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You and Your Money - Who Owns Who?

A Christian said to his friend, "Last Sunday I found a wallet down by the church." The friend asked, "Did you give it back?" The Christian said, "No, not yet. I'm still trying to decide if it's a temptation or an answer to prayer." "What do you make of money?" is a thought provoking question for all of us. An anonymous poet challenges our materialistic age and ways with the following words concerning earthly wealth: "Dug from the mountainside, Washed from the glen — Servant am I, Or the master of men.  Steal me, I curse you; Earn me, I bless you. Grasp me and hoard me, A fiend shall possess you. Live for me, die for me, Covet me, take me — Angel or devil, I'm just what you make me." Servant, master, curse, blessing, fiend, angel or devil — money has the power to become any of these, depending on what you make of it. And according to Jesus in Luke 12:15-21, money and material wealth can make something of you, too. To be blunt and to quote the Lord Jesus, money can make a fool out of you! In God's eyes, that is. In the text mentioned, Jesus told a story about an already rich farmer who had an especially good year. His land produced a record-breaking crop and "yielded plentifully" (vs 16). Read the passage and you find that the already rich man faced a dilemma, described in verse 17: "He thought within himself saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' " He had too much wealth! His barns and bank vaults wouldn't hold any more! A super-surplus that spilled out the doors! What to do? Give some to the poor? Share some with a deserving cause? Consult God and His word and see what priorities the Lord might direct him to contribute some of his excess resources to? Attempt to relieve suffering in someone's life? Feed some hungry children? Great ideas all, but instead of asking the Lord he consulted with no one but himself. And his self turned out to be a selfish self who told him to spend all the money on himself. Plan a lavish, over-the-top retirement for himself. Stockpile his huge windfall in newly built and bigger barns. Lay it all up — for himself. That way he could take his ease, live the good life, eat, drink, play golf or bridge, and make merry for many years to come. Hurnmm — sounds eerily similar to the "American Dream" that even many Christians long for, doesn't it? Anyway, read the rest of the story and discover that his plans were jarringly interrupted when God said to him in verse 20: "Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?"

It is easy to read this passage and dismiss ourselves from the dilemma the rich man faced, and instead seek to apply it to the Bill Gates' and Donald Trumps and Ted Turners and Warren Buffets and all those filthy rich pro athletes and Hollywood celebrities and CEO's, etc, who live lavish and opulent lifestyles. But Jesus won't let us escape the discomforting question of whether or not we are guilty of stuffing our own "barns" with an abundance of material stuff to the neglect of His priorities for the money and wealth He blesses us with. His sobering summary reminds us we all face a dilemma — "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (vs 21). Do you own your money, or does it own you?

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ