“Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.” (Luke 12:31)
A jack-in-the-box is a weird toy, right? A child can just be cranking the handle, enjoying the music, when all of a sudden, a clown surprisingly jumps up. It’s shocking. The child might laugh or cry, it could go either way.
Jesus’s parables are sometimes like a jack-in-the-box. He’s telling the story, and everyone’s nodding their heads, thinking, “that’s right, Jesus,” when all of a sudden, the unexpected happens and we don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or pray for forgiveness.
In Luke 12:13-23, Jesus tells one of these stories. On this occasion, a man asked Jesus to tell his brother to divide their father’s estate with him. Jesus saw into the man’s heart. He told the man to guard against greed because life isn’t measured by how much we own.
Then Jesus tells a story, as only Jesus can do.
A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, “What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.” Then he said, “I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, ‘My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!’” (Luke 12:16-19)
Back in that time and place, prosperity was commonly accepted as a sign of God’s favor and blessing. The listeners of this story were probably nodding, agreeing with the man’s effort to lay up riches for himself. Little did they know that Jesus was about to spring a jack-in-the-box moment on them.
But God said to him, “You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?” (Luke 12:20)
Jesus didn’t compliment the rich man in the story on his great wisdom and vast wealth, as his listeners must have expected. Instead, Jesus causes everyone listening to rethink their beliefs and assumptions with the words, “you fool.” His listeners had to question whether a life focused on accumulating more and more wealth was actually the life of a fool. We could die at any moment. What good will our possessions do for us then?
Jesus uses this pithy story to teach us that money isn’t as important as we like to think it is. In the kingdom of God, life is about faith. Jesus says it is unbelievers who worry about not having enough money. He advises his followers to seek the kingdom of God above everything else. He promises that those who put God’s kingdom first will have all their needs supplied. When we put the kingdom of God in first place, everything else falls into its proper place.
Dear God, it’s so easy to believe more money and more possessions bring happiness, but I know only you and your kingdom can satisfy my heart and soul. Help me seek your kingdom before anything else. Help me to not worry about my finances, but to trust you to meet my needs. In Jesus’s name, amen.