And then He turns the picture!
(J.C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Luke" 1858)
"He told them this parable: The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops!' Then he said, 'This is what I will do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to myself: You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy — eat, drink and be merry!'
But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
This is how it will be with anyone who stores up treasure for himself — but is not rich toward God." Luke 12:16-21
Let us mark in these verses — what a withering exposure our Lord makes of the folly of worldly-mindedness. He draws the picture of a rich man of the world, whose mind is wholly set on earthly things. He paints him scheming and planning about his property, as if he was master of his own life, and had but to say, "I will do a thing" — and it would be done.
And then He turns the picture — and shows us God requiring the worldling's soul, and asking the heart-searching question, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?"
"Folly," he bids us to learn — nothing less than "folly," is the right word by which to describe the conduct of the man who thinks of nothing but his money. The man who "stores up treasure for himself — but is not rich toward God" — is the man whom God declares to be a fool!
It is a solemn thought, that the character which Jesus brings before us in this parable, is far from being uncommon. Thousands in every age of the world have lived continually doing the very things which are here condemned! Thousands are doing them at this very day! They are laying up treasure upon earth — and thinking of nothing but how to increase it. They are continually adding to their hoards, as if they were to enjoy them forever — and as if there was no death, no judgment, and no world to come!
And yet these are the men who are called clever, and prudent and wise! These are the men who are commended, and flattered and held up to admiration! Truly the Lord does not see, as man sees! The Lord declares that rich men who live only for this world, are utter fools!
Let us pray for rich men. Their souls are in great danger!
"Heaven," said a great man on his death-bed, "is a place to which few kings and rich men come."
Even when converted, the rich carry a great weight, and run the race to Heaven under great disadvantages. The possession of money has a most hardening effect upon the conscience. We never know what we may do — if we were to become rich. "The love of money is the root of all evil. While some have coveted after it, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." 1 Timothy 6:10
Poverty has many disadvantages — but riches destroy far more souls than poverty!