Rich Toward God

The Parable of the Rich Fool by Rembrandt (1627)

How much of your income do you allocate to giving, saving, and spending? You might think it’s best to save as much and spend as little as possible, and that might be right as a general rule. What about spending money in a way that helps you develop stronger relationships with loved ones or that helps you grow closer to God? Those might be examples of investments in eternal assets, building up reserves which will continue beyond the grave.

One day, a man asked Jesus to help him settle a dispute with his brother over money. The Savior responded that it wasn’t His job: “Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?” Then, He taught an important principle: “Beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:14-15). He reinforced this principle by sharing the Parable of the Rich Fool. Here is a modern translation of this parable:

A rich man had land that produced good crops. He thought, “What should I do? I don’t have enough room to store my crops.” He said, “I know what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones so that I can store all my grain and goods in them. Then I’ll say to myself, ‘You’ve stored up a lot of good things for years to come. Take life easy, eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.'” But God said to him, “You fool! I will demand your life from you tonight! Now who will get what you’ve accumulated?” That’s how it is when a person has material riches but is not rich in his relationship with God.

Luke 12:16-21, GOD’S WORD® Translation

Saving for the future is wise, but saving specifically to fund a luxurious life in the future is short-sighted for at least two reasons:

  1. Because you have no idea how long you will live
  2. Because you could invest in things that will last much longer

The King James Version of this story ends by telling us that we should be “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). I like the interpretation of that phrase in the translation above: rich in our relationship with God, valuing closeness with Him above the temporary pleasures and conveniences of life.

Jacob counseled us, “Do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy” (2 Nephi 9:51). And Jesus advised us not to lay up for ourselves “treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal…for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:19, 21, 3 Nephi 13:19, 21; see also Luke 12:33-34).

Elder Michael John U. Teh observed:

Out of necessity, most of us are involved in earning money and acquiring some of the world’s goods to be able to sustain our families. It requires a good part of our time and attention. There is no end to what the world has to offer, so it is critical that we learn to recognize when we have enough. If we are not careful, we will begin to chase after the temporal more than the spiritual. Our pursuit for the spiritual and eternal will then take a backseat, instead of the other way around.

Where Your Treasure Is,” General Conference, April 2014

Elder Teh suggested four things of eternal value that are worth investing in:

  1. Christlike attributes, including faith, hope, humility, and charity
  2. Family relationships
  3. Service
  4. Understanding the doctrine of Christ and strengthening our testimony

My wife and I have recently been reviewing our retirement savings plan. In order to decide whether we’re saving enough, we’ve had to make guesses about how long we will live, how much we will spend in retirement, and what kind of inflation-adjusted return we can reasonably expect our assets to generate.

After studying the Parable of the Rich Fool this week, I’m motivated to also review what I would call our “eternal retirement plan.” How much time and energy are we investing in growing closer to God, in building strong relationships with our family on both sides of the veil, in serving God’s children, and in gaining eternal knowledge?

Today, I will avoid the fallacy of the rich fool by remembering the importance of eternal things. I will strive to be “rich toward God” instead of “[laying] up treasure for [myself]” (Luke 12:21).

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