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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10.30 am service, 2001-06-10

Text: Luke 12:15-21

It is a joy and privilege once again to be able to bring the Word of God to all of you. The text for our message today is the well-known parable that Jesus told, usually entitled the Rich Fool. In this parable there was a rich man who had such an abundant harvest that he planned to demolish his barns and build bigger ones to accommodate all his harvests. Then he gloated over his wealth intending to enjoy himself for the rest of his life. But God took his life that very night. 

The parable is very useful to us here in Singapore because it addresses the prevailing trend of our society - a society that is focused on materialism. Many people here have got so used to the affluence that is being enjoyed that it has become a way of life. I am sure all of us know more than one person who is caught up in this pursuit - even the younger generation aspire to own branded items, and develop expensive tastes for the luxuries of life. Sometimes we too feel very much drawn to follow this trend. It is therefore good for us to be reminded about what our values and attitudes to material wealth should be. 

I would like us to focus our attention on just one verse in this passage, v.21 'So is he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.' There are at least two important things we can learn from this verse: 

A. How To Regard Material Wealth 

Firstly, we learn what is the wrong way to regard our material wealth. Wealth is not to be regarded as treasure that is laid up for ourselves. We must not look at money and material things as precious, valuable treasures, but rather as the things that are needed to keep ourselves alive and reasonably comfortable, like our daily food, clothing, and a roof over our heads.

And whatever things God provides for us is all that we really need in life (1 Timothy 6:6-8). This is not the same as all that we want in life. Having all that we need means: Having a simple lifestyle. God's Word in 1 Timothy 6:8 recommends this 'Having food and raiment let us therewith be content.' With such a lifestyle, there will be no need to lay up treasures for ourselves on earth. We will not be rich, but we will also not be poor. 

One who maintains a simple lifestyle will not be lacking the basic necessities in life. But someone will ask: What if God provides us with more than what we need? 

This is where the Christian's problem often begins, for this is where we will be tempted like the Rich Fool to say, 'Well, I am so happy to have more than I need now, so I will increase my capacity to accomodate all this additional wealth!' Dear friends, it is a sad phenomenon that in many developed countries, many Christians who are blessed materially with more than they will ever need in this life, use this as an opportunity to upgrade their lifestyle in order to accommodate all that additional wealth. All those extra blessings are kept all for themselves. 

And so we come back to the question, if God would bless us (like He did to the Rich Fool in the parable) with more material wealth than what we need, what should we do with them? Listen carefully to this: 

We should regard whatever material blessings that are given us beyond our necessities as additional wealth that can be contributed more generously to help others, and to support the Lord's work. This is the way that a Christian should regard all his material wealth on earth. Those who choose to lay up all that extra wealth for themselves may be rich in the eyes of the world, but in the sight of God they are all poor fools! How pathetic it is to see them living in self-delusion, accumulating and hoarding things that are not true riches at all! 

B. How to Be Rich Toward God 

Now that we have seen the way that we should regard material wealth, we go on to consider what kind of riches we should seek. How does one become rich toward God? The Bible gives at least five ways:

I. Be Rich in Love 

If you are rich in love, you will not be covetous. This is because covetousness is directly opposed to God's greatest commandment: The commandment to love. Covetousness is only interested in getting; love is always interested in giving. A covetous person often gives very sparingly and grudgingly to help others because he has no love. Let us see this in two verses: 1 Thessalonians 3:12 'And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you'

1 Timothy 6:17,18 'Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;'

Dear friends, do you have this kind of riches? If you find that you are lacking in love for others, if the balance in your 'bank account' of love is very low, make every effort to have more love. Build up a good, abundant supply of love, and then build up a wealth of good works. Treasure up every opportunity you have to show God's love and to do good to others. Besides love, another kind of wealth that God regards as true riches is Faith.

II. Be Rich in Faith 

We see this in James 2:5 'Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?' How radically different is God's way of looking at things from the world! Although you may be the poorest person on earth materially, without a single cent to your name, this verse says that if you are rich in faith, you are a great in His sight.

What does it mean to be rich in faith? A person who is rich in faith puts his full trust in God. He depends upon the Lord for all that he needs, not only for his physical needs, but also for his need for wisdom, direction, and power to live and to serve. He is a dedicated follower of the Lord, going wherever the Lord leads and doing whatever the Lord wants Him to do.

There are several people in the scriptures who were rich in faith. Let us look at some of them: One of them was the Canaanite woman who kept pleading with Christ to deliver her daughter, not even minding to regarded as a dog eating crumbs that fall from the masters' table. She was rich in faith, as Jesus said in Matthew 15:28 'Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.'

Another one who was rich in faith was a Roman centurion who requested Christ to heal his son without even having to come to his house. In Matthew 8:10 Jesus said, 'When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.'

We can imagine that if the Lord would publish His own version of 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous' it would be very, very different from what the world promotes. It would read like Hebrews chapter 11 - the heroes of faith!

Dear friends, are you rich in faith? If you look into your bank balance of faith and find that it is very low, what should you do? Do what a father of a child in Mark 9:24 did, he prayed, 'Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.' Do what the Lord's disciples did in Luke 17:5, when they said to Him, 'Increase our faith.' Look unto Jesus, who is the author and finisher of your faith. We go on now to consider a third way to be rich toward God, and that is to be:

III. Be Rich in the Knowledge of God 

There are at least two verses of scripture that tell us to be rich in the knowledge of God. The first is: Colossians 1:10 'That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God'

The other verse is 2 Peter 3:18 'But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.' According to Jeremiah 9:24, the only thing that God permits man to glory in is in knowing God 'Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.' 

How can we become rich in the knowledge of God? I think that the answer is obvious: By reading God's Word, and by spending time with God in prayer. Let us build up a wealth of knowledge - not the kind of knowledge that we are now being encouraged by our government to have to become a 'knowledge-based economy.' But to be wealthy in the knowledge of God. And because there is so much to be known about God, the riches of this knowledge is unfathomable. 

Listen to what the apostle Paul said in Romans 11:33 'O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!' Let us look at another kind of riches that we should get:

IV. Be Rich in Life 

Do you know that Jesus came for the purpose of making us rich in life? He said in John 10:10 'I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.' Now when we speak of the abundant life, we are not talking about quantitative abundance, for that would mean longer life. Of course we know that Jesus gives us eternal life. By means of His death on the cross for us, He has given us life eternal. But eternal life would not be worthwhile if we are going to be miserable for eternity. What we need is quality rather than quantity.

So what Christ was talking about in this verse is qualititative abundance: Life that is not empty but filled with fullness, life that is not futile but fulfilling, life that is meaningful, joyful and satisfying. How do we measure the abundant life? I would like to suggest that the answer to this is found in what the apostle wrote in the book of Philippians: Let me read some of these verses to you - Philippians 1:21 'For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.' 

3:8 'Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,' 4:4 'Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice.' 4:13 'I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.' Can you see what terms the apostle Paul used to measure the abundant life? It is in the deep-seated joy that Christ gives to our hearts, the empowerment He gives to live for Him, and the intimate knowledge of Christ, and the development of Christlikeness in our life. Jesus Christ lived the most perfect and abundant life anyone ever lived. Therefore when our lives are fully conformed to His, we will have and experience the abundant life. 

To live abundantly therefore means to live for Christ and with Christ, a life that derives all its joy, power and love from the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore the abundant life is measured in terms of the involvement of Christ in our life. This is the Bible's definition of a life that is truly blessed and fulfilled. Dearly beloved, are you experiencing the abundant life? I trust that we will all seek to have this abundant life. And all of us can have it as long as we have Christ. We have already considered four kinds of riches that God recognizes - love, faith, the knowledge of God and life. We now come to the fifth and final kind of riches we should strive for:

V. Rich in the Work of the Lord 

This is stated in 1 Corinthians 15:58 'Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.' Let us abound in the work of the Lord, especially as we live closer and closer to the time of the Lord's return. 

In order to be rich in works of the Lord we must invest our time, talents and treasures in God's kingdom, as God's Word commands us, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.' (Matthew 6:33) In Colossians 3:1,2 we find a similar commandment: 'Seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.' 

Let us not just sit back and let the time go by, but fill every day and every moment with something useful done for the Lord. There are many things to be done. There are souls to be saved, saints to be built, edified and challenged to serve God. The harvest is plenteous, and the labourers are still few. Perhaps the Lord may want you to heed the words that he spoke to one rich young ruler (Mark 10:21) 'One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.' Are you willing to give up your earthly riches to follow Christ, and let Him use your life to the fullest to do the work of the Lord.

Dear friends, the conclusion of this message is: to be rich toward God is to live your life not for yourself, but for God. It is to live a consecrated life motivated by loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. As we come to the end of this message, let us have this thought: You need to make a choice, concerning what you are going to do with your life: Do you want to be rich in God's sight or to be fools in God's sight? If you choose to be like the rich man in this parable and strive to become rich in the sight of this world and make plans to lay up goods that you may enjoy for many years in this life, then you will become fools to God.

But if you choose to plan your life expecting to die at any time, and make provisions now for the life you will have after death, by consecrating your life to God, then you will become rich toward God, even though the world may call you a fool. In short, do you want to be Rich to the world but a Fool to God, or Rich to God but a Fool to the world? Which one will you choose? Please choose well.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25