Date: September 9, 2012
Bible Text: Luke 12:16-23 | Roger Voegtlin
Series: Transcribed Sermons
If you have your Bibles, please turn in them to Luke chapter 12. I’m going to preach this morning on the Rich Fool. Again, if you are visiting with us, you are our honored guest. We never want to offend you; and yet, as we talked about already, there’s nothing more important than what you do with Jesus Christ—whether you accept Him and go to heaven or reject Him and go to hell. And so that is what this fall campaign is all about, to tell people about their need of Jesus Christ and encourage them to come to Him for salvation. So again, let’s read Luke chapter 12 beginning with verse 16. Jesus is telling a parable. It says, “And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?” Things were going so well for this farmer, all his barns and all his storage areas were full. “And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Jesus is saying, here is a guy who had everything, but rejected Christ. And He called him a fool. And He said so is everybody else, the people He was speaking to. So we are, if we are rich toward the things of the world, if we are grabbing for cars and homes and things, vacations, retirement, and all this, and we reject Christ. We’re not rich toward God. “And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you [again speaking to the Christians], Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.”
My text verse is verse 20, “But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which t6hou hast provided?” Whose house will it be? Whose retirement money will it be? Whose car will it be? You see, when death comes, all those things mean nothing. “You can’t take it with you” is an old saying, and that is what God is saying here. By reading before and after our text, you’ll see that this man was what we would call a very successful businessman, the type that so many in America would like to be themselves. He was the type that would be held up to our sons to model after. I don’t think he got his money illegally. I don’t think he got his money selling drugs or running a house of prostitution, or something like that. He got it legally. He was probably a moral man. There’s nothing in the Bible against his character. There’s no indication that he took advantage of orphans or widows or the poor. But he got is money lawfully, and he was an upright man. I imagine if he lived in Chesterton, we would try and encourage him to run to be on the school board or take some other office like that. He was a shrewd man, and probably if we spoke to him about his soul, he would be able to turn in the Bible and quote us, “Be not slothful in business.” This was a good businessman. And apparently he moved with the highest society of his time. He had the best of cattle, the finest equipment, the largest harvest, etc. He was a great success, I’m sure.
Now I know that there were revivals in this day, because John the Baptist held the greatest revivals in history, during the time that Christ was talking about. Literally thousands would go down to the river Jordan. But he probably thought that they were fanatics. What a silly idea to leave a legitimate business and waster time listening to John the Baptist. We have reason to believe that he belonged to a synagogue, believed in a set of doctrines, and lived accordingly. But he saw no power, no lives changed, no challenge to live really a better life. But at the same time, he didn’t want anything to do with these religious fanatics. He didn’t want anything to do with a faith that was so different than his own. He was too busy. He had his civic club, that is how he served his community. He was active in the PTA. Of course, I’m trying to make this relevant to us. Besides that, the grass had to be mowed, the garden had to be put in and taken out, the house had to be taken care of—he was too busy for these innovations.
Undoubtedly, Jesus and His disciples passed his way. He couldn’t help but realize that this Christianity had something his religion did not. Their prayers were answered. They actually saw miracles in their midst and lives changed. He convinced himself that after a while this fad would pass by like all others. And so Jesus came and went without this rich man even listening to Him. Neither did he go down to the river Jordan to listen to John the Baptist. He was too busy for that type of thing. So it is with people today. They don’t have time to really look at the question of Christ. They’ve heard of Him. You’ve heard of Him. But they wouldn’t stop to see how He came.
I always think most people in American understand Christmas, it has to do with Christ’s coming. But they won’t really look into it. What did that mean? Most people in America understand that Easter has more to do than with the Easter Bunny, it has to do with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. But they won’t stop and really ask the question and delve into, “What does it mean to me? Why did He come? Or what has He done?” People will say life is pressing. The rich man, I’m sure, had the best of everything—he lived in luxury. I’m sure the rich man had the finest of fruit, and meat, and fish on his table. And he might even have sent down to Egypt for the cloth to make his wife’s and daughter’s clothes. Everybody said he had everything anybody would want. If a friend would come to see him, he would show him around his house and show him the very finest furniture. He would step outside—and I’ve had farmers do this—he would say, “My land goes as far as the eye can see. And these barns, I’m going to tear this barn down and that one also, they are too small. And I’ve got all of this by the sweat of my brow.” Look at him. If a man would cheat him out of five dollars, he would be angry. He would resent it. He was shrewd. He was practical. Yet, the devil was cheating him out of his very soul, out of eternity. That’s the way it is today, even in what we call “middle” America. We’re so proud. Oh no, we don’t have what the rich guy has. But boy, our house is better than my parents ever had. And my kids have everything that I ever wanted and did not have. Shrewd? No, blind. The devil blinds us with the things of this world. And he blinds us to the need eternity. How shortsighted the typical American is today. How shortsighted you are today, if you have been making excuses. “No, I don’t want to think about this now. I don’t want to take care of my eternal welfare.” How shortsighted, if all you are thinking of is today. “I want to have a good education. I want my kids to get a good education. I want to have a nice house. I want to plan for my retirement, maybe even buy a plot over in the cemetery.” Planning for today, living from the cradle to the grave, and not thinking about eternity.
Watch this rich man one night. He is in his den, the den of that beautiful home. And an architect is with him. And they are talking about the design of the new barn, the best that money can buy. The architect leaves, and his family retires, and he stands there looking at the plans and thinking about all he has accomplished in life. His servants have gone to bed also. The doors and windows are locked and secured. But a stranger comes in slowly, and lays his cold hand on his shoulder. The mane is startled. “Who are you? How did you get in?” And the stranger says, “I’m death. And I’ve come to take you with me.” It should not have been a stranger. Death is all around us, isn’t it? This man had probably attended many funerals, maybe had even been a pall bearer. But now he wants to bribe death. “I’ll give you thousands of dollars just for a few more days.” No. You may be able to bribe some politicians. You may be able to bribe some crooked policemen. You may be able to bribe some businessmen. But when death comes, we have to obey. And this man said, “Just a few days. I’ve got some things to settle. There are things that I need to accomplish.” But death says, “Come.” “What are you going to do with me?” Death says, “You’ve had a whole lifetime to investigate that.” And I want to stop and say, that is what life is about. Life is not making money, building houses. All that is fine. Life is not insurance policies, bank accounts. Life is but a short period of time that we have to decide what we are going to do with Jesus Christ. Life is but a short period of time when we can look into the Bible, find out why Christ came, what it has to do with us, and make a decision. Are we going to accept Him and go to heaven for an eternity? Or are we going to continue to reject Him and go to hell for an eternity? Death places his cold hand on that man’s heart, and it ceases to beat. Maybe the next morning the cook gets up and sees him slumped over the desk, and he cries for the family, and they come running to his side. They call a doctor, and the doctor checks his pulse, but there isn’t any. News of his death travels quickly throughout the countryside. He was a shrewd man, a practical, successful man, and I would guess, a good man. Look at all the money and time he spent to make the town a better place to live. The preacher has a wonderful eulogy. He was so benevolent to the poor. He tried to make his country a utopia. There is so much false teaching that goes on in funerals and by preachers. Men stand up and pronounce a eulogy over a man who lived a godless life, never turned to Christ, and went down to a Christless grave. And they hope because they were wise and good, and a community leader, they’ve gone to a better place. Have you ever noticed that? It doesn’t matter what they guy had done in life, we hope that he’s gone to a better place. But God sees is entirely different.
You and I may make this man out shrewd and wise. You and I may hold him up as an example because he was rich. But what did God say about him? God said he was an abomination. God wrote this epitaph, and if we could find his gravesite, we’d see that God called him a fool. A fool. And it’s been handed down for 2,000 years for us to understand and for us to be warned. “Oh, I’m having too much fun to get into religion” or “Man, I’d have to give up this to get involved with religion.” God says you are a fool to put anything in front of salvation. I supposed there are some here right now who are saying, “If I thought he was going to talk about death, I would not have come. I would have stayed home. Why can’t he talk about life, and marriage, and the good life?” I do. You heard me announce Sunday night’s service. I love to preach on the fact that the Bible teaches us how to have a good marriage. And if we follow the Word of God, we will have a wonderful marriage. I love to teach on the fact that God teaches you how to raise up a child in the way he should go. And if you follow the Bible, you’ll have wonderful children, and a wonderful relationship. I love to preach on the fact that the Bible teaches us even about finances. And if we follow the Bible in finances, we will be successful. Do you want to know why I am preaching on death this morning? Because the vast majority of people in Chesterton, Portage, Valparaiso, Michigan City, Gary, LaPorte—the vast majority, I would guess 9 out of 10 people who live in those towns—when they die, they are not going to be prepared, and they are going to go to hell. You say, “I don’t want to hear about death.” What would you rather have me do? Be like those preachers that lie at the funeral and say everything’s okay? And you die, and you wake up in a burning, fiery hell, begging for just one drop of water. That’s why I’m preaching on death. You may even have been warned. You probably have gone to funerals. Maybe death even came into your own home and taken a loved one. And yet, you are not prepared. In the time that this church has been in existence, I could tell you hundreds and hundreds of people whom we have dealt with personally, and we have told them how that they were sinners and how they need a Savior. And if they don’t accept Christ, they are going to go to hell instead of heaven. And they say, “I believe it, but it’s not time now.” And I don’t know what is keeping them. Maybe it’s sin. I don’t know what it is. But whatever it is, they say no, and the they’ve died and gone to hell. What I’m saying is the cemeteries around here in Chesterton and Valparaiso, the cemeteries around here are filled with hundreds of people who have sat in this auditorium and heard preaching like this, rejected it, and now they are in hell. That’s terrible. That’s why I’m preaching like this. It’s downright crazy to spend this life trying to find happiness. And I do mean trying, because you can’t find true happiness and peace without Christ. I have said over and over again to someone who was not saved, “You don’t have peace.” I’ve never had one person say, “Oh, yes I do.” You cannot have peace without Christ. And it’s crazy to spend a life trying to find happiness, piling up goods on this earth, and dying as this man did without hope, without Christ, and without eternal life.
Now what was this man’s sin? I mean, why didn’t he go to heaven? I would call it simple neglect. All we can find wrong with his life is that he neglected to secure his soul’s salvation. Today you can say, “I’m kind to the needy. I’m kind to the poor. I’m honorable. I’m working to make this world a better place to live in.” But if you cannot take care of your soul, if you can’t say that your soul is saved, you’ll be lost for an eternity.
If you are truly sick, you cannot ignore the medication, or you will suffer the consequences. If we were in that awful war in Iraq, and we were in the middle of Baghdad or one of those cities, and we were in the middle of the fighting, we could not say, “I don’t believe there is a war going on. I’m just going to pretend everything’s all right.” We’re going to be dead if we do that. And so in life, if we just try to pretend that everything is okay, we’re just going to go through life and have fun, number one, we’ll end up with not much fun; number two, we’re going to end up in hell. A man who neglects his salvation will find that death will catch up with him, and he’ll be the loser for an eternity. I think one of the greatest texts in the Bible is “Prepare to meet thy God.” Are you ready? Why would anybody wait any longer to get saved? Why would anybody put it off? All the children of Israel had to do to be healed from that snake bite, if you are familiar with the story, is look to that brazen snake that represented Christ. All they had to do is look. And praise God, all you have to do to go to heaven is look!. The Bible so clearly teaches us that we are sinners. The Bible teaches us that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. All. That’s everybody. You say, “Well, I’m not a sinner.” Yes you are. I’m a sinner. I disobeyed my parents. A lot of people will say, “I’ve got to go by the Ten Commandments,” and they don’t even know what the Ten Commandments are. One of them is “Honor your father and your mother.” There were times when I did not honor my mother and my father, and there were times when you didn’t either, if you are honest. There were times you lied. The Bible says if we say we have no sin, then we make ourselves out a liar; we make God a liar. We’re sinners. “All have sinned and short of the glory of God.” The Bible goes on and says the wages of that sin is death and describes hell in a fiery way. “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” You see, that’s the shame when people go to hell. Yes, we’re sinners. Yes, we deserve death and hell. But also, yes, Jesus died for us! The most well known verse in all the Bible is, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It’s free. That’s the shame. That’s why I’m preaching on it. It’s not for just a few elite. We’re all sinners. We all deserve death and hell. But He died for all of us. All of us! And all we have to do is turn from our sin and turn to Him, and we’ll go to heaven for an eternity. But tell me, why wouldn’t you do that? There’s only one reason. The devil. There’s only one reason a person will leave this room and say, “No, I’m going to reject that. I’m going to do it later.” It’s the devil. I say again, all we have to do, the Bible says, is “…call upon the name of the Lord” and you shall be saved. The Bible says, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God…” The idea is that if I were to give you this Bible, all you have to do is take it. The Bible says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.” So how do you get it? Take it. That’s all. Now I say again, why would anybody not receive it? It’s free. Why would anybody say no? Why would anybody wait any longer to accept salvation?
I’m sure some are saying, “I’ve got enough time.” You’re counting on tomorrow. But I tell you, if I were to go down to this Chesterton cemetery and summon up the ghastly dead, you’ll find out that many, many died before their threescore and ten. In fact, I was thinking this morning, when I was a little child in grade school, I got woke up with an explosion. I grew up near Midway Airport in Chicago, and there were lots of plane crashes that that little airport in that time. This time a plane had crashed into some of my classmates’ apartment building. When I went to look at it later, there was nothing—it was just flat. I just never saw them again. They died. Seven of my classmates died. They were little kids. You know thousands of little kids die, hundreds of thousands, millions, every year. My best friend, when I was a teenager, drowned right next to me. He was 15. On the radio just this morning, I heard of a Northwestern student who fell over dead at the Northwestern game. Dead. I’m sure he didn’t think he was going to die. Don’t say you’ve got time. You have no assurance of tomorrow. And I’ll tell you something else that I have found. When somebody puts off salvation and puts it off and off, they never get saved. They get hardened. Dead. Who are you to say, “God, I know you died for me, You sent Your only begotten Son to shed His blood on the cross for me, but I’ll choose when I come.” Who are you to say that? If I could only get every unsaved person in this room to ask the question, “What is going to be my end? Where am I going to spend eternity?” Would you please ask that? “Where am I going to spend eternity?” If you would only think about it sincerely and stop putting the thought out of your head, it wouldn’t take long for you to accept Christ as your Savior.
I read sometime back about a Concord, California, bank deposit bag being found in a garbage truck. They didn’t know how it got there. It had $27,000 in it. Can you imagine? They didn’t even know how it got there! You say, “That is foolish.” Yes, that is carelessness and is foolish. But not anything is as foolish as somebody throwing their soul away. God says, “Thou fool. The world in all its fullness is not equal to the value of salvation that is offered in Christ.” In Mark 8:36 Jesus says, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” He’s trying to get us to think. What He is saying is, you can take all the gold in the world, all the silver, all the platinum, all the oil, all the land, all the kingdoms, all the armies, all the banks, and you can wrap them all up, and it’s not worth one soul. That’s what Jesus says. You’d say, “I’d love to live my 80 years owning the world.” The reason it is not worth it is if you die and go to hell, you’re going to spend not millions of years in hell, not billions, not trillions, but an eternity. And those 80 years with all the world would mean nothing. You’d curse those 80 years. You’d be in hell fire for an eternity.
Sometimes we read about a judge sending people to church, especially teenagers, for punishment. You don’t hear it as much anymore. But there were some Michigan college students who went to the Trinity Baptist Church up in northern Michigan and had a beer party in the church. And afterwards, their car was stuck. And they took the hymnals and Bibles and used them as road bed to get out. And when they were caught, the judge sent them to the church to apologize, fined them, and put them in jail for a while. And again, I’m sure everyone here would agree that what they did was deplorable. Listen to me. The Bible says that not only are we stepping on the Word of God like they did, but we are tromping on Christ Himself and His blood when we reject Him. Listen to Hebrews 10:29, “Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” Now let me stop, and I’m basically through. Remember what I said? That I’ve not seen people who have rejected Christ get saved. They reject, reject, reject, reject. The vast majority of them go to hell. Because what they are doing is they are tromping on the blood of Christ. They are tromping on the Holy Spirit. “For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord, And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
We have a false view of God today. He’s all love. But He is also just. He loved us so much that He send His only begotten Son to leave the throne rooms of heaven and come down to this earth and be hated, and spit on, and finally crucified. He loved us that much. But His Word clearly says if you reject that love, you are going to hell. And that’s why He said this guy was a fool. If you reject that love, God is sending you to hell. And if you do that, you are a fool.