GREED – THE SENTENCE OF DEATH
Jesus told His disciples three stories to illustrate what God thinks of and how He will treat those who consume their wealth on themselves and ignore the needs of others, and to warn them against doing what these people did.
- The parable of the rich fool – the danger of hoarding
The first warning comes in the form of a parable about a prosperous farmer whose ground produced such an abundant crop that he had no room to store it all. Instead of sharing his wealth with the needy, he decided to hoard his harvest so that he would not have to work hard for years to come. He did not think of getting in on God’s current of supply by giving to others; he chose to keep it all to himself so that he could take it easy.
God called him a fool – one who knew what the right thing was but didn’t do it. His decision to hoard cost him his life, and he could take nothing with him. No treasure in heaven for him and no heart in heaven because his heart was in the barns with his grain.
This was not only his fate, but will also be the fate of those who are not “rich towards God.” God considers generosity towards others the same as being rich towards Himself.
The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.’ (Matt. 25: 40)
In this instance, as with the other two parables, it is not so much that the farmer was selfish but that selfishness was a way of life. Therefore, his very reaction to his newly-acquired prosperity was an indication that he was not walking in the way of Yahweh. He was off in the wilderness, making his own rules and living his own way. The outcome was inevitable for him – destruction.
- The parable of the rich man and Lazarus – the danger of indifference
First of all let me remind you again that good works cannot save us. We are saved from our sin by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus – bottom line. However, as we have already emphasised, generosity is the overflow of a heart that understands the measure of God’s mercy and reciprocates by showing mercy to others.
Jesus’s second warning comes in a series of stories He told the Pharisees who nit-picked about His hobnobbing with the down-and-outs of society. His parables highlighted how out-of-line their attitude of holier-than-thou was – parables about the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son (Luke 15: 1-32) and the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16: 19-31).
The latter story was a warning to the people, and especially to the Pharisees who enjoyed their bounty with no thought for the forgotten people who were right on their doorstep. The rich man did not receive a rap over the knuckles for ignoring Lazarus. He landed in the torment of the fire and there was no escape. To make his torment even worse, he had to watch Lazarus, the forgotten beggar, now enjoying the bounty and comfort of heaven while he could not escape the memory of his neglect.
As with the first parable, this story illustrated the fact that the rich man was on the wrong path. Had he been walking in God’s way, he would have provided for the beggar, not neglected him because Lazarus’ presence would have been a landmark on his journey to Zion.
- The parable of the sheep and the goats – the danger of walking on the wrong path
The setting of this story is the end of the age – “when the Son of Man comes in His glory and all the angels with Him” (Matt. 25: 31). This is about national and individual judgment. All the nations of the earth will be gathered before Him and He will separate the people, one by one, into two categories – righteous and unrighteous, sheep and goats.
Let’s go back for a moment, to the Hebraic understanding of “righteous” and “unrighteous”. This is much more than just about those who did good deeds and those who did not. This is about the righteous – the tsadiyq, i.e., those who stay on the path, and the unrighteous – the rasha, i.e., those who have wandered off the path, chosen to go their own way and are in danger of dying in the wilderness.
This is much more than about random acts of kindness or neglect. This is about a way of life that depends on where a person is walking. If we are on the path, walking in the way of Yahweh according to the light of His word, then the landmarks we encounter on the way, the needy people who are Jesus in disguise, give us opportunity to show mercy as we steadily walk the path towards Zion. Even if we do not recognise the face of Jesus in them, we minister to them anyway because it is a way of life.
The ones who have gone off the path and have chosen to live their own way, are oblivious of the needy people around them and they miss Jesus in them because they are far too concerned about keeping themselves alive.
The issue on Judgment Day will be: On which path were you walking? If you were on the way of Yahweh, you would have ministered to the needy as your way of life because you walked on the path lit by God’s Word. Whether you knew it or not, you would have been ministering to Jesus every time you fed or clothed someone, or took care of the sick or the prisoner. This would be the commendation from the King on that day. “You had the true spirit of Torah because you showed mercy.” You ministered to Jesus even though you did not recognise His face in the faces of those to whom you showed mercy.
Those who chose to walk the wrong path would find, in the end that their destination was not what they expected. The King would not accept the excuse that they did not know it was He they were neglecting when they ignored the needs of the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned. Their destination was the logical end of their chosen way of life.
As we journey together, we are learning, step by step, that everything Jesus was and taught points to the weightiest part of God’s character. Is it any wonder then that David concluded, at the end of his most famous psalm – Psalm 23 – that God’s goodness and mercy would follow him, like two faithful dogs, for the rest of his life, until he reached his final destination – Father’s house – where he would make his home forever? That’s who God is.
The prophet Micah realised that what God desires most from His people is not rivers of blood or rivers of oil or even the sacrifice of their children.
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Mic. 6: 8)
For God, how we handle our money and possessions is the crucial test of our love – God or Mammon, because whom we love we will serve.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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