Lesson One – Self Identity

Self Identity

Lesson Aim:  To show how we have identified with true life when we see our “self” separate from our world positions and possessions.

Scripture:  Luke 12:13-23.

Historical analysis for reading the parable.

Place:  Galilee (Luke 13:1).

Occasion:  Preaching the life of the kingdom of God.

Time:  Jesus was well into His three and one half year preaching and teaching ministry.  Thousands were coming to hear Him (Luke 12:1).  Later Jesus would be “proceeding on His way to Jerusalem,” probably on one of the several visits around which John organized his gospel (Luke 13:22).

Audience:  People in general but mostly Galileans along with Jesus’ disciples.

Aim:  Jesus gave this parable in response to a request that He settle an inheritance problem.  He “side-stepped” the physical issue and went to their spiritual problem.  He could do this because Jesus “knew what is man.”  John 2:25.  He named the problem in verse 15 and sought to simplify His answer by offering this parable.


The first exposure of a new product or a theater production brings tense moments to the producers.  It will be their first indication of the true value of their production.  In spite of the fact that they themselves may be experts in their field, they are unable to evaluate their new production.  They must depend on an “outside-in” method of evaluation.  The reason often given is “they are too close to it” to make a proper appraisal.

We have a parallel problem when we attempt to appraise the worth of our lives.  We listen very attentively to others when we think an evaluation is forthcoming about ourselves.  We might even stoop to “eavesdropping” in order to pick up a bit of information.  We may “jump” to erroneous conclusions in our eagerness to find out what others think of us. Sometimes we may think we are being discussed when we are not the subject of the discussion at all.  This desire to have an evaluation of ourselves from others can become an obsession.  Why do we seek the opinions of others in the evaluation of ourselves?   We may believe we are just too close to ourselves to do it.  We want the opinions of others but the question is, can we really trust their conclusions?

This is where the new product and stage show method of evaluation differs from viewing, identifying and evaluating our own lives.  Those things were a success or failure depending on how well they appealed to the public (outside-in).  Jesus teaches Christians to use the “inside-out” method of evaluation.  Our true life values will not be determined by the acceptance of others.  It must be evaluated by how much of our life is “life” as in “eternal life.”  The Greek word for this life is zoe.  See John 10:10, 11.  Jesus laid down His physical life (psuche) that we might have eternal life (zoe).  Life (zoe) refers to the quality of our “self.”

Jesus said in our text, “not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”  Jesus understands how easy it is for us to confuse our true life with our abundance.  In this lesson, we will see how we can arrive at our true identity by removing ourselves from our position and possessions.  We will use the parable taught by Jesus about the “Rich Fool.”  This lesson is not a commentary on the parable.  It is one of many lessons we could develop from Jesus’ unique and profound way of teaching by the use of His parables about life in the kingdom of God.


But God said unto him, Thou fool!  This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?  So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.   Luke 12:20, 21

Every faithful Christian has given careful thought to the time when God will say to us, “your soul is required of you.”  We know our earthly treasures will mean nothing when we hear the call or when we see Jesus in the air (Matt. 24:27).  We want to be found “rich toward God;” however, at the same time, our life on earth requires physical things.  Christians may also have a hard time distinguishing between our physical requirements and our physical treasures – between our tools and our treasures.  Diamonds make wonderful tools for a machinist; however, they are generally kept for treasures.  Christians must decide how we view and use our possessions (I Tim. 6:17-19).  James gave the dismal Judgment Day scene for people whose identity is synonymous with their riches.  See James 5:1-6.

A person who does not have faith in God and His plan for mankind will naturally be interested in treasures.  People who do not have sonship with God as their main goal will have a serious problem living in their body of flesh as it starts its dying process.  They will not be able to separate their true identity from their positions and treasures.  Many people die still trying to find life and security in their “place in this world.”

Jesus may also have been thinking of Christians when He taught the parable in our text.  It is about a rich man who thought getting richer would give him security for his soul.  This man could not distinguish between his abundance and his true life.  Greed became his master because he had not identified with true life.  He used his time and talents to build “bigger barns” on earth.  His reasoning was as follows:

And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; Take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry.    Luke 12:19

It was at this point he got the death call.  Although he, in his greed, was not able to discern between his life and his possessions – his physical death made a “clear cut” division.  He did not benefit from Jesus’ parable but we can.  Remember, Jesus gave this parable in response to a request.  The request was, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”  Luke 12:13.  The story Jesus used in His parable could have been a true story about the one who left this family inheritance.

Be that as it may, as always Jesus did not want to deal with the physical side of the issue.  He did attack the real issue when He said, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”  Luke 12:15.  Please note how the Apostle Paul often placed idolatry immediately after covetousness on his sin lists.  See I Cor. 5:11 and Eph. 5:5.  When we covet something in order to have it as a treasure Jesus would warn us about becoming an idolater.

When Christians have trouble identifying our true life from our positions and possessions, we might try the “death test” Jesus offered in this parable.  In our minds, let us remove ourselves from our position on the job, from our status in the community and even our family position.  Let us also strip ourselves of all earthly possessions: the bank book, automobiles, the house and even the clothes we wear.  Let us imagine that we receive the same call the “foolish man” received.  It happened, now our body is dead!  Our spirit that came from God and developed as our “self” has left our body and all our earthly stuff for others to use.  Who are we?  We do not have positions or possessions, no not even the body which we have identified with for all these years.  The picture in the mirror we have worked to improve and identify with for so many years is not there.  What is left is our true self – our inner man (II Cor. 4:16).  We will be the person God sees right now.  Jesus gave this parable to help us see ourselves as He sees us.

And He said to His disciples, ‘For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on.  For life is more than food, and the body than clothing.’  Luke 12:22, 23

Jesus is aware of the fact, a person in a physical body needs food, clothing and shelter (Matt. 6:25, 26).  They are a necessary part of our soul-life (psuche).   However, He said our soul-life consists of “more than.”  It is the “more than” we want to properly identify.  This will be in the area of our character and personality.  The degree to which we have conformed ourselves to Jesus Christ can be added to the net worth of our “riches toward God.”  Our riches also involve the things we have done to promote God’s kingdom and its glory in this world.  It is in this context we can understand what Jesus meant when He asked, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?”  John 5:44.

We cannot literally put ourselves through physical death and bring ourselves back.  But if we could, it would help us clearly distinguish between our physical requirements and the things in our life we treasure.  Christians who begin to collect too many treasures should be careful that we are not overcome by greed.  It is a sure sign that we do not have a clear view of God’s sonship program.  Understanding precedes faith.  It is impossible to see ourselves as God’s son in eternity and at the same time desire to lay up treasures in this world.

It is impossible to identify our true life without properly identifying with God.  We must attach eternity to time.  We must attach the spiritual to our physical realm.  It is then life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.  Our true life is the part of our minds and hearts where we have let Jesus write His laws of the new covenant (Heb. 8:10).  It is all of our inner man that has conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29).  Our eternal body will even be like His (I John 3:1-3).

Questions for Discussion

  1. When do producers realize the true value of a new product?
  2. What is one problem we may encounter when we try to appraise the worth of our own life?
  3. How is the method of evaluation of our life different from a producer?
  4. What is a good test to determine the real value of our lives?
  5. What is the main point of the parable in our text?
  6. What is the challenge Christians encounter because we require physical things?
  7. What are the problems people have when they do not have sonship with God as their main goal?
  8. How did the death of the farmer give us a model to show the difference between our possessions and our true life?
  9. What would be your identity if by death you were stripped of your possessions and position in life?
  10. What is the danger when Christians begin to collect treasures on earth?

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