Bigger Barns

Scripture: Luke 12:16-21
This talk is on life and its meaning. People who focus on laying up treasures for themselves put their salvation at risk. The parable of the rich man building bigger barns is about a man who didn't acknowledge God as the one from whom all blessings flow.
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Suppose that as Abraham Lincoln was finishing his Second Inaugural address and had just reached the lofty paragraph beginning, "With malice toward none, and charity for all," some persistent and rude office-seekers had interrupted him loudly demanding to be appointed to a position. Or, suppose that someone would interrupt an impressive sermon to a large congregation by clamoring for the deacons to show him to a better seat.

Well, with such situations in mind, we can realize the untimeliness, and the rudeness, of the man who interrupted a sermon of Jesus one day to demand that his brother be made to share the inheritance with him. Jesus had been speaking of the Holy Spirit, the sin against the Holy Spirit, and of the importance of faith in God. It was a discourse of rare beauty on trust. Jesus had just assured His disciples of the sure presence of God's Spirit with them.

There was one man in that congregation who obviously did not have his mind on the sermon. He was thinking rather of his own grievance. He felt himself defrauded and disinherited, and he was contesting his father's will. So as he listened to Jesus, the Divine Son of God, who spoke as never man spake, this man could think only of how he could use Christ for his own financial gain. "And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother that he divide the inheritance with me." Jesus had become somewhat used to interruptions, and it was not easy for anyone to throw Him off the track or entangle Him. So, refusing to pronounce on the justice of the claim or even to listen to it, He passed quickly to put His finger on the deeper evil from which the man was suffering, covetousness. "Take heed," He said, "and beware of covetousness for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." Then Christ proceeded to enforce that appeal with the telling of a story which very convincingly portrayed the supreme folly into which covetousness brings men. This was the circumstance that prompted the telling.

"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, Thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou has provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." Luke 12:16-21.

I would like to suggest that this man made four big mistakes which made him the fool that he was.

One. He was mistaken as to the true source of his wealth and prosperity. This man had received everything from God. The sun had been permitted to shine upon his land, for its rays fall on the just and the unjust. The showers of heaven descended on the evil and on the good. The Lord had caused his wheat to flourish, and the man's fields brought forth a bumper crop. His barns were bulging and full to overflowing, and he had no place to put the surplus of his harvest. But does he think of God, from whom all blessings flow? No, he can think of almost no one but himself. It is interesting to note that in these 46 Greek words the rich man referred to himself twelve times. The personal pronoun "I" occurs six times, and the words "my" or "thine" addressed to himself, are used six times. His very language showed him to be self-centered, selfish, egotistical, it was "My fruits, my goods, and my barns." Instead of gratitude, his success brought pride. Instead of faith in God, he put his confidence in things.

Now the Scriptures, and the Lord of Scripture, have a special title for such a self-sufficient individual. You will find it here in Psalms 14. "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God." If you had asked that rich farmer, "Do you believe there is a God?" He would doubtlessly have said, "I certainly do!" He might have given many reasons why he so believed, but all of his reasons would have been from his mind. When it came to his feelings, his heart, his actions, he had left God out. He lived as if there were no God, no heaven, no hereafter, as if everything he possessed were his own, and he owed nothing to God or man.

A very penetrating poem was written some years ago in which an old man, crowned with honors nobly earned, is pictured as asking a fair-haired youth what end in life he sought. The boy answered by stating his plans for his education; then he would be a lawyer; then he would be famous; then he would be rich; then he would retire as an honored sage, and pass the evenings of an honored life. But the old man gravely shook his head and said, "And when you have done all this, what then?" He said, "And then...and then..." And the boy ceased to speak. His eyes, abashed, fell downward to the sod. A silent tear dropped on each blooming cheek. The old man pointed silently to God and then laid his hand upon the drooping head. "Remember, there is a place beyond," he said. The young man was suddenly reminded that he had been planning his life, his success, his future, without God; but unlike the foolish farmer in our story, he saw in time the folly and emptiness of such a life. It is possible to believe in God in the head and with the mind, but to deny Him and forget Him in the heart and in the life.

Someone has suggested that the best index to a man's life, character, and thoughts of God may be found in looking at the stubs of his old check books. For what does he spend his money? Where does he bestow his goods? To whom does he give his money? Is God remembered in the monthly budget? Does God receive recognition through the giving of the tithes to Him? May I offer that question this morning as one of the practical acid tests as to just how cognizant we are of God as the source of our income and prosperity?

It isn't that God needs our tithes and our offerings. He could get along without them. "Our Father is rich in houses and lands. He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands." As the Psalmist says, "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." "Yes, the silver and gold is all mine saith the Lord." God doesn't need our money. He has asked for it because we need to give it. We need to give it and return the tithe for the good and enlargement of these selfish hearts of ours. We need to do this as a reminder to ourselves that all our blessings come from that Divine Source and that "It is he who giveth thee power to get wealth."

Two. Now, the second mistake this foolish rich man 4was made as to the true purpose and use of his wealth and superfluity. I say this because of two statements he made that gave him away and revealed his purely selfish motives. First of all, he "layeth up treasure for himself." Instead of a sense of obligation to his fellowmen, he thought only of his own pleasure and needs. He did not realize that God had made him a steward of his goods that he might help the needy. "Treasure for himself." The gospel of Christ is designed to take men's thoughts away from self and direct them upward toward God and outward toward their fellowmen.

Christ was not against the rich man, He was not opposed to his wealth, but He was concerned that the rich man understand the true purpose of wealth. (This concern was revealed when He told the rich young ruler to go and share his wealth with the poor and the needy.)

A recent editorial comment of a religious journal was entitled "What If...?" It began by asking the question, "Have you ever given much thought to the place of your birth?" It went on to say that if you were born into the world today, your chance of being born in this wonderful and prosperous land of America would be only one in twenty. Your chance of being born into a Christian home would be one in four. If you were born in Asia, your chance of surviving more than a year after birth would likewise be only one in four. If you were born into a family in Asia or Africa, your chance of learning to read would also be one in four. The odds are overwhelming that you would be sick all of your life from one or more diseases; intestinal parasites, tuberculosis, or malaria. You would probably work the land, have most of your harvest confiscated. You would be hungry much of the time, and in a year of famine would depend on grass, roots, or tree bark for food. This is the kind of life the vast majority who are being born today face.

The world in the time of this rich, but foolish, farmer was no better. There was poverty, and there was suffering and hunger. Yet he says, "I have not room where to bestow my goods." No room! We are assured that the situation of the poor hungry orphan, the widow, the suffering, and the afflicted was brought to this man's attention. There were many places where his goods might have been bestowed. But heedless and oblivious of the cries of the needy all about him, he said to his servants, "All right men, let's build some bigger barns."

Something fine and wholesome had died within this man long before that fateful night when his life was required. For to give is to live; to refuse to give is to die spiritually. This is a law of life that we can no more ignore than we can ignore the law of gravitation. Why is the Dead Sea dead? It is always getting, but never giving. That is deadly to a sea, but it is even more deadly to a human soul.

Three. The third mistake made by this foolish man in Christ's story was made as to the true way of being merry. Talking to himself one day he said, congratulating himself, "Oh, soul, thou has much goods laid up, take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." But merriness and happiness are not to be found alone in leisure, and eating, and drinking. The soul cannot live on corn, and wheat, and wine, and bread, and potatoes, and the fruit of the field. "Man cannot live by bread alone." The body may subsist on this kind of diet, but not the soul. "A man's life, a man's happiness," said Jesus in His introductory statement to this parable, "consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth."

Four. Now the fourth mistake our foolish friend made was as to the tenure of his life. "I have," he said, "much goods laid up for many years." He thought he would be around many years, but he had only one day left. The Divine decree was, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee."

It was Roger Williams who said, "The great certainty of life, is death. This in turn is surrounded by three uncertainties; the time; the place; and the manner." To these questions we do not have the answers. "The clock of life is wound but once. No man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop, at a late or early hour." It can be said in the truest sense that we are all living on borrowed time.

I ask you today, my friends, what are you doing with that portion of time which God has loaned to you? Are we living for Christ, and planning and building for today and tomorrow in the perspective of eternity?

When the final summons comes, and we have finished our earthly course, the questions God will ask will not be: How secure was his job? How much real estate did he own? How big was his bank account? But, was he faithful, was he true?

As wise and faithful stewards, therefore, of the time, and life, and means God has entrusted to us; let us so number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom and bring honor to Christ with all that we have and with all that we are.

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