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He Who Dies With the Most Toys…Wins!
From the Writings of Marvin J. Rosenthal
Published in Zion's Fire Magazine in March, 1990

During a recent visit to a craft shop with my wife, I noted a poster which in bold letters proclaimed this message: “He who dies with the most toys wins.” In the next few days, almost as if by design, I saw the same words emblazoned on a T-shirt and a bumper sticker. Unfortunately, that message appears to succinctly describe the hedonistic philosophy of this age. The acquisition of “things” and the pursuit of pleasure are, for many, the driving force and measuring rod of a successful life.

How stark the contrast between the present philosophy of unregenerate men on the one hand, and the pronouncement of God on the other concerning that which is really of enduring value. This godless age proclaims “He who dies with the most toys wins.” But Jesus taught, “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Lk. 12:15). The context out of which the Lord’s statement arose is important for a full grasp of the meaning of His message.

The Inappropriate Interruption
(Lk. 12: 13-15)

Jesus had just finished condemning the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders. The Pharisees majored on external matters while neglecting the weightier internal matters. They were adept at putting up a false front – an outward facade that did not correspond to inward reality (Lk. 11:37-54). Their hypocrisy or false face will one day be stripped away and the truth revealed. That appears to be the significance of the Lord’s comment: “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known” (Lk. 12:2).

Having condemned the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, the Lord Jesus informed His disciples that those very same Jewish leaders would oppose them because of their proclamation of the gospel and loyalty to Him. It was in that context that He warned His disciples. “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do” (Lk. 12:4). And in contrast He counseled, “But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him” (Lk. 12:5). The Lord was exhorting His disciples not to fear those whose power and authority is restricted to the physical realm, but to fear (have a reverent trust for) God who not only has ultimate control of the physical realm, but who one day will consign men to their eternal destiny as well. The Pharisees might persecute the disciples and even kill some of them, but beyond that they could not go. Their permitted jurisdiction ended where the physical realm ended – with death.

At that point in His teaching, the Lord, in harmony with His prophetic office and in the train of Israel’s ancient prophets, moved the sphere of His instruction beyond the contemporary scene of the first century to the end of the age and what is commonly referred to as the “Tribulation” period. (In this regard compare Mt. 10 and Lk. 19 where the same subject with a near and far concept is in view.) This is the warning He gave to His Jewish disciples for that future day: “And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say” (Lk. 12:11-12).

Perhaps a harbinger of the character of that future time can be seen in a letter received this week from a believer in Israel. With some hesitancy, because his comments can be taken out of context by some with ulterior motives, and understanding that disclosure can cause problems for some believers in Israel, nonetheless, I share part of that letter. I do so because it is vital that the true Church in North America pray more intelligently for believers in Israel, and understand more fully the emerging shadows of prophetic events. Part of that letter reads as follows:

One night recently, at about 10:30 p.m., the head rabbi of my community visited my home with three associates. He said he had some questions to ask. He heard I was a ‘big teacher’ among the believers here. I said, ‘1 don’t consider myself such, but if others do, I am honored.’ Then he asked if I believe in Jesus. I said, ‘I do, and I want to make it clear exactly what I believe about Him. Some think He is a prophet, others – a great teacher or a rabbi, but I believe He is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of all who trust Him.’ The rabbi did not respond, but instead carefully looked through my books and inquired concerning some of them. I volunteered that they are very good books and that he was welcome to any of them he found interesting. He questioned me concerning the New Testament. He wanted to know if I could get him 250 of them. I said I could – if he paid for them. I realized that he was trying to find out if I have a stock of Bibles in my home. I told the rabbi I could obtain them for him at the bookstore at the Jaffe Gate here in Jerusalem. At that point, he expressed his concern that too many Jewish people are beginning to consider the claims of Jesus. Make no mistake about it, the rabbi doesn’t like that at all. Next he asked, ‘If your neighbors wanted to know about Jesus, would you tell them?’ I said, ‘Of course, wouldn’t you tell people the truth about God and the way to Heaven if you knew it.’ With that comment he began to threaten me and warn that he could make life very difficult for me in the neighborhood. But I quickly interrupted and said that nothing will ever stop me from testifying concerning the Lord Jesus and the truth of God’s Word. He was trying to threaten and intimidate me, but when he saw that I meant business as much as he did, he calmed down and the rest of the evening passed with a little less heat.

What was discouraging to me in the days that followed was not the response of the rabbi and some from within the Jewish community; opposition was nothing new and I fully expected that. It was others, however, who profess faith in Jesus who called and tried to discourage me from being too open about the gospel. That fact saddened me greatly. Fellow-believers shared arguments like ‘The time is not now to witness,’ and ‘If you witness too openly, we will also be revealed as believers and we are not ready for persecution.’ One even said, ‘You’re putting a knife in their hands so they can kill us.’ My response was, ‘If you’re ashamed of Jesus now, He will be ashamed of you at His coming; if you are not willing to suffer with Him now, you will not be worthy to reign with Him later.’

It is clear to me that, in a preliminary way, the Lord is beginning the process of separating the professors from the possessors here in Israel. Unfortunately, there are some who say they are believers, but who, when confronted by the rabbinical authorities, become informers in order to save themselves. Even families are sometimes divided in this matter. I am reminded that faith without works is dead, and ‘by their fruits ye shall know them.’

We are encouraged, however, by others who are willing to take a faithful stand for the Lord, whatever the personal cost.

These comments from this faithful and courageous Israeli believer are not isolated occurrences. They appear to be precursors to the same kind of events, although greatly intensified, which will occur during the 70th week of Daniel. Concerning that future persecution of His servants, the Lord taught, “they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death” (Lk. 21:12-16).

It was right in the midst of this important prophetic discourse by the Lord that one in the crowd interrupted by asking an unrelated, inappropriate question. Dr. Luke records it this way: “And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me” (Lk. 12:13). The Lord was teaching on crucial spiritual matters, and this man with a spirit of covetousness could only think of material things – of his financial advance. But the Lord would have none of that. He would not be brought into this civil dispute among brethren – a dispute caused by greed. “And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?” (Lk. 12:14). Jesus then turned to His disciples and said: “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Lk. 12:15). What an amazing statement! How contrary to the thinking of the great mass of humanity.

The Appropriate Parable

The man’s interruption was inappropriate, insensitive, and caused by a spirit of greed for the things of this world. Nonetheless, the Lord, with exquisite and incomparable teaching technique, used the interruption as an occasion to give warning to His blood-bought children during the still future “Tribulation” period. “And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Lk. 12:16-21).

There are a number of concepts that should not be construed from this parabolic teaching of the Savior. First, in no sense was the Lord condemning wealth. It was God Himself who gave the rain and sun in proper amounts so that “the ground…brought forth plentifully” (Lk. 12:16).

Second, in no sense was God condemning entrepreneurship. There was nothing innately wrong in pulling down barns and building bigger ones. Initiative, planning, success – these traits were not condemned by the Lord.

Conversely, there are a number of truths that should be construed from this parabolic teaching.

First, this wealthy farmer did not permit God to enter into his plans. The Bible reveals that he “thought within himself.” He said, “What shall I do?” He reasoned, “I have no place to bestow my crops.” He decided, “This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater.” He strategized, “there will I bestow all my crops and my goods.” And finally, he spoke to his own soul and said, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.”

Second, he was a fool. His life-style was completely illogical. The word fool is designedly forceful and it means what it says. The world would have called that certain rich man a great success, but God called him a fool. He said, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Lk. 12:20).The psalmist wrote, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God (Ps. 14:1). Jesus appears to have piggybacked on that statement when He said, “So is he [a fool] that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Lk. 12:21). He planned well for this life, but totally ignored the life to come. That is the epitome of foolishness.

The Important Principle

The Lord made it clear that “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” – that to major on the acquisition of material possessions in time, and ignore one’s relationship with God in eternity is to be a fool. Discerning people would agree with that principle. But Jesus was not yet done. Luxury is one thing – necessity is something else.

Now, amazingly, Jesus begins to “up” the ante. He moves in His exhortation from the toys (the acquisition of things) of life to the basic elements (food and clothing) of life. “And he said unto his disciples, Therefore, I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat [food]; neither for the body, what ye shall put on [clothing]. The life is more than meat [food], and the body is more than raiment [clothing] (Lk. 12:22-23). Earlier, the Lord had taught that a man’s life does not consist of the things which he possesses. He now goes beyond that and teaches that a man’s life is more than food or clothing (among the most basic elements of human existence). To bring that fact home with force. He asked His followers to “Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap [they do not plant seed nor harvest a crop]; which neither have storehouse nor barn [like men do]; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?” (Lk. 12:24). Since God feeds the ravens, He will certainly feed His children who are of far greater value than they. But how about clothing; isn’t that a preeminent need of man? The Lord has a ready and descriptive response. He encouraged, “Consider the lilies [anemones] how they grow: they toil not, they spin not [an allusion to the weaving of fabric]; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon, in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven [the sun burns it up because it was designed to be fleeting and temporal]; how much more will he clothe you [you who are destined for eternal living], O ye of little faith?” (Lk. 12:27-28).

If “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth,” and if “the life is more than meat [food], and the body is more than raiment [clothing]” – if these purported basics of life are really not the basic issues of life – what then should be the driving force of man’s existence?

The Practical Implications

The Lord summed up the ultimate purpose of life this way. “And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things [that which relates to the physical realm] do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things [They have their place in the scheme of things]. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Lk. 12:29-31). God’s righteous rule on earth, through His Son, should be the supreme desire of every child of God. It is the fulfillment of the pattern prayer, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven”(Mt. 6:10).

The entire context of the Lord’s teaching is set in the forum of the last days and immediately before He returns to establish His earthly kingdom.

To reiterate, the Lord began His discourse after condemning the rabbis for being hypocrites. He then warned His disciples that they would be persecuted by the rabbis and Jewish leaders. And, finally, in typical prophetic fashion, the Lord moved in His teaching to the end of the age to instruct His followers living at that time how to triumph during the “Tribulation” period.

With the emergence of the Antichrist and false religious teachers during the 70th week of Daniel, believers will be placed in great physical jeopardy. By disavowing the false religious teachers (Mt. 24:5, 11) and refusing to bow to the Antichrist (Rev. 13:15), they will find themselves in great difficulty. Refusing the mark of the beast (probably an identifying number required for normal commerce, which indicates capitulation to his authority), they will not be able to buy or sell (Rev. 13:16-17). The most basic needs of physical life will be placed out of their natural reach. Are they to capitulate to the natural desire for food and clothing in such a context? The Lord taught, “The life is more than meat [food], and the body is more than raiment [clothing]” (Lk. 12:23). Men are to seek the kingdom of God – that is preeminent, even supplanting physical needs. When such an attitude is manifested, God promises “all these things [food, clothing, and material needs] shall be added unto you” (Lk. 12:31). There are some who, sensing the coming storm of end-time events, are counseling, “Prepare now – bottle water, store food, build shelters, and hoard gold.” Such voices are doubtless sincere, but they are in error. Those who choose to protect themselves will be left to their own devices; those who trust the Savior will be protected by His omnipotent power. Nothing will happen to any of His children outside of His sovereign will. His wondrous compassion and tender care for His own in the midst of that future adversity is underscored with these precious words, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk. 12:32). And then He admonishes them to divest themselves of what they have, help those who are needy and, in the doing, lay up treasure in Heaven (Lk. 12:33) – an exhortation, which in context, is not for this age but the still-future 70th week of Daniel.

One final principle is annunciated by the Lord: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Lk. 12:34). That statement is intriguing. One would almost think that the treasure would follow the heart. But the Lord taught differently: The heart follows the treasure. I know and care very little about Timbuktu, but if my wife were there – if my son were there – if my treasure were there – of this be very sure, my heart would be there also. If a man’s treasure is in Heaven, that’s where his heart will be. If his treasure is on the earth, his affections will be earth-bound.

Riches – there is nothing inherently wrong with them, but “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Lk. 12:15).

Food and clothing (essentials for physical existence) – there is nothing wrong with the pursuit of these things, but “the life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.”

Please, please don’t believe the foolish philosophy of this present moment of history. He who dies with the most toys doesn’t win – he plays the fool, he loses eternally, unless he is first and foremost rich toward God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and manifesting a life-style that gives validity to that faith.

He Who Dies With the Most Toys…Wins!
From the Writings of Marvin J. Rosenthal
Published in Zion's Fire Magazine in March, 1990