Diagnosing Dragon Sickness

“The old Master had come to a bad end. Bard had given him much gold for the help of the Lake-people, but being of the kind that easily catches such disease he fell under the dragon-sickness, and took most of the gold and fled with it, and died of starvation in the Waste, deserted by his companions.” ~ The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

Greed is a often broached subject in Scripture, I suppose because we are so susceptible to it as humans. In the passage we’ll be looking at this Sunday (Luke 12:13-21 ), Jesus will address that issue as it touches his followers.

In this section, Jesus refuses to be an advocate for a guy looking for part of an inheritance…and then he launches into a warning about greed (covetousness). Why do you suppose Jesus refused this guy’s request?

The story that Jesus tells about the Barn Builder provides an enlargement of his warning.  Living a life of greed will leave us empty in the end…its pretty straightforward.  As we contemplate this warning…how do you apply it to your own life?  If I were going to be honest, I’d say that I get uncomfortable with this subject because I know there is still some dragon-sickness lingering in my soul.  As much as I like to promote simplifying…I still love all the nifty techno-gadgets that seem to become available every day. I start to get shifty at the thought of getting behind the curve on those things…and I have to wonder if my sense of contentment has shifted from God to stuff. An honest inventory of my emotional reactions in life usually reveal a LOT of areas where stuff is still controlling me.

How about you?  Do you still struggle with the temptation to define yourself by what you own…or by what you feel you lack?  What do you do about it?  I’d also be interested in what you believe Jesus meant by being “rich toward God”.

Ok…hope to see you Sunday!

4 comments

  1. I really love this passage because it reminds me so much of the way I so often miss the BIG picture, fretting over minutiae.

    Okay, so Jesus just finished telling everyone that they should recognize the value God places on their lives. He’s has barely finished his sentence when a guy interrupts about a dispute over money.

    (Jesus facepalm)

    How often do we hear a good teaching, only to shift the focus to our own agendas?

    Regardless of whether or not this man is justified in requesting a portion of the family inheritance, Jesus recognizes that the man’s covetousness is the real problem. 

We can fight for justice. We can make petty arguments that OUR agenda is the RIGHT agenda. I know I do it all the time, and that it is especially prevalent in the church. This passage is awesome because Jesus says “Look, bro. No one made me the arbitrator. I don’t care how righteous your campaign is. You’re missing the point by not focusing on your heart. You’re too caught up in what you want.”

    C.S. Lewis wrote that “an explanation of cause is not a justification by reason,” and we have to take this to heart. We cannot use adverse circumstances as an excuse to avoid the work that needs to be done. We cannot let injustice keep us from making the changes that we need to be making. This guy needed to hear it again, and I know that I do, too.

    Western culture promotes a need to feel respected, legitimate, and honored. Jesus turns this notion on its head. He tells us to protect ourselves from this mindset. Despite what consumerism, globalism, and capitalism tell us, we are not defined by the crap we own.

    The farmer from Jesus’ parable makes the same mistake that I always do: He shifts the focus to himself. He talks about HIS crops, HIS barns, HIS goods. ALL of it belongs to God, and this dude is a fool for thinking otherwise. He thinks he’s wealthy, but he’s poor.

    If we desire to “become rich toward God,” I think that means that we need to be willing to live sacrificially. We will need to be people who are willing to share and to help. We can’t forget that it’s the things we covet that’ll keep us from pursuing God and the riches that He wants for us.

    In 1 Timothy 6, Paul told Tim about the danger of desiring riches, stating that it’s a snare that will “drown men in destruction and perdition.” I dunno about you guys, but hellfire and eternal damnation isn’t something I want to work toward.

    I need to remind myself that I mean something to God. To know that I am valued by Him means that I can stop coveting “stuff,” and get stoked about being more like Jesus. He’s a hell of a lot cooler than an iPad, anyway.

  2. Our culture tells us “you can have it all” but this is a huge lie. Do we listen to our culture and believe that this is true or do we listen to our King? We can be misled if we don’t see the truth that everything belongs to God anyway.
    God is so loving and merciful in giving me what I don’t deserve. I am trying to ask God daily to help me to give up my selfish will and ask for His will to be done in my life. If I focus on what His will is for my life, all of the “stuff” really doesn’t matter that much. It is only in His will that I am free.

  3. Great comments! I’ve been thinking about this since Rob posted his notes. Right now, I am really dealing with feeling powerless. It seems that circumstances in the world, my job and my family life have taken on a dynamic of their own, with little regard for what I want. Of course this is something that is, as they say, common to man — but still it has been really bugging me. So how does this relate to the story from Luke?

    The farmer in our story was already rich. So what was this guy’s deal? It’s not so much about having stuff; it’s about how your stuff makes you feel. What makes you feel safe? It’s evident that Farmer Brown saw his harvest as his road to peace, prosperity and safety. His current storage was insufficient so let’s not only build more barns, let’s tear down the ones we have and build bigger, better super barns (insert Tim the Tool Man grunts here.) Instead of (maybe) using the surplus to help ease the suffering of those less fortunate, he acted like a bratty three year old — he put his arms around all of his stuff and screamed, “mine!” This guy had decided that he would take control of his own situation. I will provide for myself, I will be my own safety. From the final verses we see how futile this is. God always has the final word.

    So how does this relate to me? In my world I am always looking for a way to shake things up, to try something to facilitate an outcome that is beneficial for me. My past church experience actually taught that much of what controlled my future depended on me. It provided a sense of (false) confidence and order. I could make a change if I did x+y-z(q+2). But I don’t really think God relates to us that way, which is good – I never was any good at math, and that (for me at least) causes me to react like FB (Farmer Brown). Do I really control anything? What am I doing with what I do “control”?

    But the ultimate question is deeper, “who do you trust?” I say I believe “God is in control”, but when the world seems to be on fire and the bills are piling up and I feel like my life has hit a dead end does my reaction actually bear that out or do I look for a way to regain control? Sadly, I am often like Truman (in the Truman Show) fighting to regain control of my ship as the waves grow larger and the storm grows more intense. I am like the disciples screaming at Jesus over the waves and wind on the Sea of Galilee. Amid the chaos and noise his response is simple….. “Do you trust me?” And there we find the answers to everything that plagues humankind; (with apologies to Billy Joel) it’s not a matter of stuff. It’s a matter of trust.

  4. This subject, being one of the Big 4 sure to spark a great debate, always brings great discussion. I don’t believe the guy is wrong to be concerned about his supposed inheritence, but he is definately missing the point of why Jesus was there. Which, I think, is what Jesus meant. Hellooo? At best the guy’s timing sucked! I also feel the definitions of “greed” can widely vary. I would not go as far to say “greed is good” as some do, but I understand the point of view. What qualifies as greed to one person may not be to another. Same goes for the Barn Guy. The fact that he was able to amass that amount, in and of itself, is not necessarily bad. That can feed a lot of people! The lesson is not to let the grains and goods be his God. Make God your God. Duh right. Questions to consider. Why am I (or you) amassing this wealth? What is your ultimate purpose for the wealth? Is it Godly? For me, I try not to judge anyone on their level of wealth until I get to know them. Ultimately God will do the judging anyway. I guess it comes down to one thing. Where is your heart?

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