- You can purchase The Gospel Project study on The God Who Saves here.
- You can see the entire blog series on The Seven Daily Sins here.
“Life on Easy Street” is a metaphor used to describe the lifestyle of the rich and famous, of entertainers and professional athletes – of the consummation of the American Dream. In this dream, we have more than a house with a two-SUV garage in a nice suburban neighborhood. Instead, we have enough money to spend and shop where and when we please, and we live upscale in affluent exurbia with leased vehicles enclosed within a gated community.
The metaphor may be couched behind, “I just wish I had a little bit more,” “I wish I could get this business off the ground so I could work for myself,” “Son, work hard so that your life can be easier than mine,” or even the question, “When is my adult child going to be successful?” Familiar sentiments like these could reflect simple motives of wishing to avoid financial constraint or poverty. Yet they could reflect that acceptable sin known as greed. This is what Jesus explained to a man simply asking for his fair share of an inheritance:
“Watch out and be on guard against all greed because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions” (Lk. 12:15).
A Highway to Heaven?
A request for that to which the man has a legal right becomes an opportunity for Jesus to expose that man’s heart and our hearts too. Greed is lurking in the shadows of an appeal to God over that which we seemingly deserve, or that to which we think we are entitled. The man speaking to Jesus has blind spots as he drives down the road to greater financial security. He cannot see that he is about to miss out on real life by making his life’s focus the possession of an inheritance. He assumes he has the approval of the Son of Man when he does not; he is not on the road to heaven. Jerry Bridges suggests that our use of money may reveal that our minds are not on heaven at all:
“If our giving is decreasing and our credit card debt is increasing, what are we doing with our money? We know we are not saving it, for our savings, as a percentage of income, is also quite low…. What all this means is that we are spending money on the things of this life – houses, cars, clothes, vacations, and expensive electronic products…. With our money we have set our minds not on things above, but on things that are on earth (Respectable Sins, 168).”
A Bridge Out
Jesus further confronts greed with a story of a man who has it all, so it seems. There is a farmer whose current facilities will not contain the success of his production year. He decides that he will have more than what is needed once he builds a bigger place, and he retires early from the rat race. This farmer only has one problem: He cannot foresee that the very night his ship would come in, a funeral cart would pull up behind it: “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared-whose will they be?’” His masterful and grandiose planning never came to fruition.
I can remember visions of enjoying the good life after getting an engineering degree followed by an MBA. This was a very lucrative path when I was in college, one that I hoped would give me all the material things for which one could fill up a life. I soon realized that if I had to stand before God with every gift and trinket imaginable – or rather without them – I would have found my choices to be most shallow indeed! “That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Lk. 12:21).
A Road to Calvary
In contrast to our pursuing goals in life with the subtle motive of greed, pursuing the Cross makes one truly rich—rich toward God. By looking to the death of Jesus, we see one who, “although He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty we might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). Jesus, the richest person in the universe, traded in the riches of his glorious position in heaven for the humiliation of coming to this world, living among sinners, being subject to the ills of this life, suffering, and dying for our sin – including the sin of greed. The Savior provides a way to overcome the power of greed and the eternal penalty due to every greedy heart. Jesus determined to lose riches so that he could provide riches greater than any gambling bounty, precious metals, or material items can provide. By his death for us, we become rich in salvation—rich in the sight of God.
The power of this richness is that it allows us to find joy in being content with the things we have, satisfying the cravings of the human soul (cf. Phil. 4:10-12). This richness will pull us away from trying to overwork in a common and anxious attempt to provide for our own necessities; instead we will trust the Lord to provide for our needs as we prioritize his kingdom as our first desire (cf. Lk. 12:29-31). The richness of God allows us to be stewards of resources so that we can give our resources away for the cause of the Gospel (Lk. 12:33).