(…continued) If you asked Sidney if there is life after death, he would say, “Yes, I think so; that seems to be a commonly held belief.” But if asked whether or not such a belief was reasonable, scientifically speaking, he would be hard pressed to say anything definite. If you asked him whether or not he believed Jesus really rose from the dead, he would say, “Yes, I know the Bible says he did, but I never really looked into it for myself.” If you asked him what Jesus said about eternal life and about heaven and how to get there, he would quickly admit that he doesn’t know what Jesus said about any of that. At this point, he may wonder why the questions are all only about Jesus, and he might say that all religions talk about heaven, and they all seem to believe in that same thing, and so there must be something to it. But he would be quite incorrect about that. The various religions of the world say very different things about what happens after you die– but Sidney would be very uninformed about any of that. Finally, if asked what will happen to him after he dies, Sidney would be honest enough to admit that he does not really know, nor does he have any strong beliefs on the subject.
Sidney is an imaginary person I invented to illustrate the approach that many people take to this whole subject. Countless surveys of people’s beliefs show that most people believe in some kind of life after death, but many will readily admit to being completely ignorant of reasons for that belief and what that might mean. They might have some vague beliefs, picked up here and there from a variety of sources, mostly unreliable, oftentimes from people as uniformed as themselves. Yet, these same people will take great pains to know all there is to know about other matters that are mere trifles by comparison.
Why would someone not want to know all about a matter of such eternal personal consequences, and instead be content to know all about the Civil War, or the Minnesota Vikings, or NASCAR racing, or house decorating, or gardening, or, as the man in Jesus’ parable, making money? All of that might be useful, enjoyable, and even necessary knowledge, but it all is useful only for a little while, and must not be pursued to the exclusion of what one needs to know for eternity.
Sidney would tell you that his interest in the Civil War has given him a full and interesting life, but according to this parable, God would consider him a fool. Sidney has achieved much for himself, but he is certainly not rich towards God. In fact, he clearly pays no attention to God. This neglect of God is typical, and many people live their whole life with that same foolish and careless indifference to that which is most important.
Many Bible verses tell us what God has done for us. This parable of Jesus tells us something that we need to do in response. We need to pay attention enough to know what God says about something so vital to our own interests. God said to the man in the parable,“This very night your life will be required of you.” One day God will say that to Sidney, and, to you– and what then? God then said to the rich man, “You fool.” What will God say to you? Have you been indifferent, uninterested, and careless? If you do not want anything to do with God, God will, when that time comes, let you have your way, and you will enter eternity without Him, and without hope.
As Jesus said so clearly and simply in Mark 4:9, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Luke 10:38-42 — Now it came to pass, as they went, that Jesus entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Grant to us, O Lord, to know that which is worth knowing, to love that which is worth loving, to praise that which pleases you most, to esteem that which is most precious to you, and to dislike whatsoever is evil in your eyes; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
–Thomas a Kempis (15th century)