Sermon delivered September 6, 1997

by Pastor Don J Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

God Saves Rich People

Several people died this week. June Zeigler, Princess Diana, Mother Teresa... Probably thousands of others. I know the news has been talking about Princess Diana most of the week. That certainly was a tragedy. When you live sixty or seventy years, or eighty, you think, "Well, I've lived most of my life." But when you get it cut off in the middle, it's even worse. From the time Diana became a princess her life was one of tragedy and turmoil. She has been stalked by those who follow her with high powered telescopic cameras trying to capture some mistake or some moment that would make news in some grocery store tabloid. She has been a victim, all because of her success and her beauty. She did live to help the unfortunate. She helped a lot of people.

For Princess Diana there is no tomorrow except perhaps in eternity. Her life is gone. Gone are any plans for marriage. Her engagement is over. A $200.000 diamond ring will not be worn by her. Her hopes for the future were bright. And now, they're all over.

We are in a similar plight today. Planet Earth rushes toward the year 2000 at a frightening speed. Those in control of the affairs of this planet are drunk. The chauffeurs of this planet are many times over the legal limit of spiritual sobriety. They're drunk on the cares of this life. Every moment we are hounded by the devil's temptations following us everywhere we go, like photographers on motorcycles. Try as we might we can't shake them it seems like. And yet we continue to plan for future as if tomorrow were guaranteed. Tomorrow might never happen for us.

I don't know what the future has in mind. Like Princess Diana we all have a date with destiny. We wake up in the morning little knowing what the events of the day will bring. Planet Earth is running out of time. Signs of the end are all around us. Never before have we seen so many "angel encounters." Never before have we heard of so many "apparitions of the virgin Mary." Never before has the Papacy had such a global influence in modern times.

Yet God's people plan as if tomorrow were guaranteed. We plan about the same way as the successful farmer did in LUKE 12. We plan as if our future were endless. Look at the terrible mistake made by one of the most successful and prosperous farmers in Jesus day. Maybe you can gain from this story today enough information so as not to make the same mistake. This man wanted to plan for tomorrow. But he never got the chance, like Princess Diana.

LUKE 12:16-20 (NIV). And he told them this parable: "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 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?'"

The first mistake of this rich farmer, that God calls a fool, was to give the credit of his good harvest to the GROUND. "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop." When we get a good crop, do we credit the ground? We're pointing in the wrong direction, aren't we? Whenever you get a windfall, whenever you get a blessing, who should you give the credit to? You should give it to God. Give God the benefit of the doubt. God is the fountain from which ALL blessings flow. Never take credit for what God has done.

Now, if I would have read this, I would have thought that this man was surely a successful business man. He knew how to raise crops, but God called him a fool. No parable in all the Bible is so packed with the words "I", "me", "my", "Mine"; All these personal pronouns! A little boy was asked by his English teacher what part of speech those words were and he said, "They are Aggressive pronouns!" The rich fool was aggressively selfish. When he was blessed with a superfluity of goods the thought never crossed his mind to share any of those goods with anyone in need. He was going to build bigger barns to store them for himself.

This prosperous farmer's attitude was just the opposite of what Jesus taught in the entire Bible. He was going to hoard the benefit. He was going to keep the increase for his personal net worth. There is a little thought-of commandment in Exodus 20:17 that says, Thou shalt not covet. When God give you a windfall, when you get a big increase, don't consume it all upon yourself. Don't covet it. Whenever we set our heart on the blessings that God sends to us and begin to covet their benefit exclusively for ourselves, God is about to lose a follower.

Our farmer poured over his blueprints. He thought, Boy, if I could just tear this barn down, and these little barns around here and build me some really nice barns, I could have it made. I could store up all my crops and I could just retire in comfort. Just as he was planning for tomorrow, he was disconnected from the hereafter by some unexpected catastrophe. We humans can't depend on tomorrow. But one thing we can depend on is Jesus Christ.

Kefa Sempangi (whose story is told in the book A Distant Grief) was a national pastor in Africa and barely escaped with his family from brutal oppression and terror in his home country of Uganda. They made their way to Philadelphia, where a group of Christians began caring for them. One day his wife said, "Tomorrow I am going to go and buy some clothes for the children," and immediately she and her husband broke into tears. Because never had they been allowed to talk about tomorrow. Tomorrow was very uncertain; people being killed all around them, being tortured. They had not used the word "tomorrow" for many years.

Their terrifying experiences forced them to realize what is true of every person here today: there is no assurance of tomorrow. You can't depend on it. The only time we can be sure of having is the moment we have right now. You could drive out here on McDonald Road and be killed. To the self- satisfied farmer who had grandiose plans to build bigger and better barns, the Lord said, "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you" (Luke 12:20). He had already lived his last tomorrow. It was already gone. He didn't know it. He was planning on one more. The rich fool had thought of years in the future, but could not even depend on one more day.

James 4:13,14 (NIV). Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. That's all life is.

Back to our parable in Luke 12:15 (NIV). Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Those big barns aren't life.

A south African miner had worked in the mines all of his life; 50 years he had worked in the mines! And he retired and he was going to move to England. He invested all his lifetime savings in one big beautiful diamond that he was going to take back to London to sell and make some money off of and retire. On board the ship bound for London he showed the treasure to many passengers. He said "Here represents my whole life's savings in this one stone. I would rather lose life itself, because this diamond represents 50 years of hard work!"

One day he was out on the deck of the ship holding this diamond up so people could see the sun refracting off of it and see its beauty. The ship gave a lurch and he lost hold of the diamond and it went up and he stretched his fingers out to catch it and it just grazed the tips of his fingers as it went overboard, down into the deep blue depths of the Atlantic ocean. He was a ruined man. His whole life, gone. He was a fool, wasn't he?

Some would call him a stupid man! But we behave just as badly. Imagine a Christian who has eternal life, and he is going out and playing with sin. His eternal life sinks low. He is a lost man.

Mark 8:36 (NIV). "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" Selfishness is like inflation, the more selfish we are the less valuable we become to the cause of God.

Had the rich farmer been content with what he had, Jesus would never have condemned him.

There was once an unhappy King who was told by his counsellors that if he wanted to be happy he should go and find a contented man and you wear his shirt and you'll be happy. Finally a poor man was found who fulfilled the conditions exactly, but this poor fellow did not have a shirt!

Hebrews 13:5 (NIV) Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

So, who needs bigger barns? Do we need bigger barns? Do we really? Is that good planning to have bigger barns? Larger barns could indicate spiritual Myopia. The rich fool's only point of reference was himself. He was the center of the universe. It was his crops, his assets, his pleasure. That's all he could think about. He didn't think of accountability to God. How often we fail to think of others or beyond today. Here is something interesting I want to show you in Proverbs 19. You know, rich people have a problem. Every rich person I have ever seen has this same problem: Where to INVEST THE MONEY. Are you going to put it in the stock market? You know, the stock market is just like a big roller-coaster right now. It';s going up and down. You've got to hang on! Are you going to put it in bonds or CDs? You're not going to put it in the savings account because that only draws 2 or 3 percent interest. Where are you going to put your money? Every rich person has this problem. "Where am I going to invest my money?" The rich farmer had not seen the PROSPECTUS in Proverbs 19! Look at verse 17 (NIV). "He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done." Do you get what this is really saying here? If you have money, where should you put it? If you give to the poor, you are lending to the Lord. You're giving your money to Him and He is going to give it back to you, with interest.

If you give of your means to the Poor your portfolio is invested in heaven. That's where it is. God will pay you back again; it's guaranteed over $100,000, the interest is out of this world and if you give to the needs of your fellow brothers and neighbors you are investing money with God, with the bank of heaven. If you place your funds in the Lord's storehouse, His Church, your blessing will be more than you originally invested.

You know, I think we could be wrong in standing up here and appealing for these offerings and say, "We want you to give. We've got some real needs here." I think the word "give" might be wrong. Do we really give an offering to God? According to Proverbs, we are actually loaning it to God. When you place your money in that envelope, you are INVESTING with the safest institution known. At the time when you need it, God will pour out a blessing upon you (Malachi 4), and all your money will come back with interest. That's where to put your money.

Matthew 6:33 Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these THINGS shall be added to you.

When a windfall comes to you as it did to the rich farmer, don't invest it in a bigger barn. Do not consume it upon yourself.

We should trust in the Lord of harvest and not bigger barns. The same God who bountifully blessed the crops that filled up the barns in the first place will be able to take care of you in the days ahead. He's going to provide for your future. To demolish the old barns and construct bigger barns seems to be a slap in the face to God. Are we really trusting Him? He provided the crop in the first place. He can do it again.

Life does not consist in the abundance of our accomplishments, our applause, or our possessions, our CDs. All of these were done in God's strength. They were provided by God. As wise stewards we must never forget the Source of these blessings, our success. Some day we will render an accounting of the use of our wealth, the use of our talent and the use of our time.

You know, you can't count on the construction of a new barn tomorrow. The last sand may run out of your hourglass before construction even begins. I Timothy 6:6-11 - "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it." Who's going to get all these things? was the question the Lord asked this farmer. When you die, who's going to get all those things? Are you going to take them with you? You never se a hearse with a U-Haul trailer behind it. Nobody can take anything with them other than what God has given you: your character, your love, your salvation.

"But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness." That's the type of assets we ought to be working for.

If God has blessed you with enough resources, that is great! It isn't wrong to be rich. Don't ever think that it's wrong to be rich. It's not! Just don't consume your riches on yourself. The thought never came into that rich farmer's mind that he ought to share a little bit of his increase with somebody else. He just thought of building bigger barns and keeping it all right there.

Princess Diana and Mother Teresa invested much of their life in helping the poor and unfortunate. Princess lived a short life, but she did help a lot of people. She shared the blessing as she lived her life. Why did millions come to honor her at her untimely death? Because of her generosity. Because she gave while she was living.

It is not a sin to have money, only to hoard it for our self. Clutching the increases that God gives to us... Grasping for more... That was the problem of the rich farmer. He planned to eat and drink and squander the blessing all on himself. God said, this very night your very life will be demanded from you.

Let me show you something fascinating. God says that ONLY RICH PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BE SAVED!!! - LUKE 12:21 "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." You need to be rich toward God. If you're going to be saved, you need to be rich toward God. In other words, rich people that are rich toward God are the ones that are going to be saved.

Is God against Rich people? NO! In fact God is saying here that only Rich people will be saved! Poor folk will be lost. You've got to be rich to be saved. God saves rich people. Only Rich folk will enter heaven. Rich in spirituality, rich in Jesus, rich in the truth. Have Spiritual riches!

You can become rich toward God by being a millionaire in salvation. If you love Jesus with all your heart and are willing to share the blessing with those who are in need, you demonstrate the meaning of this verse. Mother Teresa did that. Princess Diana did what she could to assist the unfortunate and if we are willing today to be generous with the blessings of God we are in fact airmailing our assets to heaven.

Opening Hymn 39 Lord in the Morning.
Scripture Reading: Psalm 103:1-8
Closing Hymn 426, I shall see the King

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