By David Faust
The apostle Paul debated Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in first-century Athens (Acts 17:18). These two groups held contrasting philosophies. The Stoics faced life grimly with a stiff upper lip, while the hedonistic Epicureans considered pleasure the highest good.
To be fair, Epicurus argued for reasonable restraint, not unbridled self-indulgence. For example, since overeating leads to a stomachache, the wise individual should exercise self-control. However, it’s easy to see how the Epicurean philosophy leads to excess. It lives on today in sayings like, “If it feels good, do it,” and “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” an expression mentioned more than once in the Bible (see Isaiah 22:13; 1 Corinthians 15:32).
Avoiding All Kinds of Greed
Self-indulgence and greed come in many forms. Sometimes these sinister motives show up when relatives quarrel over how to share the family estate. A fellow called out to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me” (Luke 12:13), and Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you? . . . Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (vv. 14, 15).
The Lord continued by telling a story:
The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.”
Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’”
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?” (vv. 16-20).
It wasn’t wrong for the rich man in Jesus’ story to be a successful farmer; his large harvest was a blessing from God. Nor was it wrong for him to build a bigger storage barn; his abundant crop required more space. The rich man, however, made several mistakes:
He was materialistic. He relied too heavily on earthly things that cannot last forever.
He was selfish. He pursued comfort and ease as if his personal happiness were life’s highest purpose.
He was presumptuous. He assumed his future was secure, but he discovered too late that life is fragile and uncertain, and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.
Jesus drove home the point of the parable: “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God” (v. 21).
Trusting God to Provide Our Needs
“Eat, drink, and be merry” might be a reasonable way to spend a holiday, but it’s a lousy way to live your life.
Eating and drinking? We have that part down. We’re pretty good at making merry, too, although we seem to be running low on peace and joy. Jesus said, “Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. . . . But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (vv. 29, 31).
God gives us plenty of good gifts to enjoy, but pleasurable feelings aren’t an adequate test of truth. We should be wary of anything that makes us neglect Jesus’ timeless reminder, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for July 28, 2013
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
2 Thessalonians 1:1–7
2 Chronicles 17—19
2 Thessalonians 1:8–12
2 Chronicles 20, 21
2 Thessalonians 2:1–12
2 Chronicles 22—24
2 Thessalonians 2:13–17
2 Chronicles 25—27
2 Thessalonians 3:1–5
2 Chronicles 28, 29
2 Thessalonians 3:6–13
2 Chronicles 30—33