Many years ago I listened as a perspicacious teacher led his class through a study of The Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21). Following a few introductory remarks and explanatory comments, he asked rhetorically, “Do you know what this guy’s real problem was?” In reply he stated, “He was suffering from an “I” problem! And I don’t mean an E-Y-E problem!” Let’s read this parable with special emphasis and see if we don’t note the same thing.
The Parable of the Rich Fool
13Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
14Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
16And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘
20“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?’
21“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:13-21)
The Problem with us is me…
We have a tendency to act the same way, don’t we? We do so in many aspects of our lives. How many marital problems stem from selfishness? How often are congregational crises pertaining to worship styles really nothing more than the clash of personalities and personal preferences? How often do we become testy and troubled when we don’t get our way? How much of the current mentality of consumer-driven-church-shopping, which has yielded the phenomenon of swollen mega-churches, is the direct result of efforts to market Christianity to those whose primary question is: What’s in it for me?
In a recent conversation with a dear brother in Christ we were talking about the beautiful thing God has done by bringing so many people with such varied backgrounds and experiences into the body of Christ. I asked, “God has done such a beautiful thing! Why do we keep messing it up?” Without hesitation he replied, “Because we are selfish.”
Take a good look at me…
While going through some old files the other day, I found a poem which prompted me to reflect on this subject. Like so many things like this the author is “unknown”. I don’t think it was Maya Angelou, though. Still, it does carry a good message. See if you don’t agree:
It is my endeavor, to be patient and kind,
When I see imperfection in a brother of mine,
For I see in myself much room to improve;
As I search my own heart and watch every move.
I want to forbear and forbearance I need,
And don’t judge me harshly, your mercy I plead.
Expect not from others that thing you can’t do
And do unto others as if unto you.
If you can’t conform to the Bible, my brother,
It’s useless to try to conform then, another.
We can’t always sell, for sometimes we must buy;
For it is not always you, but often it is I.
The moral of this story, I’m sure you can see:
Before you judge others, take a good look at me.
It will save you much trouble on your way to the sky,
If often you judge the fellow called “I”.
May God help us…
Granted, some of the questions with which we wrestle are tied directly to our times. However, there isn’t anything new about the challenge of honoring others above ourselves, fundamentally. First century Christians struggled with this, as have all people through the ages. Jesus came into the world to show us a better way. He stated that the he had not come to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45). It was with this sort of thought in mind that the Spirit led Paul to write the following:
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:1-8)
May God help us all to become more like Jesus and help others to do the same!
© Bill Williams
October 18, 2007