13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
In 2002, a West Virginia construction worker named Jack Whittaker won the $314 million Powerball lottery. At the time it was the largest ever won by a single individual. At first this seemed like such a good thing. Jack began showering gifts on people, large gifts. He bought a house for, Brenda, the nice woman in the convenience store who had sold him the ticket. But things soon went south. His only granddaughter lost all her friends as she realized they were all angling for a piece of her grandfather’s money. As Brenda would later say, “Money brings out the ugly in people.”
A man approached Jesus because he was looking for someone who would get him what he considered his fair share of the inheritance. Jesus refused. Instead, Jesus went straight for motive behind the man’s question. Jesus was not so interested in the justice of the division of the inheritance as He was in the man himself. He tells the man and us this little parable of a rich fool who finally has achieved his financial goals but does not know that in that very night he will die, and all his possessions will go to another.
Our culture swamps us with the idea that money will solve our problems. Jesus points out that life is lived right now. Yes, money is a tool which can be used to do good, but life is lived right now. The fool in the story had apparently delayed his days of joy. He would not see them, and his great wealth would go to another. Within two years Jack’s whole world had been ruined in large part due to his sudden influx of wealth. His precious granddaughter was dead of an overdose, his marriage and reputation had been destroyed, and most of the money was gone. The construction business which he had worked so hard to build was crashing.
Jesus enjoins us to another wealth than that which the world desires, he calls us to be rich toward God. That sort of wealth blesses us whether we have much or little. It lets us enjoy the simple or the sophisticated as gifts from God. Such wealth lets us lay down in death content that the One who has blessed us will bless us still.