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Focus: What Jesus taught about selfishness
Proverbs 11:24-25 (CEB) Those who give generously receive more, but those who are stingy with what is appropriate will grow needy. Generous persons will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.E
Teaching materials and recommendations on ‘how to acquire wealth’ and ‘how to grow to your wealth’ are in high demand. If you are so fortunate as to have wealth, the Bible has clear guidelines about how to use it. If you don’t have wealth, but live in constant pre-occupation about how to get it, the Bible is the first source you should consult on the topic.
In the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the first four books of the New Testament in the Bible, you will find many practical teachings given by Jesus, Himself. There are numerous hints scattered throughout the various stories, about how to handle finances in general. In the book of Luke, chapter 12, we are able to observe a day when Jesus had been teaching on several different topics. At one point, He turned His attention to an important consideration, as the result of a comment made by someone in the crowd.
The person said to Jesus (paraphrased), “Teacher, tell my brother to split the property our father left us.”
Jesus responded, “Who said I should be the one to judge or make the decision between the two of you?” Then Jesus told them, “Be careful to guard against all kinds of greed. The measure of a person’s success in life is not based on how much they own.”
Jesus went on to tell this story: “There was a rich man who had some land which produced a large crop. The crop his land produced was much more than he had room to store.
The man thought to himself, ‘What am I going to do with all of the crops I harvested? I don’t have enough room to store it.’
Then the man said to himself, ‘I know what I will do: I’ll tear down the barns I have and build bigger barns. Then I will have plenty of room to store all of my grain and other things, too. Then I will be able to say to myself, “Now I have enough good things in storage to last for years to come. I can rest, eat, drink, and enjoy my life!”
Jesus continued, “But God said to him, ‘Foolish man! Tonight your life will be taken from you. So, who will get all of those things you have prepared for yourself?”
Jesus summed up the lesson by adding, “This is how it will be for anyone who stores up things for themselves without being rich toward God.”
There are some sobering observations we can make by looking at the story Jesus told—and the man’s response to the wealth he had obtained because of his bountiful harvest.
It’s interesting that the man with the large crop didn’t stop and think how much God had blessed him. He didn’t give thanks to God, and he didn’t show his gratitude by bringing a tithe of his crops to the house of God. It’s also interesting that he didn’t consider sharing the excess crops that he had no room to store, with others. He never gave a thought toward whether any of his neighbors might have needs that he easily could have helped supply.
The man thought he deserved to keep all of his crops for himself. His thoughts were focused on how he could now make his own life more insulated from want or need through hoarding what he had. He was only interested in knowing that he could finally do whatever he wanted—he could rest, eat, drink, and enjoy life, without having to work anymore.
Isn’t that the same attitude many of us have? Haven’t we adopted the idea that if we make enough money, and store it away, we won’t ever have to worry about ‘going broke’?
Many people who don’t even know the Lord are good ‘givers’. Without having any kind of religion or faith, they still know it’s a good idea to share what they have been able to acquire with others who don’t have as much in order to make the world a better place.
Declaration: I will find new strength by contemplating selfishness. I will recognize that the extra amount I have, may have been given to me to share with others.
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