Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
What would you say if one day you actually met the Lord? I mean, face-to-face, on the street, as one person meets another. Here are some answers—some of them a bit tongue-in-check— people have given:
If I met the Lord:
- I’d ask him to start all over again.
- I’d ask him which came first, the chicken or the egg.
- I’d ask him for money; a loan, actually, or better yet, a grant.
- I’d ask him, Did you enjoy the show?
- I’d ask him about mushrooms: Dear God, I mean, really, what’s up with mushrooms? Edible fungus? Just what were you thinking? Are mushrooms the first and greatest cosmic joke?
- I’d wouldn’t really ask him anything, I’d just say, Thanks.
- I’d say, So, God, what’s next on your agenda?
- I would ask God, What are you doing here? Nietzsche told me you were dead.
- I would say, God, dear God, please help me.
The man who met Jesus
One day, a man did just that. He met the Lord Jesus, in the midst of a great crowd of people. We read about it in Luke 12:13–21. This was nothing unusual. Throughout his ministry crowds thronged about Jesus, pushing him, pulling him, longing to touch him, manipulate him; even—if that were possible—so they could be lifted out of the day-to-day grind of facing one challenge after another; so to be healed, instantly if possible—because hurting is not a new thing; nothing new about that.
And do you know what this man said on meeting Jesus? Not, Hi, or Hello, Good morning, or even, Greetings, Jesus of Nazareth, but “Lord, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me!” (Luke 12:13). He wasn’t concerned about Jesus’ mission, or message, or how the mission might impact him as a person. What was he concerned about? Money. As the Russians say, “When money speaks, the truth keeps silent.”
According to the teaching of the Old Testament and especially Deuteronomy 21, the eldest son in any family was entitled to receive twice the inheritance of any other son. For example, if there were three sons, the inheritance would be divided into four parts, with the firstborn receiving two parts, and the other three sons each receiving one part. (Now you know why second-born Jacob tricked first-born Esau out of their father’s blessing!) The story as told by Luke doesn’t tell us what had happened in this man’s family—but it was probably an old, old story, leading to problems within the family.
What we should really be storing
It was Leo Tolstoy who once wrote: “All happy families are alike; but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” How many brothers and sisters don’t speak to one another because of inheritance issues. Benjamin Franklin said it all: “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of its filling a vacuum, it makes one.”
Maybe you have had an awful experience that brought shattered feelings and distrust within your family. In our sensitive, therapeutic, I’m-okay-you’re-okay sort of culture, we would be tempted to say something like, Oh dear, I’m sorry to hear that. You must be really hurt and angry. Tell me how you’re feeling.
Instead, Jesus responds rather angrily: “Man,” he says, “who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Moreover, he goes on to add insult to injury. “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15). Greed? What do you mean, greed?, the man might have replied. Jesus! How insensitive can you get? All I want is what I have coming to me; all I want is my fair share.
Remember Sally from the Charlie Brown Christmas, and her letter to Santa Claus?
Dear Santa Claus,
How have you been? Did you have a nice summer? How is your wife? I have been extra good this year, so I have a long list of presents that I want. Please note the size and colour of each item, and send as many as possible. If it seems too complicated, make it easy on yourself, just send money. How about 10s and 20s?
“10s and 20s?” laments Charlie Brown, “Oh, even my baby sister!”
“All I want is what I have coming to me,” responds Sally. “All I want is my fair share.”
Do we just want our fair share?
That’s what most of us would say: All we want is what we have coming to us; all we want is our fair share. Yet on hearing that, rather than proving himself sympathetic, Jesus tells a parable. It stirred up feelings even more:
The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
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. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”
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?’
This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:16-21 – NIV).
(To be continued in Rich Towards God – Part 2)