A Completely Different Outlook

Christ challenges us to have a completely different outlook about our lives compared to the world around us:

“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things…Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matt 6:31-34)

Here we are instructed to “take no thought.” The Greek, merimnao, means “not to be anxious or troubled with the cares of, to look out for a thing, or to seek to promote one’s interests, or to provide for.” Why? Because God knows what we need and will provide. Do not be anxious over “the morrow,” is literally, ‘the morning breeze, the breeze of the next day.’ Don’t worry about the winds that will blow on the following day—all that we can deal with is what is going on today.

This way of thinking runs completely counter to what the world would have us think: “for after all these things do the Gentiles seek.” We must realize we are being challenged to have a different outlook than the Gentiles. They “seek” for these things; they crave for them; they focus on them and demand and clamor for them. The whole world revolves around the pursuit of the very things Christ tells us not to worry about. This lesson is highlighted in the situation Christ was faced with regarding the brother who wanted him to sort out the issue of inheritance:

“And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” (Luke 12:13-15)

Christ instructs us to “take heed” and “beware.” We are to be like guards, on the lookout at all times because the danger to be avoided is covetousness—a word that simply means “the greedy desire to have more; avarice.” Christ tells us that life is about more than just the “abundance” of things we possess. There are basic needs that must be met; and then there is striving for abundance and excess, a desire to have far more than is required. Covetousness is a plague in our consumer-led society, and Paul equates it with idolatry in Colossians 3:5.

The parable of the rich fool

Christ then gives a parable to illustrate the point:

“And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” (Luke 12:16-19)

Notice in the parable, the man is already rich. He has an abundance. The ground has brought forth “plentifully” or “constantly.” It is the land that has made him rich; in other words his blessings have come from God. The man deliberates with himself about what to do with the blessings that God has given him. There is no thought for the poor, there is no thought for his neighbors, he only thinks about where he can “bestow” his goods. He is condemned in his own conclusion. He decided that he will “take his ease,” a phrase that means “to relax, to cease from any movement or labor, to give one’s self rest.” In addition to this, he will eat, drink and be merry. This is his career goal—which sounds pretty much like most Western society retirement plans. They are geared toward self-indulgence, metered by the volume of wealth accumulated.

The end of the matter is clear: there comes a point where the measure of one’s life is not the tally of their accumulated goods:

“But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:20-21)

For the disciple, the goal must be different. We cannot become “fools” like this man who accumulates wealth, only to please himself by relaxing. Remember the words of the Apostle Paul in Hebrews 4:9-11 where he exhorted us to labor to enter into God’s rest. The word literally means “a keeping of sabbath, a rest from toils and troubles.” The sabbath of the Old Testament was a rest from personal labors, not a rest from the work of God.

The Israelites were to remember the sabbath day (Exod 20:8-11) by bringing it to the forefront of their mind. The origin of the word “remember” in the Hebrew comes from the idea “to prick or pierce,” hence the concept of pricking the conscience, and meditating on something. They were to remember it by keeping it holy, that is, to dedicate it to God. They were not to do “their work,” but God’s. This was Christ’s way of life who said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:4-5).

Returning to Paul’s words in Hebrews 4, we are exhorted to “labour” to enter into that rest. The Greek word signifies “to exert oneself, give diligence, be active and zealous, be in haste and earnest.” These are not words that describe relaxing. Remember the faithful of old: Moses began his work at age 80; Joshua was around 70; Caleb fought his giant well into his 80s; Daniel was faced with the lion’s den when Darius took over from Belshazzar, after 70 years of captivity when he was around 90 years old. There is no retirement this side of the kingdom. We have been purchased by the precious blood of Christ and are to be his servants until the end (1 Cor 6:19-20).

Whatever plans we might have, they are all subject to the will of God. We may plan all kinds of rest and relaxation for ourselves, and work our whole lives to achieve a measure of ease and comfort, but God dictates the course we will take:

“But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:20)

We cannot afford to be senseless and irrational fools. This man’s life was God’s and God required it back (cp Eccl 12:7).

The rich man had provided for every future eventuality, yet the preparations would not be for himself. His life and his goods both came from God and he had forgotten that. We need to be careful not to forget where our lives and all our resources come from in our planning. Our lives are very fragile and fleeting; like a morning vapor soon dissipating before the heat (James 4:13-17).

The planning we all do, where we will reside, and what we will do to “buy and sell and get gain” are not really in our own control. The phrase “buy and sell” in James 4:13 is a Greek word from whence we derive our word “emporium” and literally means “to travel for business, to traffic and to trade.” We are exhorted by James not to rejoice and boast in that. How can we brag of our own power and resources when everything we have comes from God? Yet we all get caught up in this.

The moral of the parable is clearly stated at the end:

“So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21)

If we are busy accumulating wealth for ourselves and not for use in the Master’s service we are not being rich toward God. We need to pick carefully where we invest our time and effort and resources. We need to trust in the living God, not in uncertain riches, using the blessings of God by being rich in faithful works, laying up in store for ourselves a good foundation against the time to come, when we will lay hold on eternal life (1 Tim 6:17-19).