Misplaced Trust (Part 1)

uncertain riches

The root of worry is misplaced trust.

Last week, we talked about trusting in the Lord. It is much easier to say you trust in the Lord and much harder to actually do it.

Here in the prosperous land of the United States, many people have unwittingly placed their trust in their riches or the richness this country.

You might be thinking to yourself, “I’m not rich.” I’ll admit it. I’ve felt that way often. The question we need to ask ourselves is this: do I feel that way because I can’t have what I want or because I don’t have what I need? In our land of shiny happy people, with our abundance of iDevices, slick credit cards and convenience food, we don’t really lack for anything except contentment. Contentment isn’t the same as trust, but it is part of the equation. Lack of contentment is like root-rot. It eats away at the root of our trust in the Lord. We think we need more stuff and we worry about getting that stuff. We all trust in something whether consciously or subconsciously.

Let me throw out a few examples:

  • If there is a natural disaster, we trust the government to send aid and the insurance company to pay out (minus our deductible).
  • If we save diligently and invest wisely, we trust that our carefully crafted retirement plans along with social security will support us until we die.
  • If we lose our job, we trust in unemployment to float us until we get another job.

There are so many “safety nets” underneath us that we don’t feel very vulnerable to real suffering. Our lack of vulnerability has made us a society of people that trusts in the strength of our wealth and the security of our nets rather than the mercy of God.

Let me be clear: it is an excellent thing to be diligent with our resources and there is nothing evil about abundant blessings. Every good thing we have is a gift from God. Excellent stewardship is good. Saving is good. Planning is good. Preparing is good.

Placing trust in our own strength, our own skills and our own stores of wealth is not good.

As I was considering this idea, I sat down and did a quick search for what the Word of God says about riches. Here are a few of the passages I found:

Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19, NKJV, emphasis mine

and,

He who trusts in his riches will fall, But the righteous will flourish like foliage. Proverbs 11:28, NKJV

lastly,

Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me, those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches? Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit. For he sees that even the wise die; the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others. Psalm 49:5-10 ESV

I’d like you to consider Jesus’ parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:15-33. Most people focus on this parable as a warning against storing up treasure on earth. Consider with me how trust factors into this parable as well.

Jesus tells a parable of a rich man who had a land that produced abundantly. He had so much stuff that he didn’t have a place to store it all. (Does this sound familiar?) So, he decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. He says to himself: “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”‘ (Luke 12:19 NASB) He gave no thanks to God for what he had and was congratulating himself on his accomplishments.

Now hear God’s response:

But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:20-21 NASB

So much for eating, drinking and being merry. He trusted in his health, thinking that he had many years left in him. He trusted that his goods would actually be there for many years. What a misplaced trust! Both his life and his riches could be stripped from him at anytime, and in this parable, they were—immediately. What is even more interesting is that Jesus doesn’t end his parable and move on to a different topic. He says:

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Luke 12:22-23 NKJV

Whenever you see a “therefore” in the bible, you need to back up and see what it is there for.

In this context, Jesus had just finished a parable on the futility of trusting in your riches. Now he gives them the moral of the story: do not worry! The root of worry is misplaced trust. In the case of the parable, trust was put in wealth and self. Both are subject to corruption and destruction. Jesus goes on:

Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! Luke 12:24 ESV

Notice what Jesus points out. God takes care of the birds. If he takes care of that feeble creature, do you trust that he will take care of you? Jesus continues:

And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? Luke 12:25-26 NASB

I have never considered the ability to extend your life a “little” thing. And yet, it’s a little thing to Jesus… and we can’t do it. We fancy ourselves geniuses. We have all this great technology. And yet, nobody has figured out how to add time to his or her life. We never know when our time is going to be up. Jesus concludes:

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! Luke 12:27-28 NASB

Jesus talks about 3 things: Food. Time. Clothing. We all worry about these things, don’t we? We all need to eat, most of us don’t want to wander around naked and I think to some degree we all want to live a long full life. What Jesus is saying to us is that we can’t guarantee these things. We cannot trust our money—it might be worthless tomorrow (Remember the Weimar Republic). We cannot trust our strength—it might fail at anytime. God is solid through all the changes in life. We need to trust in Him.

Yes, be a good steward. Yes, work to feed and clothe yourself and your family. But don’t put your reliance on your own strength and skill—both can fail you without warning. Rely on God to give you wisdom. Trust Him to provide for your needs and don’t think he has abandoned you when you cannot have your wants. Keep on trusting in the Lord, my friends.

In next week’s post, Lord willing, we will look at how we train ourselves to trust God.

~Elihu

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