According to Forbes magazine, the United States and China rank top with the most billionaires in the world, followed by India, Germany, and Russia. However, many wealthy Chinese people keep a portion of their assets in the United States.
That means they don’t trust the stability of the totalitarian government. History shows things could turn dark overnight under a dictatorship. So, in case something should happen, they have a backup plan to take shelter in the United States. That’s why most tycoons keep one foot in China and another in America.
Despite all the problems and complaints we have in the US, we are still the land of opportunity, security, and stability. Wise people say, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” You can say that those wealthy people are wise when they diversify their assets to reliable places to safeguard their rainy days.
However, we also know that we came naked into this world, and we will leave naked. No matter how many assets we can secure, they will belong to others after we kick the bucket. A hundred years on earth is relatively short. In a blink of an eye, our hairs turn gray, our eyes dim, and our limbs weak.
Jesus said if God should take our lives today,
“‘The things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:20b-21).
There is an interesting phrase here, “rich toward God.” He is referring to storing treasures in heaven. Don’t you think it’s wiser to transfer your assets to where you are going rather than keeping them where you have to leave them behind? Jesus also said,
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Mt 6:19–20).
Since we don’t store physical cash and coins today, there is no concern for moths and rust, but at the beginning of the Ukraine war, we heard many countries froze Russian oligarchs’ assets kept there. So, spreading your assets in other countries doesn’t mean they are safe and secured.
Jesus wants us to store our assets in a more secure place, heaven. He also said,
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mat 6:21).
That means while your body is still on earth, your heart can be in heaven. That’s living in heaven on earth. According to Jesus, that’s the most profound wisdom of living, and that’s what he meant by being “rich toward God” because you store your treasure where you are heading and enjoy life here to the fullest as long as you live.
So today, we will investigate three simple principles of the wisdom of living based on what Jesus taught us in this week’s scripture lesson. Let’s begin!
[Hi! In case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone—the Lightkeeper. You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]
The scripture lesson for today is from the Gospel according to Luke 12:13-21. [Listen to the Word of the Lord.]
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” (Lk 12:13–21).
[This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!]
I’m sure all of you have heard on the news that someone in Chicago has won the 1.3 billion dollars jackpot this Friday. Have you ever wondered how you would spend the money if you had a windfall of fortune like that? That amount of money is mind-boggling. It could mess up your brain if you are not prepared.
I hope it goes to the person of wisdom who knows how to handle it. According to the New York Daily News, 70 percent of lottery winners end up broke within seven years. What’s worse is the windfall destroyed their lives. Some ended up worse than before and even lost their lives. You can read many stories online about the fate of the lottery winners. Not everyone ends up that way, but 70% is a lot.
You need the wisdom to handle wealth. Otherwise, it’s “luckier” not to win the lottery. That reminds me of King Solomon asking God to give him wisdom over wealth (2 Ch 1:10), but God gave him both. As Jesus said, if you ask for the kingdom, you get all other things as well. He also recorded Agur’s prayer. (Agur could be himself because the name means “the bold pursuer of wisdom.” Who else could fit that profile.). He prayed,
Two things I ask of you;
do not deny them to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that I need,
or I shall be full, and deny you,
and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or I shall be poor, and steal,
and profane the name of my God. (Pr 30:7–9).
In this prayer, we learn the danger of both poverty and riches. Poverty could corrupt our character, and wealth could make us forget the Creator. What’s wrong with forgetting the Creator? We become shortsighted and seek temporal security over eternal purpose. We miss the wisdom of living.
Jesus told the parable of the Rich Fool to warn us how wealth could blindside us. At a glance, you might wonder why God called him, “You fool.” It’s a strong language for those days. What’s wrong with building larger barns and storing his harvest to “relax, eat, drink, and be merry” for years to come?
As always, to understand a scripture passage, we need to read the context. A few verses down the line, we discover the purpose of this parable. Jesus said,
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Lk 12:32–34).
Using the passage, we can interpret the Parable of the Rich Fool and learn the wisdom of living by becoming “rich toward God” and enjoying heaven on earth here and beyond.
1. Overcome Fear
The first principle of the wisdom of living is we must overcome fear. It seems common knowledge but not easy to practice in certain conditions. Jesus said,
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Lk 12:32).
Jesus began by saying, “Do not be afraid.” We try to secure our future because we are afraid. Fear can cripple our wisdom because it activates our amygdala, triggering a fight or flight reaction and disabling our ability to think calmly and wisely.
That explains that the rich fool hoarded his wealth out of fear. He was afraid that he might not have enough to eat and fool around. Fear made him store his wealth on earth instead of heaven.
To overcome fear, we must trust our Heavenly Father as One who is happy to give you the kingdom. The kingdom means living in heaven on earth now and for eternity. Jesus gave us reasons to trust the Heavenly Father by observing nature, just a few verses above. He said,
“Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field … how much more will he clothe you. (Lk 12:24, 27–28).
Take time to observe nature. In New Jersey, you don’t even have to go far. It’s known as the Garden State, and you can see the beauty of God’s creation everywhere—in your backyard or the parks. Sophie loves hiking, but I am not so much. However, I like to take nature photos to get inspired. Some people love to see the stars; some enjoy the sunset; some like the ocean; others prefer to watch the birds and animals.
Whatever mode you prefer, take some time now and then to observe nature. That’s how Job restored his faith after much suffering, anxiety, and fear. He finally discovered God’s massive creation and said,
“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” (Job 42:5).
Don’t you want to see God? Observe nature. As you know, Job is one of the most enlightening pieces of wisdom literature we need to read now and then to overcome fear. He lost his fears when he realized he was just a small speck in God’s immense creation and that the God who feeds and cares for the universe would not leave him needy.
The moment we overcome fear, we discover the kingdom for us to live in heaven on earth and beyond. The second principle is,
2. Make Purses in Heaven
Then Jesus shows us the channel to transfer our wealth to heaven.
“Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” (Lk 12:33).
This one is much more challenging because it tests whether you really have overcome fear. On another occasion (Luke 18:18-30), Jesus counsels a Rich Young Ruler to sell his possessions and follow him, but he couldn’t do it because he had too many possessions.
I don’t think I could do that either, even though I don’t have much. I remember, when Cassy was about six years old, sitting in the car’s back seat on our way home, she asked me suddenly, “Daddy.” I said, “What?” She said, “Can we give everything we have to the poor?”
I was dumbfounded by the unexpected question from the preacher’s kid and didn’t know how to answer her. I didn’t want to extinguish her kind heart, but I couldn’t afford to say yes. It was complicated.
Fortunately, we arrived home before I found my word, so the conversation was interrupted. But, that conversation stays in my mind whenever I think about Jesus’ teaching about storing wealth in heaven. Even if we can’t do it, at least Jesus has shown us the channel to transfer our wealth to heaven.
The Bible teaches us to begin with a tithe (10%) and increase from there. William Colgate, the founder of Colgate-Palmolive, started donating 10% of his income when he began working at a soap company when he was only twelve, following his mother’s advice. As he grew richer, he increased his donation to 20%, then 30%, 40%, and 50%, leaving a lasting legacy when he died. There are many examples like this among the believers.
Later in the same chapter, Jesus said,
“From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required;
and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” (Lk 12:48).
Having more comes with more responsibility. The rich fool in the parable received more, but he hoarded it instead of extending the blessings and providing hospitality to the needy. When his life ended abruptly, he lost everything he had secured on earth.
So, make purses in heaven and be rich toward God because that’s where we are all going. The last and the most important principle is,
3. Enjoy Heaven on Earth
Jesus then said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Lk 12:34).
Life is much easier to cope with when your heart is in heaven even though your body is still here. It’s true freedom! That is the most important principle of the wisdom of living on earth. Here’s a real-life parable.
I grew up in a resort town in Burma nicknamed the Flower City because it has spring-like weather and beautiful flowers all year round. So it was a recommended destination for international tourists, and foreign diplomats love to visit there too.
Growing up in a tourist town, I took the opportunity occasionally to hang out with the American tourists in our famous beautiful botanical garden and practice speaking English with them. Among all kinds of tourists, I noticed the Americans were exceptionally easy to strike up a conversation with.
When most citizens in Burma were living in fear under the dictatorship, I observed the American tourists and diplomats roaming around without any worry because their treasures were in America, and their hearts were in the land of the free and the home of the brave. They were protected by US citizenship.
That’s how you live on earth with your heart in heaven because your citizenship and wealth are in God’s kingdom. Nothing can harm you here. At worst, they may hurt your body but not your soul because it is well with your soul. You are like a pilgrim, a tourist, or a diplomat on this earth, but your home is in heaven. A diplomat is a better description because Paul said that we are the ambassadors for Christ.
That reminds me of another piece of wisdom literature by King Solomon, Ecclesiastes. Some scholars claim this book to be one of the most profound pieces of wisdom literature on earth.
In brief, King Solomon said everything is vanity—being rich is vanity, and being poor is vanity because both the poor and the rich go to the same place—six feet under. The only way to live life to the fullest is to enjoy what you have with your heart in heaven.
I recommend reading Ecclesiastes every now and then to tune up your wisdom of living.
In other words, the citizenship of this earth is all vanity. Only the citizenship of heaven gives us meaning. Jesus wants you to transfer your treasures to heaven and keep your heart there to enjoy heaven on earth and beyond.
There you have it. Three simple principles for the wisdom of living according to Jesus:
1. Overcome Fear
2. Make Purses in Heaven
3. Enjoy Heaven on Earth
Let us all put it to practice!
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness.