To give lavishly is to be rich toward God; to hoard or spend on ourselves without regard for others is to be impoverished toward God. He accepts our gifts to the needy as if they were given directly to Him: “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed” (Proverbs 19:17).
Any lifestyle that doesn’t align with God’s priorities and won’t hold up after death is not a good one—no matter how glamorous or appealing or sensible it seems at the time.
In Christ’s story of the rich fool a man decides to hoard his fortune then “take life easy; eat, drink and be merry” (see Luke 12:13-21). The word translated “fool” literally means “unthinking one.” Mindless. Senseless. The rich fool was out of touch with eternal realities. Despite death’s inevitability, he failed to prepare for it—and failed to remember that he would give an account to God (Romans 14:12).
The rich fool stored up treasures for himself on Earth as if he were the center of the universe and as if this world was where he’d live forever. The man was a fool to imagine his silver, gold, crops, land, and barns were actually his. He was a fool to ignore God’s claims on him and his possessions:
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. (Psalm 24:1, NIV)
“The silver is mine and the gold is mine,” declares the Lord Almighty. (Haggai 2:8, NIV)
A wise person will regularly ask, “Lord, what do you want me to do with all you have put in my hands?” God’s Word tells us exactly how to prepare now for the afterlife. Though our culture and even some of our Christian friends may encourage us to do so, we don’t have to live like fools!
In the world’s eyes, the rich fool was a great success. Today he would be admired, and he might even be placed on a church or ministry board. But in the end, all his success counted for nothing.
Had the rich fool acknowledged God as his Creator and Redeemer, and as the ultimate owner of everything he possessed, he would have been rich toward God and stored up treasures in Heaven. Instead, he stored up for himself treasures on Earth and was suddenly and eternally parted from them at death.
The most troubling aspect of this parable is that if we met this man, most of us would commend him for his foresight.
Notice he isn’t called the rich sinner, but the rich fool.
Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson observed this about those who fail to live generous lives:
By holding onto what we possess, we diminish its long-term value to us. In protecting only ourselves against future uncertainties and misfortunes, we become more anxious about uncertainties and vulnerable to future misfortunes. In short, by failing to care well for others, we actually do not properly take care of ourselves.
Christ-followers are self-enriching givers. Why? Because giving inevitably enlarges our hearts, lives, and capacity for joy.
Don’t misunderstand. The true good life doesn’t say no to wealth or pleasures. Rather, it says yes to greater and lasting wealth and pleasures that are found when we cheerfully part with God’s money and possessions for others’ good and God’s glory.
God graciously gives us money and possessions to meet real needs, both our own needs and the needs of others. He wants us to enjoy life, but He doesn’t entrust excess to us so we can indulge excessive wants. Money and possessions are not life-giving. They are utterly incapable of imparting to us the identity, purpose, significance, and security we crave.
I recently heard someone talk about the rampant unhappiness, disease, and disillusionment he and his friends experienced while, he said, they were “living the good life.” Though I put that phrase in quotation marks, this person didn’t use air quotes or note the irony that what he called the “good life” was in fact devastatingly bad. In his case, the “good life” included drugs and sexual immorality, led to the loss of his wife and children, and ultimately left him utterly empty.
Even when this so-called good life brought times of enjoyment, it was only “the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). Such pleasures don’t even last in this world, and they certainly won’t outlive this life. The rich man in Christ’s story learned the hard way that his prosperity was short lived. It came to a dramatic and eternal end at his death, when God proclaimed, “You fool!”
To understand what constitutes the good life, we need to understand what life really is, where it comes from, and where it’s going.
God is the eternal source of life. He gave human beings “the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7), and He designed the first people to experience communion with Himself, the living God. In the presence of Eden’s tree of life (Genesis 2:9), He walked with Adam and Eve as they enjoyed a life-giving and delightful relationship (Genesis 3:8). God warned them, though, that if they ate of the fruit of one particular tree, this beautiful life would tragically end in death (Genesis 2:17).
They disobeyed, and as promised, sin brought death. While Adam and Eve’s physical death came gradually, the end of their life-giving spiritual relationship with God was immediate.
Ever since, people have lived in a state of spiritual death, with dying bodies, decaying relationships, and failed dreams. Death is the new normal. But that’s not the end of the story. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus’ sacrifice conquers sin and death on our behalf.
John’s Gospel tells us that God created the world through Jesus, bringing life and light to His creation (John 1:1-5). He raised Lazarus from the dead to display His power to make dead people alive again (John 11:42-44). Then He, too, rose from the grave, ensuring the ultimate death of sin and the defeat of death itself. His resurrection gives us life (Romans 4:25). His coming back to life is the basis of God’s moving us from death to life (1 Corinthians 15:17).
Jesus calls Himself life in these four passages:
the bread of life (John 6:48)
the light of life (John 8:12)
the resurrection and the life (John 11:25)
the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:6)
There’s no way to overestimate the importance of life in John’s Gospel. John tells readers his Gospel was written “that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31, NIV).
Jesus is not just a signpost or a compass to life; He is life. He’s not merely a map leading to water or an X that marks the spot where treasure is buried. Rather, He is the wellspring. He is the treasure.
The living God says, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19). He offers us true life and, with it, blessing. But He warns us against sin and the curse that always comes with it. Just as He did in the Garden, God offers us the quality of life that comes from obeying Him. God says, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live” (Proverbs 4:4).
After establishing a restaurant chain, two banks, a ranch, a farm, and real estate ventures, Jerry Caven says the real fun started when his career was coming to an end:
At age 59 I was headed into retirement, looking for a nice lake home. Then God changed our plans and led Muriel and me to put our money and time overseas. It’s been exciting. Before, we gave token amounts, now we put substantial money into missions. Our hearts are in another country now. We visit and minister there often.
The Cavens say, “After seeing the way poor Christians in other countries trust him, we’ve asked God if he wants us to give away all of ‘our’ money. He hasn’t led us to do that yet. But we’ve meant it when we asked.”
When we live the good life, people quickly notice. The Cavens added this story: “A non-Christian couple saw us giving, and saw how much it excited and changed us. Then they started giving too, even before knowing Christ. They saw the joy and they wanted in on it!”
The simplest statement made in Scripture about the life that Jesus brings His people is perhaps also the most profound: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
The giving life is not about obligation or guilt or drudgery or merely surviving. It’s about life in abundance.Adapted from Randy’s book Giving Is the Good Life.