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A Fool’s View of Things

Luke 12:18-20 - And he said, "This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, `Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.'" But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you prepared?"

Read Luke 12:16-21.

How do you like being called a fool? How would you like being called a fool because of the things you own? How would you like to be called a fool by God because of the things you own? Is it possible that God is calling you a fool right now?

One way we can find out if we qualify for God's "fool list" is to compare ourselves with the fool of Luke 12. God called him a fool simply because he had a wrong view of his things. If we view our things in the same way as the foolish man of Luke 12, then there is no question that God is looking in our direction, shaking his head and calling out, "Fool"!

What do we mean by "our things" anyway? Basically we mean our material possessions--our cars, our homes, our clothes, our VCR's, our furniture, our computers, our heirlooms, our collections, our sports equipment, etc., etc. Obviously, none of these things is evil in itself and the possession of these things does not automatically make one a fool. But the wrong view or attitude towards these things can get us into the fool category in no time.

The rich farmer in the parable of Luke 12 had more crops than his barns could handle. So he planned to build larger barns to store his grain and his other goods. What's wrong with that?! Sounds like good common sense. What's so foolish about protecting investments and planning ahead? Nothing is wrong or foolish with planning ahead if we have a biblical view of our things. The farmer's problem was not that he was blessed with an abundant harvest or that he owned many things or even that he built larger barns to preserve his possessions. Several Proverbs in the Bible indicate that such action is commendable! The farmer's problem was that he had the wrong attitude towards the things he owned. In what way was his view of things wrong, and how can we avoid being labeled a fool by God?

First of all, we observe that the rich farmer was not thankful for the things he owned. He never paused to thank the Lord for the blessing of an abundant harvest or for his possessions. Do we thank the Lord for the things we own or do we take them for granted? What about the time-saving and work-saving machines and appliances which we've been able to accumulate? With our high standard of living we have gotten to the point of actually feeling we ought to own these things. Because of these expectations we become unthankful so much of the time. Did we thank the Lord for our fans and air conditioners last summer, for example, or did we just complain about the heat?!

Maybe we possess some things which we're ashamed of and don't feel right about owning. If there is anything in our possession for which we cannot comfortably thank the Lord, then we should get rid of it--now! We should really only own things for which we can openly thank the Lord with clear consciences. In fact, a clear conscience is one of the best guidelines for our possession of material things--much better, incidentally, than the biased opinion of certain judgmental Christians who try to measure spirituality on the basis of what we do (or do not) own. At the same time, however, the viewpoint of the Christian community surrounding us concerning possessions does matter and can also be a helpful guideline to us. We need guidelines because it is very easy for us to become desensitized in this area and rationalize our possession of all kinds of things that we would be better off without. Thankfulness for the things we can own with a clear conscience is a sign of a wise Christian. Ingratitude is the sign of a fool.

Another mistake that the rich man made was that he did not recognize the source of his things. He actually thought that the source of all his stuff was his own effort. He looked at his things and himself and not atGod. Notice, in verses 17­19, the great emphasis on "I" and "my." Little did he realize and recognize the fact that he had received everything from God-- including his health and strength and mental capacity to plan for his selfish future as well as all his material possessions. Do we realize that everything we possess is God-given? First Corinthians 4:7 says, "What do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" Ultimately the source of everything we possess is God. We may think that we and our hard work are the sources of all that we own--but that is the way fools think. Whether it be things we earn like good grades or things we win like first place trophies or things we buy like sailboats or sailboards, all has been given to us by God. Only fools believe and boast that they themselves are the source of their intellectual or athletic talents and their abilities to work hard. Could any of us have been listed as fools recently?

A third problem with the rich fool's view was that he was placing his security in his things. He really believed that he would have many years of problem-free life because of what he had hoarded in his large barns (v19). How foolish! But are we not guilty of the same wrong view of things? Are we really trusting in the Lord for our security? Then why do we get so upset when the stockmarket falls? And why do we lose sleep when some of our things get lost or damaged through fire, flood, accident or theft? In Matthew 6:33 Jesus said that we should seek first the kingdom of God and then all the things that we really need would come to us. Do we really believe this biblical promise or just think that we believe it?

Trusting in the Lord, and not things, for our security does not mean that we have no concern at all for material things. As growing Christians we should be careful users and not careless squanderers or selfish hoarders of the things God has given us. Furthermore, trusting in the Lord does not mean that we are not to plan ahead. The implication of 2 Corinthians 12:14 is that we should consider the security of the next generation. Where does the dividing line come, then, between fools and responsible planners? Listen to the words of James 4:13­15. "Come now, you who say, `Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.' Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, `If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.'" The dividing line between foolish hoarding and wise planning is drawn on the ground of perspective. The fool says, "My life is in my own hands and therefore I will..." The wise person says, My life is in God's hands and therefore if the Lord wills, then I plan to..." How clearly drawn is this line in your life?

A fourth and final mistake that the fool of Luke 12 made was his priority on the selfish enjoyment of his things. Eating, drinking and making merry on Easy Street was the number one priority for this foolish soul (v19). His mistake was not his enjoyment of things but his selfish enjoyment of those things. The Bible assures us in 1 Timothy 6:17b that "God richly supplies us with all things to enjoy." But the Bible also teaches that selfish enjoyment of the things we possess is wrong. Notice, for example, the context of 1 Timothy 6:17. We are to focus on God and not our things (17a) and then generously share the things we enjoy with others (v18). This, by the way, is one of the secrets of enjoying the things we own. Of course, this does not mean that we are to share with every irresponsible free-loader that comes along. But certainly most of us could do a little more sharing of our things than we're presently doing--especially with those who are less fortunate than we are. The rich man of Luke 12 was unwilling to share his possessions with others. Rather than give some of his grain away to the needy, he stockpiled it away in warehouses. He was called a fool for his selfishness. Are we wise sharers or selfish fools?

Verse 21 states an unsettling truth. We are told that "anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God" will suffer the same fate as this foolish man. What could be worse than going into eternity with God's label of "Fool?" How much better to enter eternity as "rich toward God" because as growing Christians we had the right view of our things during this lifetime.
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