Tag Archives: money

The Rich Fool’s New Car

I’m buying a new car today. It’s not actually new but new to me. It’s a sweet ride and a bit of an indulgence. Do I really need it? Not exactly. Is it okay for me to buy it? Good question. Let’s weigh the options.

After using the parable of the rich fool to opine about binge TV and wasting time, I found myself looking back to the actual parable and what it says about possessions. So let’s remind ourselves of it:

A rich man’s land was very productive. He thought to himself, “What should I do, since I don’t have anywhere to store my crops? I will do this,’ he said. ‘I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and store all my grain and my goods there.  Then I’ll say to myself, ‘You have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.'”

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?” (Luke 12:16-20)

What a fool! We can all agree on that, right? But what should the rich fool have done? What actions in response to his great harvest would have earned him God’s approval rather than disdain? What could this man do with his bumper crop other than use it to coast into the sunset? Let’s explore the possibilities.

He could leave it out exposed to the elements where the rain and the rats would compete to ruin it first. Surely we can agree that God would not be pleased with that sort of stewardship.

He could give it away to the needy. Is that a good use of the crop? Apparently the rich man was going to be able to feed himself and his entourage for many years to come. It stands to reason that he could have fed a much larger group for a shorter span of years. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? But of course when it’s gone, it’s gone. You can’t spend or give away the same dollar (or bushel of grain) twice.

He could sell it and then invest the proceeds. If this man had a hundred acres, perhaps his excess could be sold in order to fund the purchase of a hundred or two hundred more acres. Whatever good could be done with the crop from the smaller lands could be magnified on the larger lands. But is purpose of profit simply to generate a bigger empire to create ever-bigger profits?

He could store it for a time of need. This is how Joseph saved Egypt in Genesis, isn’t it? The rich man could store his grain and then keep on producing more for future consumption. Then, when a bad situation arises, he could draw from those reserves and save the day. The downside to this approach is that he still has to build storage facilities and protect this reserve until bad times come.

Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t tell us what the rich fool should have done. He just lets us know that the man made the wrong choice. Is there a right answer to what he should have done?

Is there a right answer to what I should do with the extra money that appears in my bank account from time to time? In the past year, I’ve done some of all of these things. I’ve indulged a little bit. I’ve given some money and goods away. I’ve invested some money toward tomorrow, and I’ve simply stuck some into a savings account for an unforeseen need, like the opportunity to buy a car. Did I do it right?

Since Jesus didn’t give us exact instructions for dealing with whatever plenty he provides, I have to assume that he had a different way for directing us. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:16 that through the Holy Spirit, “we have the mind of Christ.” The mind of Christ lets me know when I’m mishandling both my money and my time. I just have to ask and then listen to the response.

What does that say about the car? In reality, this choice is a no-brainer. The car pleases me, is priced right, can be purchased (easily) for cash, and should keep me driving reliably for another four or five years. And did I mention that it pleases me? Jesus never said we shouldn’t enjoy life a little.

So You Want to Win the Lottery?

All that glittersI’d love to have a bucket full of money come my way. Wouldn’t you? Every day, it seems, I watch people clog the checkout at QuikTrip as they agonize over their Lottery ticket purchases or gleefully collect the $25 they “earned” after buying $50 in tickets. (And they typically give that “winning” back for more tickets.)

In case you’re tempted by the lure of easy money, consider the fates of 21 Lottery winners who wound up being Lottery losers. This one is typical.

David Lee Edwards split a $280 million Powerball jackpot with three others, a win that came while he was unemployed and living in his parents basement. After taxes, he received a lump sum of $27 million. He bought a $600,000 house, a $1 million fleet of cars, a $78,000 watch, a $1.9 million jet, 200 swords and other medieval weapons, and a $4.5 million fiber-optics installation company. He also married a woman 19 years younger than he was.

Within a year, he had spent $12 million. The house was soon lost to foreclosure, his wife was arrested for stabbing a boyfriend, and David died at age 58 in 2013.

A jet and 200 swords? Wow. Beware of what you hope for. Jesus warned his followers about the lure of wealth:No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:13). In my experience, when we serve God, the money, though not in epic quantities, will come along for the ride.

Like Nails on a Chalkboard?

The New York Times ran a story recently describing the terrible working conditions among nail salons in New York. The exploitation of vulnerable people, made possible due to customer vanity and cheapness, ought to make a Christian recoil. Does it?

Among the more than 100 workers interviewed by The Times, only about a quarter said they were paid an amount that was the equivalent of New York States minimum hourly wage. All but three workers, however, had wages withheld in other ways that would be considered illegal, such as never getting overtime.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good. There’s nothing wrong with shopping for a bargain. But when you discover that your nice nails at a nice price come at the cost of someone else earning a decent living, the aesthetics and economics certainly change.

Precious Things (Psalm 19:10)

They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)

Imagine one of those exercises where you try to decide what ten objects you would have with you if stranded on a desert island. I’d want water–or better yet a filter to desalinate sea water. Rope would be useful. Something to eat could come in handy. I’d throw a knife and a first aid kit and some sort of shelter into my supplies. What I would decidedly NOT choose is gold or its modern-day equivalent, money.

If the legendary hijacker, D.B. Cooper, did manage to parachute to safety in the trackless forests of the Pacific Northwest, what did he do with all of that money he took along? Assuming he never made it to civilization, he might have made a bed for himself out of the cash. It might have provided tinder for fires. Beyond that, money in the forest is pretty useless. Gold on a desert island is only good as a weight.

Why do we put such value into things that won’t last any length of time? A couple of weeks ago, thousands of people lined up to buy the second generation iPads on the day they first came out. Why? Why did I make sure that I made it in front of a TV by 1:20 on Sunday so that I could watch my KU Jayhawks lose in the NCAA Tournament? Why do we get attached to cars that will wear out in a few years, houses that require constant maintenance to keep from falling around our heads, and all manner of entertainments that cease us pleasure very quickly.

Do we really believe what David says in this Psalm? Do we really value God’s Word as the most precious, the most delicious thing in our lives? I can’t say that I do on a regular basis. I pay lip service to the idea, but little more.

What do we do then? When I realize I’m not valuing my wife sufficiently, I spend time with her. Perhaps the same will work with scripture. We have nothing to lose in the attempt.