You’ve probably heard of the board game Trivial Pursuit. But I also think “trivial pursuit” would be a good description of how a lot of people spend their lives today. They expend all their energies in the pursuit of things that are, in the end, really trivial. In the end, all that will be left is that which is eternal.
A number of years ago, U2 released an album called “All That You Can’t Leave Behind.” The fact is that when our lives come to an end, we’ll leave everything behind.
One day our lives on this earth will end, and the question will be this: How have we spent our existence? Will it have been on pursuing trivial things? Or, will we have laid up for ourselves treasures in Heaven?
That is what Jesus addressed when someone said to him, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me” (Luke 12:13 NLT). Talk about saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Jesus had been dealing with a very serious issue. He had just cast a demon out of a person, but the religious leaders alleged that Jesus actually had done this by the power of Satan. This caused Jesus to issue a very stern warning.
While all this was happening, a man apparently made his way up through the crowd, to the front, and blurted out his off-the-wall demand. Jesus used this as a springboard to talk about what the man’s real problem was. Jesus, being God, could look directly into his heart and clearly see this man’s greed. He was full of covetousness.
Jesus told him, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that? … Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own” (Luke 12:14–15 NLT).
Essentially Jesus was saying, “Who put me in charge of your problems? I’m not here to settle these petty disputes. You’re missing the big picture. In fact, when I look into your heart, I see what is really motivating you anyway. It’s greed.”
Jesus wasn’t interested in being Judge Judy for the day. He had other things to do, a more important mission to accomplish. Jesus used this as an opportunity to talk to his listeners about what ultimately matters in life. He told them a story about a rich man who had seriously misplaced priorities.
There are commendable things about the man. There was nothing wrong with the fact that he was so successful in farming that he had a bumper crop and needed bigger barns to house his harvest. The problem was that he gave no thought to God.
Jesus didn’t say the rich man did things through deceit or treachery or by taking advantage of others. The problem was that within his success, he didn’t think of God or of the needs of others at all.
It’s understandable when children don’t really plan for the future. But when people get into their 30s, 40s, 50s and certainly beyond, it’s foolish if they don’t plan for what’s ahead.
I’m amazed at how many people will take out every insurance policy available – life insurance, medical insurance, fire insurance, and so forth – but they won’t give a single thought to their eternal insurance and whether their lives are right with God.
The man in Jesus’ story went out and made some money. But those possessions were beginning to possess him. They were becoming more important to him than anything or anyone else. He was allowing greed and covetousness to ruin his life.
When John D. Rockefeller was the richest man in the world, someone reportedly asked him, “How much is enough?”
He replied, “Just a little bit more.”
That’s the perfect definition of someone who is filled with greed. In fact, the Bible portrays greed as a dividing line between righteous and evil people: “Some people are always greedy for more, but the godly love to give!” (Proverbs 21:26 NLT).
After pretty much having all this world could offer, King Solomon wisely concluded, “Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness!” (Ecclesiastes 5:10 NLT).
This is why the apostle Paul warned, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10 NLT).
This verse is often misquoted to say, “Money is the root of all evil.” No, the Bible says no such thing. Rather, it says the love of money is the root of all evil. It comes down to our attitudes.
Understand what the Bible is saying. It is not a sin to be successful in business or to make a good living. However, when we become obsessed with it, when we are willing to do whatever it takes to get there, when we find ourselves bending every effort to grasp it, when it becomes the most important thing in life, then that pursuit has taken the place of God in our lives.
The Bible warns that covetousness is idolatry. That greedy desire to have more actually can become a god in our lives and choke out spiritual growth.
Jesus was not condemning the practice of saving or preparing for the future. Nor was he condemning this man for providing for his family, assuming that he had one. This man’s problem was that he didn’t think about his spiritual future, and he didn’t rise to the responsibilities wealth can bring.
Everything we have in life has been given to us by God, including the breath we draw in our lungs.
Jesus said, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33 NLT).
God will take care of us if we keep our priorities right. And what should our priorities be? God should be first in all things.