“And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.“ ‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ ” (Luke 12:18–20).
THE SUCCESSFUL, PROSPEROUS ESTATE OWNER PORTRAYED IN JESUS’ STORY IS A FIGURE WE ARE FAMILIAR WITH. We may (if we’re honest) see him when we look in the mirror, but even if we don’t, we see him in our neighborhoods and communities. Especially in the wealthier nations of the world, the population is increasingly made up of people for whom God is largely irrelevant, but their lives have still been happy, healthy, and socially well-adjusted.
Religious people may suppose that secular people are not genuinely happy, but the truth is, we live in a world where it is possible to deny the existence of God and still get through life quite comfortably. Even more so today than ever before, with the advances that have been made economically and scientifically, a person can have a life that is long and enjoyable. Psychologically, there are techniques available to overcome dysfunction and unhappiness. And if a person adopts the secular moral principles of compassion and equality, he can relate healthily to those around him and lessen the amount of suffering in the world.
But what if the God whom we have denied really does exist? What if we have solved all our problems except the biggest one? The man in Jesus’ story said, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” His life had been built on the assumption that there was no problem to which a secular solution could not be found — but now the problem he had not paid attention to confronted him in all of its terrible, deadly reality.
Eventually, we will find out whether our decisions about God were wise or foolish. If the Scriptures are correct, a day is coming that will be the greatest of all judgment days (Acts 17:30,31). Until then, the worst mistake we can make is thinking that because the sun is still shining in our lives, sin must not be a problem for us.
“Shallow natures tremble for a night after their sin, and when they find that the sun rises and men greet them as cordially as before, and that no hand lays hold of them from the past, they think little more of their sin — they do not understand that fatal calm that precedes the storm” (Marcus Dods).