Sermon Graphic iWallet Long-2America’s obsession with making money is embedded in the very language we speak. In social settings (not social media, real social gathering) people who meet for the first time even in casual conversations with total strangers are not afraid to ask, “What do you do for a living?”

Talk about a question that cannot be answered with just a couple of words like, “I am a school teacher.” “Living,” after all, is a lot more than “doing” something. Living is sitting mindlessly in the woods listening to wildlife pass. Living is listening to people. Living is making sure you take your blood pressure medicine. Living is drying your kid’s tears after a tough loss in a soccer game. Living is arguing with your spouse about where to go to dinner. Living is reading your favorite blog. Living is obviously unquantifiable and “un-dollar-signed.”

By using “making a living” to mean only “make money,” we have cheated these words from their full and potentially rich meaning. And the reason I say that, first of all, is that I don’t really “make a living” – the living makes me. I am defined by the wealth of my relationships and not by the wealth that I leave behind. Obviously, this is not the same as saying we shouldn’t aspire to do better in life, but this is a subject for another day. The Bible is clear that one must work hard to provide for his family.

The other reason for this assault on the meaning of these words is that if we the want to be defined by what we “do” or “make,” which essentially means that we are creative beings (not in the sense of creativity only but in the general sense of productivity), then why restrict such a variegated sort of activity to the one area of our lives in which we have little or no control? My money is here today, gone tomorrow. Wealth generation and management assume that others will have a huge say on my “worth;” and if not others, circumstances will.

The story of the rich fool told by Jesus in Luke 12 illustrates this last point. The main character in the story had a huge problem. Most people think that the problem was that his fields produced too many crops and he was not prepared to store it all. Wrong. That was only part of the problem. In fact, if that were the sole reason for his troubles, it would be an easy fix. Consider:

He could have harvested the crops and quickly sold it to other producers who collectively would have room to store all the grain.

He could have donated a significant portion of his harvest to his workers who would in turn become more productive since they wouldn’t have to be overly preoccupied with the business of survival.

He could have sold the excess to the provincial government to ensure that people would have enough to eat in the winter time.

Finally, he could have simply made an outright donation of a good portion of his surplus to the poor, orphans, widows and aliens living in his town.

But no. This man’s problem was that he wanted all the toys for himself. So putting himself first, he decided to tear down his existing barns and build bigger ones to hoard all his surplus for future malefic use. This guy would probably be a great candidate for a typical Wall Street investor today.

By doing this he would accomplish two things: a) he could ration the availability of the product and thus drive prices up at will. (The man was not stupid. He knew that in a time of shortage food is king); b) when his barns were built and full, they would become his insurance. This was, essentially, his 401K.

Remember Emperor Kuzco from the Emperor’s New Groove? All he cared about was that he had a great time – forget the misery of others. So if somebody asked this fool what he did for a living, he might as well have said, “I am the guy who decides if you live or die next winter.”

But at least in this story, the Great Equalizer shows up in time to save the day. While the man is busy self-congratulating: “Self. You’ve got it made. You’ve shielded yourself from financial trouble for years to come. Get that bucket list out and let’s have myself some fun!” Barely were the words out of his mouth when he heard a voice, “Shut up, you fool. You’ll drop dead tonight. How about them wills?”

And not surprisingly, Jesus concludes with a stern warning that applies to all of us. Here is Ivanildo’s Unauthorized Version: “Obsession with ‘making a living’ will cause you to leave the Maker behind. Turn around and change or you might be the next fool to drop.”

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” (Luke 16:20-21 NLT).

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA