8 “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:8–9, NKJV)
It is tempting to trust in our spiritual heritage for divine approval. We can put our confidence in our parents’ faith without developing our own. Merely trusting in a spiritual heritage is a futile and fatal approach to our present faith and future hope. John the Baptist’s preaching reminded his audience to take a personal inventory of their hearts and lives. This reminder still holds. He warned the Jewish people not to put their confidence in their ancestral heritage. It was God who chose Abraham and blessed him for his faith (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:6). God must be trusted and obeyed because His purposes prevail. His judgment of Israel was imminent when John preached (“the ax is laid to the root of the trees”). God’s judgment destroys the unfruitful (those who do not repent and bear its fruits). Repentance is a change that takes place in the heart. It is a fundamental reordering of perspectives and priorities to put away sin and do God’s will (Lk. 3:10-14). Repentance is not being sorry for our iniquities; it results from godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:9-10). Without repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ, we cannot bear good fruit (Acts 20:21). But, when we change our hearts toward God (repent), we will conform our lives to His will – “bear fruits worthy of repentance.”
16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 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. 19 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 12:16–19, NKJV)
Those we think have it easy (the rich, the powerful) are often consumed with uneasiness (Eccl. 5:8-15). We all leave this world as we came into it (Eccl. 5:16; Job 1:21). Consider the religious ease some think they have stored up for themselves. 1) Physical lineage. God does not measure spiritual success by physical ancestry. We are children of God by faith, not by the flesh (Rom. 9:6-8; Gal. 3:26-29). No spiritual ease comes from trusting physical heritage (Matt. 3:9). 2) Salvation by faith only. Many accept that justification by faith only is “a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort” (The Methodist Church Discipline, p. 57, 1980 ed.). Yet, Scripture says, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (Jas. 2:24). There is no spiritual comfort without the works of faith. 3) Once saved, always saved. Although many think one cannot fall from a state of grace, the Scriptures say the opposite (Gal. 5:4). 4) Christians who think they have already done their fair share. Like those “at ease in Zion,” these comfort themselves in their past service while neglecting others (Amos 6:1-6). We don’t retire from kingdom service. Christians are saved “with difficulty” (strenuous effort), not lazy neglect (1 Pet. 4:18; Phil. 3:12-14). Instead of taking our ease, let us do the work the Lord gives us and be ready when our soul is required (Jno. 4:35; 9:4; Lk. 12:20-21).
18 Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. 19 As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:18–20, NKJV)
The human lot in life is labor. Solomon sees work as a blessing from God, not a burdensome punishment. “It is good and fitting” to work and to enjoy the fruit of one’s labor (v. 18). Solomon sees the increased fruit of labor (“riches and wealth”) as a heritage in which a person can rejoice (v. 19). God designed work to keep us busy as we produce the wherewithal to provide for ourselves and others (v. 20; Eph. 4:28; 1 Thess. 4:11-12; 1 Tim. 5:8). But beware. The temptation to love money is strong – Loving money leads to ruin (1 Tim. 6:9-10). Do not turn labor’s increase into the covetous endeavor and purpose of your life. Wealth does not define your life’s value and purpose (Lk. 12:15). To make that mistake (and to leave God’s will out of your life) is tragically foolish (Lk. 12:16-21). Keep a contented outlook on labor and its reward. Work diligently. Trust God (not riches), be “rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share” (1 Tim. 6:6-8, 17-19).