Sunday June 1, 2008 | Greg Boyd
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions."
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' “Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I'll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ' “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?' “This is how it will be with those who store up things for themselves but are not rich toward God."
Many times the modern American church views God as a judge or lawyer and the main goal of the church is to enforce certain rules. While God is the ultimate judge, he is also madly in love with humanity and wants to see everyone restored. If we look at how God has been extravagantly rich towards us, we begin to see what it means for us to be rich towards God and others.
A person from the crowd hears about all that Jesus has been doing: the miracles, the teachings, the unorthodox practices. He imagines that maybe Jesus can help him out and solve a dispute he has been having with his brother. Jesus refused claiming that He is not a judge. Then He warns against greed and tells a parable.
How like Jesus to respond so indirectly. In our culture, it has become acceptable to use Jesus to argue our preferences in social issues. People on both sides of an issue often claim that Jesus would support out stance on political or legal issues. And all the while, the power of the Kingdom message is being compromised because the modern church is claiming that Jesus is playing a role that He did not come to play. In response, we could
imagine Jesus saying to the modern church, “Do I look like your lawyer, or your judge, a politician or a “Caesar”? Did I ever do or say anything to suggest I wanted to gain political power? Did I ever utter one word about what Government should do? “
Have your opinions about what government should do, but don’t try to give your views more clout by attaching Jesus’ name to it. The only thing we can call “Christian” is what looks like Jesus, because Christian means Christ-like. One way of understanding that which is Christ-like is “being rich toward God, which is part of the parable Jesus tells in this passage. The rich farmer was blessed but horded his wealth instead of being rich toward God.
To understand how to be “rich toward God” we can ask how God is rich toward us because we are to be imitators of God. While we were yet sinners, God gave us the richest gift possible. He gave us Himself. But He didn’t stop there. He gives us Himself again when He sends His Holy Spirit into our hearts. He lavishes on us grace, transformation, wisdom, gifts, and healing. But He does not stop there. In Eph. 1 we see how He has blessed us with every spiritual
blessing. He’s freed us from the devil, seated us with Christ and given us an infinite rich inheritance. God gave us everything. He is a God who never goes half way. He didn’t spend His riches on himself. He spends them on us.
God calls us to reciprocate by being rich like that toward Him. When we do, it looks like Jesus. What God is after here is a lavish love affair. Doesn’t want a just get by salvation thing, He wants a love story, not a mediocre minimal love story but the greatest love story ever told. He wants an eternal dance that isn’t reserved, stingy, or minimal but a dance that is rich, abounding, opulent, extravagant, and spectacular. He seeks a dance that reflects the passion, ecstasy, fullness of love of the triune God. This is why we insult Jesus when we turn him into a lawyer, judge, politician, or nationalistic figure. It is so petty and ugly, when what God is after is so profoundly beautiful.
And this is why the rich farmer was called a fool.