Greedy? Or Just Needy?

by | Feb 22, 2021 | Devotional

Remember that parable Jesus gave about the rich man who had some good, really productive, land? So then he makes plans to knock over his barns and build bigger ones to store all his gains so he can enjoy the good life? But what the man doesn’t know is that he’s going to die that very night and never get to enjoy all that wealth he had amassed for himself.

It turns out that having this “strong desire to acquire more and more material possessions” is not the way (292). Jesus said being rich for the sake of ourselves instead of being rich towards God is to be a fool. But if life isn’t about pursuing material things, how then do we balance out the pursuit of meeting our needs? In other words, we might respond to that “Parable of the Rich Fool” by saying: “I’m not greedy. I’m just needy.” And we might feel justified in doing so. Because life is real. Life can be hard. And if our basic needs aren’t met, how can we even think about anything else?

So maybe we shouldn’t be greedy and try to amass a fortune for our selfish use. But maybe it’s okay to pick a closer target and move our concern from what’s excessive to what’s sufficient. Instead of making life about having lots and lots. Couldn’t we instead make life about having enough? Well, there is a better way than even that. There is the right way. And to teach us this right way—this proper perspective, Jesus says to His disciples:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing (Luke 12:22–23). 

Jesus says, “Don’t worry.” Don’t worry about what specifically? The little things in life? Is he merely saying not to sweat the small stuff? Actually, He’s a bit more comprehensive than that. Jesus says “Don’t worry about your life.” I don’t know if it could get any more comprehensive. But Jesus says don’t worry about the very basics of life: food and clothing because that’s a focus that’s too narrow. Life is more than that. Life is bigger than material needs. You have a deeper need than those things. So don’t worry about those things.

Well, that’s easy to say. But paying the bills can be tough. Making enough to see your family clothed, fed, and taken care of—that takes a lot of genuine, old-fashioned hard work, planning, and care. Yet Jesus says not to worry. And then He shows us why. What if He could prove to you that God cares enough to provide the basic needs of say—a nasty bird? A raven. I say a “nasty bird,” because to a Jew—a raven would have been a nasty bird, ritually unclean under the Mosaic law (Lev 11:15; Deut 14:14). So what if you knew God cared for something like that? An unclean bird that doesn’t have the ability to plant and grow its own food. Something that doesn’t have storehouses or barns to keep its possessions in and yet God makes sure these ravens are fed. He provides for their needs. Now, if God does that, don’t you think he will take care of you and meet your needs? Jesus asks:

Of how much more value are you than the birds! (Luke 12:24b)

How much more value? Way more value. Is that convincing enough to reassure you not to worry about your material needs? God will take care of you. That’s good to know. If the Lord takes care of birds, He’ll take care of me. But Jesus wants to reassure us even more. Or at least reassure us that there’s no need to worry. He asks:

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? (Luke 12:25)

A cubit is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 45–52 cm roundabouts. I remember back in Bible college sitting next to one of my friends. He was on the shorter side. And I remember pointing this verse out to him for a little chuckle. What I didn’t know then was that there is actually a question of whether Jesus is saying that by worrying we can’t add a cubit to our stature or if He is actually saying that by worrying we can’t add a measurement of time to our life span. It’s not clear which one Jesus had in mind. And we can’t do either of them by worrying. That’s His point. Worrying won’t accomplish anything. There’s no sense in it. Worrying won’t change a thing.  And that’s good for us to know. Because it’s worrying over having these things that can hinder our generosity towards God. If we’re so worried over our needs being met, how will we justify giving some of our material possessions to God? How can we be generous towards God?

So the takeaway is: Don’t let worrying over your material possessions keep you from being generous towards God. The measure of a good life isn’t how much we have. The measure of a good life is the quality of our relationship with God and others. Life is about loving God and loving our neighbour. And trusting God for our physical needs is actually one of the ways to develop a closer relationship with Him. Part of the Lord’s model prayer even includes those words “Give us each day our daily bread.” He will take care of you. You can trust Him to do so. And the more you trust God—the more you depend on God—the closer your relationship with Him. Trust God.

The parable Jesus told of the rich fool taught us to be generous towards God. And God wants you to know that you can trust Him. You can trust Him to provide for your needs to the extent that you can afford to be generous towards Him with your material possessions.

So how about this. There’s something you can do. Talk to the Lord. And if you’ve been worrying about material things, confess this to Him. Tell Him you want to trust Him for everything. There is more than enough reason to trust Him. And worrying won’t help anyway. You have deeper needs like a good relationship with God and a good relationship with others. And God can meet those needs. God can meet those needs. And being generous towards Him will give you the blessing of obeying Him. Giving generously to God is an act of worship. So give God glory by trusting Him so that you can be generous towards Him.

Photo by Gorrin Bel on Unsplash.

Brent Niedergall

Pastor, Grammarian, Runner

Brent Niedergall, MDiv, is Associate Pastor at Victory Baptist Church in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. He’s gone to war in Afghanistan, felled towering trees, and parsed Greek verbs.

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Brent Niedergall