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Four Common Mistakes

Scripture: Luke 12:13-21; Text: Luke 12:17-20

"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. 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 12:17-20).

The above scripture reading can be divided into two parts. The first is about two brothers who were at odds with each other over an estate. Evidently, one had received all of it and the other brother thought he deserved a share. How sad that even today, families are torn apart over an inheritance and some refuse to ever speak to each other again. As then, Jesus is now able to look into our hearts for "... all things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:13). Jesus saw their intense interest in earthly possessions which become a consuming passion. He taught this parable to emphasize that life consists of more than mere material possessions.

The second and larger division of the scripture reading consists, of the parable which our Lord taught those brothers. In this sermon we shall focus upon the parable and endeavor to understand four very important lessons which can be extremely valuable for Christian living today. We all need to look carefully at the man who is the main character of this parable. It should be our desire to discover whether or not we have imitated him in making any or all of the mistakes which he made. James reminds us that the word of God is a mirror, into which we may look and see ourselves as God views us (James 1:23-24). May we look at ourselves as well as the man in the parable.

By way of introduction to the lessons, let me tell you a little about the man who stars in this parable. He was apparently a rather prosperous man. He may not have been what we would call a "millionaire", but in terms of a common man in Palestine, he would have been considered rich (Verse 16). Here we have a portrait of a landowner, who by the blessings of God had been very successful in his farming endeavors. This must be said in his defense, he does not seem to have acquired his wealth by dishonest means. God does not condemn the method of acquisition even once, there is no hint of scandal. He was not condemned for the method of securing his possessions, but for his failure to use them in a way that pleased God.

He was an honest and industrious business man, who became a slave to his wealth and forgot both God and man. He therefore depicts many people in our society today. If we do not establish and maintain proper biblical values; it could well be a description of us, either now or somewhere in the future. While we may not consider ourselves "rich," we are by the standards of many countries. Therefore, we all need to examine our hearts and lives, in the light of divine truth as set forth in this parable.

While there may be little similarity to you with regard to possessions, there might be with regard to attitudes. He was a man, who the more he had the more he wanted. And the more he wanted, the less he thought about God or spiritual matters. In thinking about the further acquisition of mere possessions, he made four very serious mistakes which we shall now endeavor to explore.

(1) The first mistake he made may be stated thusly: In counting his goods, he forgot the One who gave them. He said, "What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits" (verse 17). He had adequate time to think about the super abundance of his possession, but he took no time to thank God Who gave them. What mention of God does he make or what expressions of gratitude does he declare? The answer is obvious - none! There are many people today who imitate that man and never stop to think about their blessings or thank God for them. A minister once described such people by saying they act like a hog beneath the oak tree. They feast on the acorns but never look up to see where they came from or consider their source. Once a Christian man bowed his head and gave thinks to God for the food he was about to receive. Another man across the table questioned his actions and upon hearing the explanation responded "I never do that." The Christian said, "Yes, I have a dog that way at home." How sad that so few are willing to acknowledge God as the source of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). One sign of the “perilous times” of the last days, is that people will be "unthankful" (2 Timothy 3:2).

So many people are making this mistake today. Some spend their time thinking about what they do have; while others spend their time thinking about what they don't have; but too few are willing to give thanks to God. Some might even respond - thank God for what? If you are a parent, you should thank God for your children; yet how few do so. Long ago Jacob was asked about those who accompanied him. He responded by saying, "... The children which God hath graciously given thy servant" (Genesis 33:5). Do you consider your children a blessing from God for which you should be lastingly thankful? If so, then bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

If you can be thankful for your children, what about the other blessings too numerous for mention. You have a church family, a home in which to live, food to eat, clothes to wear, your job, a portion of health and the Holy Bible; which God has given through inspiration. Life is from God (Acts 17:28) and eternal life is His gift (Romans 6:23). Yet above all these gifts, the saved have the gift of God's Son - Jesus Christ. May our hearts echo the words of Paul, "Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift." (2 Corinthians 9:15).

Not only did Paul remind us that God gave His Son to die for our sins, but declared that we should give to God as well. "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7). As we give to God, it is to come from our heart and be planned; so that we may give to the Giver. Then we are giving back to God (render) that which belongs to Him (Matthew 22:21). Let us "enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name" (Psalm 100:4). The rich man of the parable, neither gave to God thanks from the heart, nor material gifts from the hand, and that was a mistake.

(2) The second mistake he made was that as he planned for himself, he forgot about his fellow man. Listen to verse 18, "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." He planned to tear down and rebuild his barns. His obvious aim was expansion. Now, I do not say that growth and expansion are contrary to God's will, but when it is completely selfish, it certainly is. He saw the need for a larger barn, so he should have seen the needs of others. He should have practiced a little charity and given part of his excess to help his fellow man. There were most likely many needs in his community, the widows house, the orphan's mouth and the poor who were sick. It appears that the richer he grew, the more covetous he became. He gave nothing to those about him, not even his thought; at least no mention of such is made in the scriptures.

Some people will give thought to the needs of the poor, but that is all they will give. They pray for the poor, but give them nothing of a tangible nature. James asked, "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?" (James 2:15-16). It is possible for people to love possessions so intensely that no one can share in their prosperity. They will gladly ask God to give to the needy, but they will not do so. There are people who are plagued with a strange hunger for riches and they want things just in order to possess them, but it is an awful disease of the soul. Love for objects can fill the heart so full that there is no room left to love people. The "thorns" grow as the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches and the lust of other things enter in and choke the teachings of God's word (Matthew 13:22). Such strangulation will cut off our love for higher things, which should include helping people afflicted with poverty.

There are many reasons for poverty and as Christians we must recognize this fact. Some are poor because of intemperance and sin. They would have adequate finances if they did not waste their substance with riotous living. Remember that at one point, the Prodigal Son had substantial substance, but he threw it all away and left himself in poverty (Luke 15:12-14). God had blessed him with a sufficiency, he wasted that which he received and many are doing the same in our day.

There are others who suffer the hardship of poverty because they are too lazy to provide for themselves. They expect the world to take care of them and will not weary themselves with honest labor. Solomon warned, "Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and they want as an armed man" (Proverbs 6:10). In the early church, Paul said that those who would not work, neither would they eat; that is they would not be provided for by the body of Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Therefore, we may conclude that both sinful living and laziness will "clothe a man with rags" (Proverbs 23:21).

While both of the above cause poverty, they most certainly are not the only reasons for it. There are those who do their best, but have fallen victims to hardships. Some people willing to work are laid off, others are brought up in poverty and denied the benefits of education. There are many people who are victims and suffer hard times. In ancient times there were widows and orphans who had no governmental agency to help, so they lived in poverty (James 1:27). The deserving poor ought to be helped by the Christian community, for in doing so we lend to God (Proverbs 19:17). We are commanded to "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Let us not make the mistake of planning for self and forgetting others.

(3) The third mistake was this: as he provided for the natural, he forgot about his spiritual needs. Look at verse 19: "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." He speaks to his soul, yet that which he described is not needed by it. He made an incorrect assumption which many make today; that if the needs of the body be met, it will satisfy the soul as well. Such is not the case! The soul does not need food and drink, it can and will live without them. As with many today, the man in the parable was ignorant of the needs of his own soul. Being ignorant, he starved his soul while he satisfied his flesh. There are multitudes today, who appear as healthy bodied people, yet their soul is withered and malnourished because of the denial of spiritual nutrition. No wonder so many of God's people are dissatisfied and unhappy. Our chief concerns should be with regard to the spiritual and afterward with the flesh (3 John 2).

We need healthy souls as well as healthy bodies. We need to provide for the spiritual and that part of us draws its strength from the word of God. Jesus was tempted to miraculously feed His body, "But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). Peter describes the word of God as milk, which is as essential to the saved, as milk is to a baby (I Peter 2:2). Just as our bodies need to be fed daily, so does our soul and this we can do by daily Bible reading.

Nature teaches us that if we deprive the body of food, it will weaken and become ill; even so, if we deprive the soul then we shall have a weakened and diseased inner man. If we live close to God, follow His Holy Spirit and feed on His word; then the "inner man" will be renewed even while the flesh is growing weaker with age (2 Corinthians 4:16). Isaiah describes those who are constantly aware of the need of their souls as those who will run and not be weary and will walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31). Do you think only of the needs of your body or have you also recognized the needs of your soul? If so, then spend your money for that which satisfies it and let your soul delight itself in fitness (Isaiah 55:2). “Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” and He will supply the needs of your body (Matthew 6:33). Don't make the same mistake that so many have, providing for the flesh and forgetting the soul. It should sadden us to see parents who do all they can to provide a secular education for their children, and yet never carry them to church or read the Bible in their presence. Such parents have made a great mistake and will most likely live to regret it.

(4) The fourth and final mistake which the parable teaches, is that while he counted on time, he forgot about eternity. "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?" (verse 20). Even as he made the afore mentioned mistakes, he was only a step away from eternity and did not recognize it. In the previous verse he had counted on "much goods laid up for many years," yet he did not even have another day to enjoy them. Through Solomon, God gave us this wise advise, "Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth" (Proverbs 27:1). None of us knows the day of our dying, but dying will take care of itself; we must learn how to live. The best way to live is for God's glory, and to live each day as though it is the last, it just might be! We tend to count on time to the extent that we often forget about death, but death is inevitable unless Jesus comes again first (Hebrews 9:27). Sometimes the death angel claims the soul of one in suffering and depravation, as was the beggar Lazarus, who sick and hungry begged crumbs from the rich man's table (Luke 16:22). For many death is a blessing, desired and prayed for; yet others seem to have it all and want to live forever on earth, but they too must die, just as the man in the parable.

Life is short at best; for Job described it as a few days and full of trouble, a flower that springs forth and is cut down, a shadow that moves swiftly and disappears (Job 14:1-2). In the New Testament James described life as a vapor that appears momentarily and then is gone (James 4:14). None of us know how long our life will be, nor what shall be on tomorrow (Matthew 6:34); but regardless how long or short it may be, let us thank God for the life He daily gives (Acts 17:28). We now live in the realm of time, but when life shall silently slip from our bodies, we will at that moment enter the realm of the eternal and immortal.

I do not fear the eternal, though I know that nothing I do will ready me. The innumerable host of the saved have been chosen by God the Father, redeemed by the blood of Jesus and quickened into divine life by the Holy Spirit (Jude 1). God's amazing grace is the only valid hope for eternity and those of us who possess it, should strive to live for our Saviour, because He died for our sins (Matthew 1:21). Let us not make the same mistake and think only in terms of life on earth, but let us pray the prayer of Psalm 90:12, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."

In concluding this sermon, let me prevail upon you to examine your life honestly before God. Have you been guilty of the mistakes I have pointed out in the lesson? How many of them have you made; one, two or all of them? Regardless, let us all be encouraged to do something about it. Even a derailed train can be put on track, repaired and put in service again. Perhaps you have only gotten side tracked, distracted by worldly pursuits; I implore you to move forward again in God's service. All that we are and have, God has given us, so let us use it in His service. As He blesses us, let us respond by giving Him thanks and giving our finances to support His kingdom's work. Let us also remember the less fortunate and reach out a helping hand to them. And while we may daily struggle to make ends meet and provide for our families temporal needs, let us unceasingly strive to provide and maintain that which nourishes our souls. Facing life with faith and eternity with hope, we shall be able to move onward and upward “in the paths of righteousness, for his name’s sake (Psalm 23:3). Give God glory and praise!

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This page last updated on June 7, 2014