Hidden Nuggets Series #98 – “And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink and be merry.” – Luke 12:19
“Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” is a popular refrain you may have felt or expressed at some point in your life. If you are like me maybe you said it as a joke when you were downing a pint of ice cream swirled with chocolate sauce. As some in recent years have expressed, “You only live once, right?”
Truth is there is great seriousness in the statement and the consequences of adopting this attitude are serious.
There are two basic elements to the “eat, drink and be merry” philosophy towards life:
1) we are all going to die, sooner rather than later and…
2) since #1 is true, then we should live for the moment, enjoying whatever pleasures we can.
But the issue goes even deeper than those two concepts. When we opt for the eat, drink and be merry philosophy we are choosing laziness, neglect of our responsibilities and a forfeiture of the future. We are resting on what we have accomplished and counting on that to sustain us indefinitely.
You may not know the phrase has its origins in the Bible, taken from a story Jesus told of a rich fool.
The Parable of the Rich Fool
The Bible records in Luke 12:13-21 that one day Jesus was preaching to a crowd and someone shouted at him saying,
“Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Instead of stepping in and being the judge of the situation, Jesus saw the motive behind the request. We know that because he said,
“Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
Sensing the crowd was ripe for further teaching on this issue, Jesus told them this parable:
“The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentiful. And he thought to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.”
To this point in the story it might seem like the man has done nothing overtly wrong. He’s obviously a successful businessman who has done well for himself. He’s trying to manage the excessive yield he has been blessed with by building bigger facilities.
The issue comes with the attitude that results from his success and why he chose to build bigger barns in the first place. Jesus continues:
“And I [the rich man] will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink and be merry.”
“But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Digesting the Eat, Drink and Be Merry Story
For years I thought God was being awfully harsh on this man – killing him for one act of selfishness. I’ve come to realize that wasn’t the case at all. It was simply this man’s time to go, like it will be our time to go one day. He didn’t know when death was coming just like we will never know. For this man, it happened to be on the very eve he spoke those words. Call it irony…coincidence…fate…whatever you want. But God didn’t kill him for saying, “eat, drink and be merry.” Nothing in the story suggests that.
The bigger issue is what the parable tells us about the man’s foolish regard for life.
Like many of us he was doing well for himself. He had possessions and money to sustain him well into the future. Because of his great wealth he thought the future would be a breeze.
However, he thought and acted foolishly in many ways:
- He was foolish to believe it was “his ground” that produced the crop. “The earth is the Lord’s and all it’s fullness,” the Psalmist says. (Psalm 24:1). In other words, it’s all His, not ours.
- He was foolish to hoard up what he had and think it was securely stored for many years. Ever heard of fire, pestilence or other natural disaster that could destroy the stored crop?
- He was foolish to think the bigger barns would ease his worry. In fact, managing the excess load would likely increase his worry.
- It was foolish for him to adopt a party attitude (eat, drink and be merry) before his building project was even started, much less completed.
- It was foolish for him to take his ease. It’s certainly implied he intended to quit working. And what about all the other things that make us uneasy like pain, sickness, and bad relationships? All the money in the world can’t cure those ills.
- It was foolish for him to assume he alone was responsible for his soul…that he could convince or control his soul into an attitude of pleasure. Our souls are eternal and care for a great deal more than the pleasures of this world.
- He was foolish for not laying up treasures for the one that mattered the most…God.
This last one was his greatest error of all. He cared only about himself. No thoughts on how he could impact others and no thoughts of how he could honor God with his great wealth.
The Right Attitude Makes All the Difference
The issue here isn’t that this man wanted to enjoy a good meal and have some fun. There is nothing wrong with that. God provides food and drink for our pleasure. He wants our lives to be filled with fun.
So it’s OK to eat, drink and be merry. What would life be like if we couldn’t do those things?
As is often the case, the problem comes with our attitude toward such things.
This man chose to act selfishly. He chose to focus on his own desires. He chose to downplay the brevity of his life and blind himself from the realities of the future.
In the end, he never enjoyed the fruits of his labor.
Worse still, he was never able to use his wealth for things that really mattered.
So how are we to proceed with the wealth our hands produce? How can we eat, drink and be merry the right way? Simple…avoid the foolish thinking this man fell into. It’s a trap to think riches relieve us of life’s responsibilities.
Your wealth is a great blessing. Appreciate it sparingly…use it wisely…make it count for something other than your own pleasure. As the rich fool found out, the future we’d like to have and are counting on may not be there for as long as we think.
Questions: Are you focused on laying up treasures for yourself? Have you ever neglected the future to only enjoy life in the present? What do you see as being fatalistic about the phrase “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die?” Do you feel your wealth should be used for the good of others?