Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 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 12:13-21 (ESV)
When my grandchildren were little, I had a sign in the front yard that read, “Santa stops here.” Christmas morning was about what Santa had left. Little eyes looked around the room to see if the longed-for gift had been delivered. Surprise and delight overflowed as the very things written in the letter to Santa were under the Christmas tree.
Growing out of our desire for a Santa rather than a Savior doesn’t come easily. We struggle with replacing our longing for “more” with yearning for “Him.” We resent the fact that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, as though what the rich have is better than what God gives us each day. So we hang on to what we have, hoping to amass the fortune that says to the world, “we have arrived.”
We don’t have to live for long to know how common it is for inheritance to divide brothers and sisters. The fight over the possessions of their parents becomes more important than the years of family-love. Jesus knew this when he told the story in Luke 12. Let’s say we get an arbiter who insures we receive our fair share. And in the process, we lose a brother or a sister for life. Did we stop to consider the cost might be the people we love the most?
But Jesus went a step further. He said our attitude toward wealth is more important even than being divided as families. Our determination to hold on to what God has generously given us, or our willingness to put wealth above relationships, is actually withholding from God. All the good He planned to do through us with the wealth He placed in our hands, all the blessings we could have received as we watched God work, may be lost if we continue to lay up treasure for ourselves, to make getting all we can more important than our relationship to God and others.
This Christmas, are we waiting for Santa, or living for our Savior? Our answer to this question may encourage us to become “rich toward God.”