13Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14But Jesus said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And Jesus said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
Reflection: And Jesus said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
There’s a line in the 1980s Crowded House song Don’t Dream It’s Over (later rerecorded by Sixpence None the Richer) that says, “My possessions are causing me suspicion…” I’ve been in a season lately in which my heart is echoing this sentiment. We hold in tension the goodness of creation – and, by extension, the very appropriate appreciation of the material realities God created for our enjoyment – and the dangers of greed. Possessions are not, in and of themselves, evil. And yet, we can become possessed by our possessions.
When Richard Foster writes about the Christian discipline of simplicity in his book, Celebration of Discipline, he challenges us to reexamine the whole concept of “possession.” “Simplicity,” he writes, “is freedom” (p. 79). However, he cautions us to remember that “simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life-style…To attempt to arrange an outward life-style of simplicity without the inward reality leads to deadly legalism” (pp. 79-80). One way he counsels us to cultivate that inner experience of simplicity is through “learn[ing] to enjoy things without owning them” (p. 93). He likens ownership to an unhealthy need to control, whereas what ends up happening is we get controlled by the things we think we control.
Jesus recognizes the controlling nature of greed and he desires to free us from such control. I’ve been noticing lately that the less I desire materially, the more I desire God and the good gifts of relationships God has blessed me with. After all, we cannot own God or own people – we can simply share in their existence and love. That is what we were made for. Think about the creation narrative. God did not create the first human and surround him with a bank full of gold or a barn full of possessions. God surrounded him with a garden to tend, animals to enjoy, a woman to love, and God’s own presence to enjoy. What more could we need?
Journaling Focus: Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”
We all want to leave a little something monetarily for our children and grandchildren when we die. But more importantly is what we leave them as a spiritual and relational inheritance. Consider those who have left you such an inheritance. What did they leave that shaped you for the good? How can you continue their legacy by leaving such an inheritance for others? There are so many things that will last longer than money – may God use our lives to leave legacies that will not run out!
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (sometimes in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
Explore: If you would like to explore the Scripture more deeply, go to our Exploring Scripture page!
Listen to the song, Seek Ye First. Notice how the words of this song are taken directly from Scripture. We are reminded to desire God above all things. What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Prayer Focus: Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.’
In his song My One Thing, Rich Mullins sings, “Everybody I know says they need just one thing. And what they really mean is that they need just one thing more.” Pray for contentment. Ask God to satisfy your heart with what you have. Remember these words of Paul from Philippians 4:11-13, and let them guide your prayers: “Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Meditation Focus: “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
Look at the picture of the barn above. If this represented your life, what would be inside of it and the silo beside it? Consider what you are storing up in your life: are you storing up kindness or envy, monetary wealth or peace and contentment, love or self-centeredness? Meditate and reflect on what God’s desires are for you. What might you remove from your inner storehouse? What might God bring in? Listen for God’s voice and trust that he will fill you with good things.
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it is Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- What am I desiring?
- How am I being called to give?
- In what ways have I been called to sacrifice?
- What does God desire for me?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Take inventory! Look around your house and notice what fills it. What do your possessions say about what you value and treasure? Ask God to guide your “inventory.” What does God think about your possessions? What does God want you to treasure?
Breath Prayer: LORD God, free us from greed.