“Be on your guard…a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
One of my all-time favorite moments in the life of Jesus was when a man in the crowd asked Him: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me” (Luke 12:13).
I have always thought that if I had one chance to talk with Jesus, getting more money for me might not be the best topic to choose. But nevertheless, the guy in the crowd was ticked that he hadn’t gotten his full share; and instead of taking the opportunity to go deep with Jesus, he could only think of how deep his pockets would be if Jesus would put the hammer to his brother.
As usual, Jesus took the opportunity to teach about the real essence of life and true riches. He replied, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).
Which reminds me of one of my all-time favorite non-Bible stories.
A young investor stood looking out into the cool Gulf waters on the end of pier in a small coastal Mexican village. Having spent the last several months working hard toward gaining his securities license, he left for a few days of sun-soaked pleasure in Western Mexico. As the sun sank into the pale horizon, a single fisherman docked his boat along the far side of the pier. The young Wall Street banker walked over to the boat and saw several large yellow fin tuna gasping for air. The young executive complimented the tanned fisherman, a wise-eyed, weathered man, on the quality of his fish and asked how long it had taken to bring in the catch.
“Not long at all,” the fisherman replied.
“Well, why not stay out longer and catch more fish?” the young New Yorker asked smiling.
“I have enough for today,” said the fisherman, “this is what I need to feed my family.”
“What do you do with the rest of your time?” the young man asked curiously.
“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, and stroll into the village each evening where I enjoy some wine and laughter with friends. It’s a full and happy life,” the fisherman replied.
“Well, I’m a Harvard MBA and have just completed my investment securities training. I could help you. You could spend more time fishing and with the proceeds from the larger catch, buy a bigger boat. Then you could catch even more fish. With those profits you could buy several more boats and hire captains to fish for you, and eventually you could open your own cannery. Then you would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal village and move to Mexico City or LA or even New York where you could run your expanding enterprise.”
“How long would that all take?” asked the somewhat bewildered fisherman.
“Fifteen, maybe twenty years, max.”
“But then what?”
“Well, when the time was right, you could announce your IPO, sell your company stock to the public, and become very rich. You could be worth millions,” retorted the proud young investor.
“Millions? Then what?”
“Then you could retire and move to a small coastal village like this one where you could sleep late, fish a little in the morning, play with your grandkids, take a siesta, and enjoy wine and music with your friends in the evening.”
The fisherman grinned, tipped his hat at the young advisor, and shook his head as he walked off the pier without a reply.
When Jesus finished His warning about the emptiness of a life that is driven by greed, He told the story of a rich man who built bigger barns to hold all his stuff. To the surprise of His audience, Jesus called him a fool, not because he had lots of stuff but because he had lots of stuff and was not rich toward God!
Which makes me wonder, if you had one shot at talking to Jesus, would you want Him to make you rich, or would you want Him to lead you in the prosperous pursuit of becoming rich toward God?
- Whose work ethic more closely resembles yours—the village fisherman’s or the New Yorker’s?
- Would you rather be rich by the world’s standards or rich toward God? How are you proving the accuracy of your answer by the way that you spend your time and attention?
- Just for fun, put yourself in the shoes of the man in the crowd. If you could go up to Jesus and ask one question, what would it be?