“And he told them a parable, saying, ”The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ’What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.” (Luke 12:16-18)
Spiritual maturity. We all think we have it or at least aspire to it. But who actually has it? It may startle us to discover that the Lord Jesus measures spiritual maturity by one’s relationship to material things.
Lest we take a jaundiced view of anyone talking about money, remember that Jesus made it a major theme of his teaching. Sixteen of Christ’s thirty-eight parables deal with money; that the New Testament talks more about money than about heaven and hell combined, and five times more about money than prayer. While over five hundred verses mention prayer and faith, over two thousand deal with money and possessions. So the Lord must think our relationship to money is an important indicator of our level of maturity.
Infants are basically self-centered non-givers. Some time ago, I hazarded watching a nursery full of two-year olds. One small male person seemed to take a fancy to me, repeatedly bringing me toys. I said to myself, “Kid, if you don’t quit this, you’ll ruin my sermon point about infants being takers, not givers.” So I tracked the little fellow cruising among the others. An unsuspecting little girl sat alone in a comer with her doll. My generous little friend slipped up behind her, bonked her on the head and snatched her dolly to bring as a gift. “Thank you,” I breathed, “for restoring my faith in original sin.” An infant is basically a non-giver. Every church seems to have its share of infants – getters, not givers, needing a platoon of the faithful to quell their squabbles, entertain and clean up their messes.
Jesus told us about this stage: “And he told them a parable, saying, ”The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ’What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.”
God’s response? “Fool! This night your soul is required of you.”
Actually, the self-centered getter is already dead, spiritually. A sign of genuine spiritual life is often the desire to give.
Luke introduces us to a kindergartner who began to get his kicks out of giving. The wealthy little big-time chiseler, the despised head honcho of the local Roman tax unit, wanted to see Jesus, but couldn’t because of the throngs of people. So Zacchaeus – imported brocade robe tucked up under his sash – climbed a tree to glimpse this famed itinerant preacher passing by. Jesus stopped and invited himself to a meal. We know there was birth from above because of the host’s announcement: I give half my goods to the poor. And if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I will restore it four-fold. (Luke 19:8) Quite a surge of generosity for an ex-getter! Impulsively he risked bankrupting himself. Most Christians give by impulse.
While I was a student, my wife and I attended an event sponsored by a premier fund-raiser. Following his appeal, it was as if a giant vacuum cleaner swept through the audience, cleaning out every purse. We, too, emptied our pockets-right down to bus fare home. Impulse giving.