Sin is especially seen in selfishness. As we worship and magnify self, God and our neighbor are pushed out of our lives. Thus they are not loved, and love is the fulfillment of the law. Jesus thus warns in Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 12:13-21), ““Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness…” Our self-worshiping lovelessness is clearly detected by the evidence of our covetous (greedy) hearts.
At first glance the parable of the wealthy farmer seems to have little meaning. Every farmer wants his land to be productive, as was the case for the man in the parable. There is nothing inherently wrong with being wealthy; faithful Abraham and faithful Job are examples of wealthy Christians. Additionally there is nothing wrong with building larger barns and there is nothing wrong with storing one’s goods in such barns. It is not necessarily wrong to “eat, drink and be merry”, for this can even be something wonderful (Eccl. 8:15; Luke 15:23).
To understand the parable the context must be observed. Preceding the parable Jesus states, “…one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Thus the parable teaches how easily one can be caught up in the wrong-headed thinking that life does consist in “my” possessions. After the parable Jesus explains, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” From the parable we realize that to be “rich toward God” does not mean having all kinds of money and things. Being “rich toward God” foundationally means having faith and trust in God. Thus the man Jesus was rich toward God, having perfect faith/trust in the providence of His God and Father. Such faith culminated in Jesus giving up all his possessions—even his life—ultimately dying on the cross. Christians realize Christ did this to earn forgiveness—even for our sins of covetousness. We are now “rich toward God” when we have (as a gift) a Christ-like faith/trust in God, with such trust in God including a repentant faith, a faith that, upon confessing sin, receives the forgiveness earned by Christ.
A second aspect of being “rich toward God” consists in our God-generated love for our neighbor. The Lord Jesus had this wealth beyond measure as He gave His life as a ransom for even His enemies. The wealthy farmer in the parable had none of this wealth; he was only rich toward self. Jesus shows the omission of the farmer’s love toward his neighbor as He repeatedly uses the little word “my” in the parable. The farmer confesses self: “my crops” “my barns” “my grain” “my goods”. Both faith in God the provider and the resultant love toward neighbor are absent in the “me-centered” rich man of the parable. This lovelessness toward the neighbor is also conveyed by the little word “all”. In his new barn the wealthy farmer says, “I will store all my grain and my goods.” None of his wealth will go to his neighbor; it’s all mine!
Appropriately Jesus follows the parable with statements summarizing being “rich toward God”. He first describes faith/trust in God the provider, climaxing with the salvation promise: “Fear not, little flock, for it is our Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Secondly the Lord Jesus describes our love toward our neighbor: “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.” May the Spirit grant us grace to be “rich toward God”, trusting His temporal and eternal providence in Christ, and loving our neighbor with our God-given wealth.