And He said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Luke 12: 15-21
When my doctor first called me into his office to explain I had cancer, my honest, first reaction was, “Good.” I didn’t say it out loud, but I remember feeling a sense of relief that a master plan for my family’s provision was suddenly coming together. Our retirement nest egg could always be larger and, at age 55, here was a shot for “total security” by actually dying before my life insurance policy expired. In a flash, I pieced together the lifestyle benefits for my wife and three daughters. I actually felt financially successful.
I’ve shared this story several times and, in most cases, men related to my sentiments. But women, without exception, remained horrified by my rationale. The women were right. My thinking, though common to men, was twisted and had all the markings of idol worship and reliance on false gods to meet some of the deepest needs in my life. I gave my doctor a “spiritually mature” response to the cancer news by explaining how I wasn’t tied to this world. My doctor, also a friend, answered by saying, “Well, I was thinking about Beth and your kids.”
Exactly. I certainly wasn’t thinking about the trauma and heartbreak that would mark their lives forever if I died. I later told Beth about the clean symmetry of dying while the insurance policy was still in force. It didn’t go well.
Beth: “Do you really think a pile of insurance money could replace you?”
Me: “Well…kinda…yes. I know it would be tough at first, but you and the kids would get over it—and then you’d be set for life!”
Beth: “I would never get over it. You are minimizing your value to us—and the impact of living without you.”
This exchange became a pivot point from which God began changing my mind and heart. I really believed a major payout of dollars would be a better provision for my family than the alternative: us living under God’s provision.
“…be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (v.15)
I had to dismantle the common lies:
- My job is to provide for my family, so it is up to me alone. I need to provide abundance.
- If I leave my future provision up to God, my quality of life will suffer.
- Gaining wealth is my job. I’m excused for being a little detached on the marriage/family front.
But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you…” (v.20)
I heard that same voice one night in a hospital room while hanging on the edge of life and death. I had to decide to live (with God’s provision) or die (with a wad of cash).
I rehearsed the truth:
- It is the Lord who gives the power to gain wealth—not me. (Deut. 8:17-18; Luke 12:26)
- My loved ones need me—not my abundance.
- God thinks I’m valuable. He knows what I need. He gave me the Kingdom with no regrets. (Luke 12: 24, 28, 32)
- Less wealth doesn’t bring a fruitless life—false gods do. (Jonah 2:8)
The last two-and-a-half years have brought me more losses than I could have imagined that day I decided to live. But it’s been the greatest season of my life. How good? I would do it again for the blessings and intimacy I gained. God crushed that smooth-talking, socially acceptable idol of money with Himself. I always wanted to know what Jesus meant when He told the Apostle Paul that His grace was sufficient for the suffering. I experience that grace now. It’s a strong and generous flow—no stingy trickle. But it began when Christ rescued me from the grip of trying to provide for myself. I would follow Him anywhere now—even into the future with a smaller nest egg—as long as He is leading. Now that’s abundant living!