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