. There were plenty of rich and godly people in the Bible.
You yourself might have savings, a pension pot, investments.
The real question is why?
- Are you saving up for yourself? For your own peace and security?
- Are you planning an easy life – to take it easy, eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.
- That is absolutely the goal and sales pitch of most retirement plans.
- You can build all that up – and lose it all in an instant.
Read Luke 12:21 again.
How can you be “rich toward God”? That’s the question, isn’t it? It’s not about money. It’s worth much more than that.
King Charles was heir to the throne of the United Kingdom. That gave him wealth and status beyond our experience. But when you become a Christian, you become an heir of the kingdom of heaven.
- Hebrews 1:2 In these last days, [God] has spoken to us by his Son. God has appointed him heir of all things and made the universe through him.
- Titus 3:7 having been justified by his grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life
- Romans 8:16-17 16 The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ
- James 2:5 Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?
Rich toward God
How can you be rich toward God?
- By God’s grace! He calls you to come in repentance and faith.
- Trust his promise to forgive and accept you.
- Call on him, and he will save you. In fact, God will adopt you. You become a child. And, as a child, an heir.
You don’t need to work hard to be rich toward God. He stands, ready to shower heaven’s splendour on you. Just ask. Your worldly possessions don’t define you. Your heart does.
God will forgive you, and welcome you, and call you to an eternal inheritance of joy with him… if you just ask.
Live kingdom life now (22-34)
That parable was spoken to the general crowd (v13). But next, Jesus has teaching specifically for his disciples – to Christians, those who’ve repented of sin and are following Jesus. You’re eternally secure and rich towards God (by his grace!), but you’re still living here in this world of ‘things’.
The truth is, we still need things, don’t we?
We can see that wealth won’t last and we can’t take it with us, but we do still need food and clothing at least, don’t we? Read Luke 12:22-23.
Life is more than food and the body is more than clothing. He then speaks about how God feeds the wild birds and clothes the wild flowers. And since God is your Father, he cares for you more than he does birds and flowers.
Read Luke 12:24-26.
- Worry won’t feed you or make you live longer (quite possible the opposite).
Read Luke 12:27-28.
- Again, why worry.
- In fact, worry is a sign of faithlessness. Like Israelites in the wilderness worrying about a lack of water
- – they lacked faith that God would care for them.
Which sounds all well and good, until you’re skint, hungry, or cold. And bad things do happen to God’s people. We’ll come back to that in a minute.
Jesus is drawing a distinction between how God’s people are to be and what marks the unbelieving world: Read Luke 12:29-30.
Remember that at that time Jesus was speaking entirely to Jews so the “Gentile world” was the unbelieving world. Without God, the pursuit of worldly wealth and happiness is all people have. It defines all their values and culture.
- But Jesus says, “your Father knows you need them.”
- But the pursuit of those things is not to define your values and culture. God’s people have different priorities.
Seek God’s kingdom
Read Luke 12:31-32.
How do you seek God’s kingdom?
- Certainly, you seek to enter it. You come to Christ in repentance and faith, forgiveness of sin, adoption.
- And you seek to grow it – by speaking of Christ to others.
- You’ll seek to honour the kingdom by serving the king – a holiness of life, serving God.
And as you seek this kingdom, will God answer? Yes: “Your Father delights to give you the kingdom.”
What could bring delight to God? You, by seeking his kingdom! And if it’s his delight to give you his kingdom as an heir with Christ, will he withhold anything else you might need?
But we need to be careful, because our sinful hearts will always mis-hear things towards our sinful advantage!
- You are not being encouraged to give up diligence in your daily life, or your work, or your schoolwork, etc.
- Rather, you are to prioritise your life and values first around God’s kingdom; these other things matter, and doing them well is to serve the kingdom itself.
- Also, God is not promising you wealth here.
- “Seek his kingdom, and these things will be provided for you” is at the level of food and clothing.
- God has not promised you a car or a mobile phone.
- If that sounds a bit minimal, be very careful in case you judge “basic necessities” by our modern, western worldly standards.
God has lavished his kingdom on you by his grace and for his own pleasure. It’s his delight to do so.
He will surely also provide for you the basics of life for your good. For your eternal good.
So we might ask a few prickly questions:
- What about Christians in war zones? What about Christians in Eritrea, North Korea, Afghanistan?
- Even the apostle Paul had times of hunger.
- Some of the disciples Jesus spoke these words to would themselves end up in prison, even be executed.
Firstly, Jesus clearly wasn’t speaking into those situations. He was speaking into normal life for you and me and many millions of Christians down the centuries. We need to get priorities of the kingdom in our lives.
But for those who suffer persecution and maltreatment, Christ is with them.
- They remain co-heirs with him, and they will be forever rich in the kingdom of heaven.
- They, more than us, know that to live is Christ.
Jesus has final words for us: Read Luke 12:33-34.
- He’s not telling you to sell all your possessions.
- But you do have too many, so sell some and give to the poor!
- It’s a kind of currency exchange, a money transfer.
- If you were moving to another country you’d need to change your pounds into the currency of that country.
- So what if you’re a citizen of heaven, soon to be there for all eternity?
- Can you build a heavenly portfolio in heaven’s currency?
- Sort of. It’s just picture language.
- But by good works here, using your money and possessions to do good, it’s as if you’re building up an account in heaven.
Remember, these words are to Jesus’ disciples: You don’t get to heaven by any good works, only by repentance of sin, faith in Christ, and his gracious forgiveness.
- But as his people you’re then expected to live with that eternal perspective.
- Follow your money. Is your treasure being stacked up for a nice retirement, a big holiday, or a rainy day?
- Or is it doing good in the kingdom of God, being transferred into the currency of heaven?
- For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Read Luke 12:31-34 again.