16And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18″Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘ 20″But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21″This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” (LUKE XII. 16-21.)
Worldliness closes the mind to spiritual. life. The man whose affection and thought are absorbed in sensuous life, though he may acquire a competence in worldly riches, yet remains poor as to spiritual riches, and unable to receive, or to enjoy, the blessings of heaven.
The worldly state of the man who sought the Lord’s aid, is to be inferred from the manner in which he intruded himself upon the Lord’s attention. Jesus was engaged in teaching the grand truths of spiritual life. And there were, at the time, gathered together a great multitude. And this man, without being desirous to receive the grand truths of interior life, rudely broke in upon the Lord’s teaching, and pushed his petty external affairs into immediate prominence. He shrewdly sought to make use of the Lord’s authority, to accomplish his own natural purposes.
But the Lord met the spirit of the man, rather than the subject-matter of his application: He did not enter into the merits of the case, but He called attention to the inward principle which is apt to underlie all such cases.
The Lord carne upon the earth, to bring a new dispensation of light and life; and so He did not make Himself to be a judge, or divider, over the civil affairs of men. For these, they had laws and courts. But the Lord came to teach men new spiritual laws of life, which should inwardly fill the minds of men, and influence them to keep all laws of proper authority. Therefore, the Lord rebuked the man who sought to use Him for selfish purposes.
In rebuking covetousness, Jesus declared, “A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” And the word “life” is used, here, in the sense of our existence, and not merely our outward living, or sustenance. The parable shows that covetousness leads a man into a mental condition in which he is not prepared for the life beyond the grave; for, by centering his affection and thought upon sensuous things, he closes himself to spiritual things. In the parable, the rich man does not acquire his riches wrongfully, but justly, by the growth of fruits and grain in his own fields. The point of the parable is not, then, against the riches, themselves, nor the manner in which they were acquired, but against the condition of their owner’s mind, towards his riches. The rebuke is not against the possession of riches, but against the worldly love of riches. ” If riches increase, set not thy heart upon them.”
PREPARATION FOR SPIRITUAL LIFE.
The purpose of life is to perform uses, and to be developed for the spiritual world, and not to spend all our time and means in the pursuit of earthly pleasures. And the parable includes a warning to those who wish to retire from the performance of uses, to live in mere sensuous life.
The use of the Church is to teach men the laws of the Lord and to show them how to use this life in preparing for the real and permanent life, hereafter; and to lead them in doing good, and in shunning evil.
CHURCH AND STATE.
The Lord did not express indifference to the rights of the man who applied to Him for redress in civil matters; but He meant to teach men the great principles on which justice is founded; and to leave to the civil authorities the administration of justice in civil affairs. And so, in other cases, the Lord taught men always to obey the civil laws; to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” and, at the same time to render “unto God the things that are God’s:” not that all things are not God’s, but that the civil authorities are God’s agents in civil matters.
The Church and the Slate exercise authority on different planes of life. The civil law, in its enactment, interpretation and execution is in the hands of the civil authorities, as the servants of the Lord for the administration of civil affairs. But spiritual laws are revealed by the Lord, and are explained and applied by the Church.
And when men are regenerated, the civil authorities do their work in an orderly way, being influenced by the principles which are taught in the Church, and which are the fundamental principles of all spiritual and natural life, brought down and ultimated on the natural plane, in the civil laws of external life. Thus the Church instructs the civil officers, and prepares them to perform their uses wisely and faithfully. Thus, in the body of the community, as in the physical body of a man, each part has its place and its use; and thus the general health is preserved.
NATURAL AND SPIRITUAL RICHES.
The lesson of the parable is true, both literally and spiritually; i. e., as to both natural and spiritual riches. If natural riches are not used for a good purpose, they become, to the man who abuses them, curses rather than blessings. In regard to all riches, the point to consider is, what influence have they in the formation of our character? If they are separated from spiritual principles of life, they cannot be of any real profit to us, however great their abundance. In fact, the greater their abundance, the more they excite our sensuous desires, and to the exclusion of interest in spiritual things. “And what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” ‘
For all merely natural riches cease to be the man’s property, when his spirit is separated from his natural body; for nothing goes with a man to the spiritual world, but his character. And this is true with the spiritual riches, knowledges of good and truth: if they have been received, and used, in self-love, and not for reformation and regeneration, we shall not retain them, in the spiritual world.
And, in the verses of the context, following the parable, we are taught, in the beautiful comparison to the lilies of the fields, that our Lord cares for us all, and provides for all our necessities, both natural and spiritual.
TROUBLED BY RICHES.
The rich man, in the parable, was troubled by the abundance of his riches: he did not know what to do with them. He thought he had no room where he could store them away. But, had he no good barns in the needs of his fellow-men? Were there no deserving poor, no unfortunate ones, whose needy homes would have been most excellent barns for his surplus wealth? To the natural thought of the rich man, a plan suggested itself, in the increase of his own barns. And when he should have built larger barns, and stored away all his wealth of fruits, he would have no further care, for many years. He would eat, drink, and be merry. He would have a fully-satisfied sensuous life. But what would he do for his spiritual life? Was there no need of preparation for the world to come?
HIS SOUL REQUIRED.
But, while the man is thus comforting himself with glowing prospects of self-indulgence, a messenger knocks at his door. It is a messenger from the unseen world. And he says to the trembling rich man, Come with me : your natural life must now close, and you must pass into the spiritual world. And what shall the poor rich man do? What can he do? He may object; he may lament; he may rage; but he must obey. There is no resistance to such a call. He must go; and he must go now.
Only his soul is required to go; his natural body may remain in the natural world. And all the things that he has laid up for his natural, bodily life, may stay here, too, with his natural body. His soul has no further need of these physical things; and his poor physical body can no longer use them. They must fall to others. But his soul must go. But in what condition does it go? What preparation has it made, for the life to which it must go?
The man felt himself to be well provided for, in this world : but he has not laid up any treasure in the next world; and he now feels no confidence in himself, for the spiritual world, and no desire to enter into it. His affections and thoughts are absorbed in the flesh, and anything beyond the flesh seems, to him, shadowy and unreal. ” So is he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God.”
THE SPIRITUAL MEANING: RICHES.
Spiritually, riches are knowledges of good and truth, doctrines and facts known, and stored up in our memory. And a rich man, spiritually, is one who possesses an abundance of knowledges of good and truth, one whose memory is well supplied with true doctrines and facts, which he may use, if he will, in procuring the good which he theoretically knows, The ground of the rich man is his mind, in which the knowledges of good and truth are held. And the quality of the good which these knowledges can bring forth, is the same as the quality of the man’s love. If the man’s affections are centred in sensuous life, his knowledges, however numerous, can make his mental ground bring forth a large crop of natural good things, only; things good for natural life, only. The ruling-love is the emperor of a man’s mental empire, keeping all things in the empire under his control.
THINKING WITHIN HIMSELF.
The man “thought within himself;” i. e., he reflected; he exercised his interior thought. In fact a man’s interior thought is his real speech: it is the speech in which the man holds converse with himself and lays bare, to himself his own purposes and plans.
Saying, spiritually, means thinking; for outward saying is only expressing our thought. The man said to himself or thought, “This will I do;” i. e., his thought is aroused, from his will ; they are co-operating for the same end. “What shall I do?” is the thought of the understanding; but “This will I do,” is the perception of the will, as to how it shall accomplish its ends. So, in the parable of “The Unjust Steward,” the steward asks himself, “What shall I do?” and replies, from his will,” I am resolved what to do.”
HAVING NO ROOM.
The man in the text says, “What shall I do, because I have no room,” etc. He felt natural things to be good and delightful. But, in the increase of his delights, he thought his mind had no room for all the natural good he desired; i. e., his understanding was too contracted to comprehend the apparent good, things that he felt to be good. Thus, as a man’s will feels new delights, he desires to expand his understanding, that he may understand how to make the most of his new good things. When a new feeling arises, he desires to be able to plan for it, that he may enjoy it.
New states of feeling give him new states of thought; and so he changes his thoughts, to agree with his changed feelings. He tears down his old barns, and builds larger ones; i. e., he extends the sphere of his understanding and memory, to agree with the new states of his will. And, in these extended conditions of his understanding, he can store up, and plan for, and enjoy, all the new feelings that have come to his will.
Thus, as a man’s ruling-love sends forth a new crop of affections, he enlarges the grasp, and the capacity, of his understanding, in the same direction. For, if a man’s heart and his understanding disagree, the man will be divided against himself; and if they fail to co-operate, one lagging behind the other, he will not be in freedom.
ENOUGH LAID UP.
And when the man, coming into new states of feeling, correspondingly expands his understanding, until he thinks he knows all about these things, and how to enjoy them, he is satisfied with his condition. He thinks he has enough good, and enough knowledge, to enable him to enjoy himself in his own way, And, in his spiritual ignorance, he imagines that his knowledges of good are already converted into the good things, themselves.
EATING, DRINKING, ETC.
And he says to his soul, “eat, drink, and be merry.” Eating is nourishing the spirit with what is supposed to be good. And drinking is nourishing the spirit, the mind, with truth. And to be merry is to enjoy the delights which are produced by good and truth. But, if the man’s knowledge is only abstract truth, not brought out into a genuinely good life, his supposed good is not genuine good.
THE FOOL: THE NIGHT.
And, when the judgment comes, the Divine Truth will say to him, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall these things be which thou hast provided?” A “fool” is one who stores up knowledges in his memory, but does not use them for his regeneration, by shunning evils as sins, and performing uses.
“This night,” is this state of inward darkness, or falsity, when the truth, though known as doctrine, is not used as the light of life. “Thy soul shall be required of thee ;” i. e., a judgment comes, when a man will be separated from this natural world : and all knowledges which he did not put to practical use, will be taken away from him. For, practically, he will reject all such knowledges when he enters the other life. They have not formed any part of his real life, and so he will have no real interest in them, His soul will be “required” of him, because he will not willingly leave the natural world of sensuous things, in which he feels at home.
NOT RICH TOWARDS GOD.
“So is he that layeth up treasure for himself but is not rich towards God.” Any man who regards himself and his own interests, in everything, is rich towards himself, only. Riches are not only money, but also all that money will procure, ease, comfort, sumptuous living, consideration among men, power, influence, fame, etc. ; and also intellectual riches. He lays up treasures for himself, who seeks and acquires knowledges of good and truth, for selfish purposes, worldly ends. For such a rich man, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
THE ELEMENTS OF EVIL.
In this worldly love of either natural or spiritual riches, there are two elements of trouble: first, an undue love of ‘the world; and second, a distrust of the Lord’s Providence. There are men who have so thoroughly enfleshed their souls, that we wonder how they can ever feel at home in any other than a natural and sensuous world. “Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength, but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his substance.” “The prosperity of fools shall destroy them;” “O Lord, deliver my soul from … men of the world, who have their portion in this life.”
DANGER OF MISTAKE.
And, in this matter, a man may fall into a mistake which, like a hidden trap, lies before the unwary. He may say, “I am working for money; but I am not working for myself but for my children: I want them to be independent.” But, there is great danger that he is working for his children in this world, only; for, if he concentrates his affection, thought and effort upon making his children independent, peculiarly, he is very liable to have no zeal for their spiritual interests and training. Whatever he esteems as the greatest good, he will work for; and, conversely, whatever he is most zealously working for, he secretly esteems as the greatest good. Thus, a man often leaves his children rich for themselves, in this world, but poor towards God, and for the spiritual world.
It is right to acquire wealth, honestly, and with the desire to use it for spiritual and natural uses. “Lay not up, for yourselves, treasures upon earth, where moth and rust do corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be, also;” i. e., treasures of self-love, laid up in the natural mind, the earthly part of our mind and life, feed our evils, falsities and sins; but the riches of regenerate life, laid up in the heavenly part of our mind and life, our spirit, are permanent, and beyond the destructive influence of evils and falsities.
RICH TOWARDS GOD.
To be rich towards God, is to make our riches of knowledge lead us to God; and to use our mental riches for reformation and regeneration. For all heavenly ends and purposes are in agreement with the Lord’s purposes. Heavenly riches are riches of character, in love, wisdom and holiness. And he who has the riches of character has, also, the riches of the Lord’s blessings, for the Divine blessings come to us inwardly, in the way of character, and not merely outwardly, in the way of external gifts and surroundings. And no man is in mental condition to use the Divine blessings, except as his character comes into agreement with the spiritual quality of those blessings. He is in heaven, who has the principles of heaven in him, in his character. “On those who love such things as belong to Divine and heavenly wisdom, light shines from heaven, and they receive illumination.”(H. H. 265.) .
To gain spiritual life, a man must lose his selfish life, and learn to depend not upon sensuous things, but upon spiritual things, as the indwelling life of all natural things. He must “Seek, first, the kingdom of God, and His righteousness,” knowing that, then,” all these [external things] shall be added unto” him according to his need.
LOVE OF USE.
Every man has spiritual life, according to his love of use. And the spiritual love of use is formed, in him, by shunning evils as sins, and by doing good, in the name of the Lord. Thus, the man performs uses, i. e., does good, from spiritual principles. By shunning evils his mind is opened to the Lord, and the Lord enters in, and disposes the man to do good, to perform uses, which are spiritual uses, when done from spiritual ends.
Thus, while the natural-minded man imagines that all life is in the sensuous enjoyment of external things, the spiritual-minded man knows, by experience, that genuine human life begins, when he rises beyond a sensuous state of mind, and opens his soul to the infiowing stream of the Divine life, which implants heaven in his mind, and fills him with an interior happiness, “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” of the merely natural man.
GENUINE NATURAL GOOD.
The good things of natural life are good, in their proper places, and as servants to the spirit. Like fire, they are “good servants, but bad masters.” But we are foolish, when we fret and worry about them, as if they were our very life. Very few externals are actually necessary to the regenerate man.
But, in using this world for the sake of the spirit, we make the best of both worlds : and then the earth becomes the Lord’s foot-stool, on which we stand, as we reach upwards, towards His throne. “A little that a righteous man hath, is better than the riches of many wicked.” “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life.”
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887