Eric Youngblood: Sibling Estate Squabbling

Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - by Eric Youngblood
“You Fool!”

Not exactly the sort of speech you’d urge your daughter to adopt when speaking to her teacher, or your son to stock in his verbal arsenal when “working out” a conflict with his sister. 

But that’s precisely God said to a man who’d apparently been watching too many retirement commercials during the NCAA Basketball tournament. 

Yep. He sure did. 

You can look it up (Luke 12). Jesus is interrupted by an earnest and agitated brother who’s mired in an ugly inheritance dispute.
Probably the first time brothers have ever gotten sideways with each other regarding the loot left behind by their parents. 

Jesus answers the urgent demand, “Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me” with a tragic parable that has become famously known with a rather harsh handle: “The Parable of the Rich FOOL.” 

In it, the Sovereign Lord, addresses a farmer with stunning financial achievements who has not been addressing Him. Instead, he’d merely been scurrying about to insure he could cover for any future contingency. 

Multiplying bumper crops have the man in a panic. But he’s shrewd. He decides to tear down his old barns, builds much more roomy ones in their place to stockpile all the surplus. Just after he’s returned from his first day of retirement paddle-boarding on a pristine lake he’s bought in Maine, while nursing his $25 cup of Geisha Arabica bean coffee flown in from Panama, he   encounters a sudden stab of joy in realizing he’s finally made it. He can take it easy from here on out. On to the bucket list. 

Only, God speaks to the man who hasn’t bothered to speak to God, and says, “You Fool, that stab of joy will turn into a kick-the-bucket massive heart attack tonight. Now, who’s gonna get the life you prepared for yourself?”

And Jesus graciously connects the dots. “So it will be for anyone who stores up for themselves but isn’t rich toward God.”

Such a one, though esteemed for a moment on earth, will be called a fool by the only appraisal that matters.

He Wasn’t Foolish For Being Rich
Fool is not the moniker to which anyone aspires. Being rich, well, yes, that makes more sense. And many folks have that as a goal.  This 1st century agra-business owner accomplished both. Riches and Foolishness. 

“He was rich,” says Luke Timothy Johnson, “because he had large crops. He was a fool because he thought they secured his life for ‘many years to come’.”

And Joel Green reminds us that in the Scriptures, a fool is a “person whose practices deny God.” He insists that “the principal deficiency of the wealthy farmer is his failure to account for God in his plans."

He wasn’t foolish for being rich. 

He was foolish for not talking to God about it.
 
He was foolish for failing to wonder whether his good financial developments were meant to be good news for anyone else as well.

He was foolish for imagining that a fully-funded 401k would keep his ticker ticking and his lungs well-oxygenated.
 
He was foolish for assuming that if he had all his numbers worked out right, he could finally relax without a care in the world.

He was foolish for forgetting that every life is a mist and answerable to God.

He was foolish, because money muffled his ears to others, so he could only hear his own desire “to have much grain laid up for many years” in order to “take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry.”

That’s what can happen with the “money-sickness” we call greed. 

It befuddles us into misinterpreting the limits of what money can actually do. 

It entices us to ignore the questions it should compel us to ask. 

And, lamentably, preoccupied as we mostly are with our own wants, we wind up disregarding the needs of others. We become, like ancient Sodom, “arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned.”

Understanding How the World Works
Eugene Peterson expands on the alternative to foolishness to which we can aspire:

“The opposite of foolish in Scripture is wise. Wise refers to skill in living. It does not mean, primarily, the person who knows the right answers to things, but one who has developed the right responses (relationships) to persons, to God. The wise understand how the world works; know about patience and love, listening and grace, adoration and beauty; know that other people are awesome creatures to be respected and befriended, especially the ones that I cannot get anything out of...And....sees the community as a place not of acquisition, but of celebration.”

If a fool’s life is marked by practices that deny God, the wise demonstrate a growing skill in believing AND doing things that depict the reality of our being well-fathered by God. 

The fool has to store up all for herself all by herself, because she’s got no hope but that flimsy money to lean on.
 
The wise labor in gratitude to discern the gracious intentions of the everlasting arms which hold her up, to share, enjoy, and employ money as a servant, always suspicious of its sinister desire to gain mastery over it’s seekers.

“The fool says in his heart, there is no God.” And his actions depict his private convictions in a thousand “living as if God does not exist” so “I’m all alone in the quest to acquire my own security and stability” ways.

Knowing our genetic predisposition for the sort of cosmic foolishness from which Christ died to deliver us, let’s pray for wisdom--that godly skill that will make us and the communities to whom we belong compelling commercials for the constantly new and renovating activity of the God we not only trust, but also come to embody with our generosity, awe, and considerate love.

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Eric Youngblood is the senior pastor at Rock Creek Fellowship (PCA) on Lookout Mountain. Please feel free to contact him at eric@rockcreekfellowship.org or follow him on Twitter @GEricYoungblood.


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