And He [Jesus] said to them [the crowd in attendance], “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life doe not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” [Luke 12:15]*
A contemporary example of the covetousness our Lord was warning us against appeared in yesterday’s edition of the local newspaper. It recounts the reporter meeting a man at a swap meet who had spent over $40,000 for a collection currently numbering 22 guitars. Why? The man lost his son to alcohol and drugs about two years ago and this is the way he has decided to keep his son alive in his memory. His rationale: “I may not be able to replace my son, but I can replace his guitars.”
Even more telling is a comment this gentleman posted as a follow-up to the news article: “What price do you put on an item you become emotionally attached to?”
This is precisely the nature of covetousness and where collecting crosses the line into obsession and idolatry. These are not mere objects or tools. He is emotionally attached to them because through them, he is still connected to his son. And as long as he has them, he still has his son. What is his hope for the future? What happens if his collection is destroyed or otherwise taken from him tomorrow, with no means of recovery or replacement? What if he loses not only his collection, but his financial ability to accrue or replace the collection?
This is the point the Lord was making. The gentleman appears to believe that his life now consists in the abundance of possessions–a collection of guitars. But what happens when that is all stripped away? Ultimately, it will be taken from him. Even if he lives for a hundred more years. and has all those guitars and as many more, he will eventually die. Although the cheesy bumper-sticker philosophy says, “He who dies with the most toys wins,” the truth of the matter is, “You can’t take it with you.” Or, as Pastor Chuck Smith is fond of reminding us, “It’s all gonna burn.” In other words, he who dies with the most toys does not win. He who dies with the most toys, still dies. The fact of the matter is that no matter if you are Bill Gates, Billy Graham or Bill Smith from Rutabaga Green, Alabama, there are only three questions which matter when we stand before our Creator:  Who do you say Jesus is?  Did you acknowledge His Lordship when you were alive on earth?  Are you dependent solely on His sacrifice on the cross to accomplish your salvation?
The Lord Himself addressed this fact when He continued:
Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.
“And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’
“So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.
‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘
“But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’
“So is he who lays up treasures for himself, and is not rich toward God.” [Luke 12:16-21]
The fact of the matter is that nothing in this physical universe is permanent. And if we spend a lifetime pursuing things which in the scheme of eternity have no value, what have we gained? Those guitars are not being used for their intended purpose–they are simply an idol this man has erected to worship the memory of his son. Instead of turning to the One who has promised to wipe every tear away, he worships his guitar collection.
And what will he have gained for eternity? Can those guitars grant eternal life? The obvious answer is no. So in other words, he has valued his soul at $40,000 and sold it for that price. Philip Henry, a Puritan minister in the late seventeenth century, once wrote: “He is no fool who parts with that which he cannot keep, when he is sure to be recompensed with that which he cannot lose.” Three hundred years later, a paraphrase of that was made more widely known by the missionary and martyr Jim Elliott, who, as a college student, noted in his journal: “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.