Christ offers us a way to be happy by trusting and becoming rich toward God. Click here to read the Luke 12:12-21.


Leo Tolstoy understood this passage very well. He wrote a short story titled, “How Much Land Does a Man Require?” It is about a Russian peasant named Pahom. He hears his wife and her sister talking about town life versus farm life. Pahom thinks, “If I had enough land, I wouldn’t even fear the devil.” Well, he didn’t know that the devil was listening.

Pahom works on a farming commune but becomes very aggravated and territorial with his land. This causes arguments, so he eventually moves and strikes success. He amasses a small fortune, but is that enough for him? No.

He buys and trades land, always upgrading, and then one day he is told of a family named the Bashkirs who are simple-minded and have a lot of land. Well, he’s proven that he is business smart, so he goes to them thinking that he will come out on top.

He talks with the Bashkirs and they are open to a land deal, but this is not a common deal. They will sell land to him for 1,000 rubles. How much land? They said that he could walk around as much land as he wanted. He just needed to mark his path with a spade AND he had to get back to where he started by sunset. All of the land within his path would be his. If he doesn’t, he loses his 1,000 rubles.

This is his big break, to finally get enough.

That night he went to sleep and he had a dream in which he is lying dead at the feet of the devil and the devil is laughing.

Pahom starts out excitedly and he goes all day, marking the land as he goes. He can just picture what his new life will be like. He looks up and notices the sun is about to set and that he is far away from his starting point. This utopian dream is about to vanish! His heart races and the adrenaline is pumping. He finally arrives just as the sun is setting and the family Bashkirs cheer for his excellent work.

But, exhausted from the day’s work and the frantic run, Pahom drops dead. The servants bury him in a grave that is only six feet long. That’s how much land a man requires.

To our passage. The man in the parable is not a fool for owning a business. He is not a fool for making a profit. He is not a fool for saving money. He’s not a fool for thinking about his long-term financial situation. He is a fool because he lacks charity. He has a full barn and an empty heart. The harvest was healthy; his heart was sick.

There are a few points of irony in the parable. He thinks he is thinking of the long-term (I’ll have plenty as I age), but Jesus teaches that our life goes beyond our lifetime. He calculates his surplus but does not think of giving an account of his life to God.

He has a lot of product that has value, yet he lacks the values of charity and generosity.

He has a narrow perspective. He already had enough! His other barns were full. Instead of putting the grain on the market, he withholds it so he can get a better price. He doesn’t care about how his actions affect others.

His perspective is siloed; it’s so tiny. It’s about me and my financial freedom, but in his quest for financial freedom, he thinks he is free from dependence upon God.

It doesn’t see the enough he already has.

As he stood on the edge of his property and he saw the men reaping what he had sown, he rejoiced. Now, soul, you can be happy, the harvesters are finished. Yet, that night another reaper came and took him from this earth.

Jesus then says, “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

It’s sad, isn’t it? To spend 30, 40, or 50 years working and then say, “Now I can be happy.” But Christ offers us a way to be happy as we are working and reaping and that is through becoming rich toward God.

First, this story was prompted by a man who stood among a crowd and said, “Rabbi, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” What does Jesus see that we don’t?

In Deuteronomy 21 and in first-century Palestine, the firstborn son received a double portion of the inheritance. The firstborn also decided whether to keep the estate together in one piece or to divide it among the brothers. In this instance, this asker’s brother would receive 2/3rds and the younger brother would receive 1/3. It appears the old brother has decided to keep the estate whole instead of sub-dividing between the two of them. The younger brother wants to divide the estate.

Jesus knows human ambitions can go haywire, he knows that this young brother (who likely has enough already) is obsessed with getting wealthier and wealthier and wants to receive a status equal or greater than his brother. There seems to be underlying jealousy and envy.

You’ve heard me say that salvation is multi-faceted. Jesus is trying to save the younger brother because he thinks if he just had more he would be free. He is imprisoned by greed.

Manfred Kets de Vries, writes about Leadership and Organizational Development and works with a lot of ambitious and successful CEOs. Some of the CEOs make tens of millions a year. One might think that is enough, but de Vries noticed that some of them are imprisoned by greed.

In his article titled Greed Syndrome, de Vries writes about the warning signs of greed. He writes that people who are in the grip of greed think about three people: me, me, me. They are overly self-centered.

Envy, he says, is the twin of greed. Greed wants more and more and envy wants more and more of what others have. They think that by virtue of just being themselves that they deserve more than anyone else. They are never satsified.

Those in the grip of greed do not have a concern for the feelings and thoughts of others.

He goes on to say, that in order for a person to be liberated from greed, it often takes them crashing and burning in their private or professional life. Then and only then will they think, “I have contributed to this. I need to change.”

Let’s hear what De Vries says will liberate a person from greed.

De Vries writes: This requires people to take an inner journey that is often uncomfortable as they uncover their insatiable desire for more and more wealth. And then they also need to become acquainted with other values other than value, things like love, intimacy, unconditional acceptance, and meaningful relationships.

If only God had thought of that! First, Jesus, then Tolstoy, then De Vries! And now us.

Greed gives you a siloed perspective. You don’t see the whole of what you have. Greed blinds you to blessings. Greed increases your appetite for more and more. Greed endangers your relationships.

Christ can help us get in touch with that part of us that is out of control. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God liberates us from what holds us captive.


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