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First Lesson: Ecclesiastes 1:1-2,12-14; 2:18-26 (NIV)
Second Lesson: Colossians 3:1-11 (NIV)
Gospel : Luke 12:13-21 (NIV)
- CW 807 All Depends on Our Possessing
- Change My Heart, O God
- CW 820 O God, Our Help in Ages Past
- CW 663 Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness
Before our text for today, the Apostle Luke described how thousands of people had gathered around Jesus. The crowds were so large, trampling one another became a concern. As the crowds are surrounding Jesus, he begins telling his disciples to be on guard against all types of evil, especially the faults found within the Pharisees, who were caught up in greed and self-righteousness. As they do this, the disciples would not have to be afraid, because God’s people are worth very much to him. And they would never be alone. Therefore, they could follow God boldly, speak his name confidently, and share his Word assertively because persecution would not be able to take them away from God’s care. Instead of worrying about persecution, they were to focus on God and not get caught up in greed and self-righteousness.
As our text opens up, obviously someone from the crowd didn’t hear Jesus or wasn’t listening because immediately he says, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Now, the Jewish laws stated the eldest son would receive double of what a younger son would receive. So, if there are only two sons here, the eldest would get 2/3 of the inheritance and the youngest 1/3. Is this person trying to get his fair share of the inheritance? It’s doubtful, but possible. Is he trying to get more than what belongs to him? This is what I think. Either way, Jesus immediately shuts the man’s question down. He says, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Jesus wasn’t the government official to whom people should come in order to have their legal disputes settled. Jesus is not going to get dragged into this argument, especially because the man’s request is showing him to be selfish and materialistic. Jesus rather has come to teach God’s Word so people will know their Savior and what he has done for them. So instead of getting drawn into the argument, Jesus warns the man, the disciples, and the crowd about an underlying problem many of us struggle with: greed. This was a problem of the Pharisees and the disciples. It was the reason for Judas’ betrayal. And so, it’s definitely a concept worth talking about. Greed often grabs a hold of us without us even realizing it.
Let me tell you a story. When I was 12 or 13, I had some money to spend. I had done various odd jobs, saved up birthday money, Christmas money, etc. for years. And I knew what I was going to spend it on: sports cards. I went into a sports card shop and after examining all my options thoroughly, I finally decided on the sealed box of sports card packs I would get. I caught the store owner’s gaze to let him know I was ready. “What do you have your eye on?” he asked. I pointed out the box on the shelf behind the counter which I had decided on and placed the correct amount of money on the table for him. He grabbed the box off the shelf and as he was about to hand it to me, another customer walked through the door. He was obviously chummy with the store owner and said, “Hey there, why don’t you sell me that box in your hand right there and put it on my tab.” The owner avoided eye contact with me and said, “Sure. Anything for you.” The owner quickly handed the box to the other customer and the guy runs out the door with the box in hand despite my protests. Needless to say, I didn’t get the box I wanted. Five minutes later. The same guy burst through the door saying, “I did it. I pulled a Michael Jordan autograph card from the box!” I was less than pleased.
Earlier this week, I looked at the price of what that card might be worth and if it was the cheapest Michael Jordan autograph card that could be found in that type of box, it would be worth $10,000 today. Now it’s sad that I missed out on that. $10,000 is a lot of money. But I think the saddest thing is that it still bothers me. It’s been 20 years and it would not have made a huge difference in my life, especially in the things that matter. It wouldn’t make my family love me more. It certainly wouldn’t bring me any closer to Jesus or pay for more salvation than everyone else. And yet it bothers me because it wasn’t fair and there are times when I can be greedy and I want things. I want them now.
Did you know that life isn’t fair? If you didn’t, you certainly will find out. Almost always someone will have more than you. And the greed inherent in all of us loves to make ourselves the victims of every situation. “Do you see how much money she has? I don’t make that much and I work twice as hard. Hey God! Why is that? I am the victim!” “I didn’t win the mega millions this week. I bet it is going to some jerk. I’m the victim!”
Jesus didn’t come to this earth to make sure your big screen has the same number of inches as your neighbor. Jesus didn’t come to divide everyone’s possessions equally or make sure his followers have more possessions than everyone else. He didn’t come to make sure you have an abundance of earthly wealth. Instead, he warns against that type of greediness so that you can focus on what is important. “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
Jesus is masterful at how he shares the Word with others. Here, he tells a parable that will show everyone how foolish greed can make people. In the parable, a man has so many possessions. In fact, he has so much grain he doesn’t even know what to do with it. He’s not going to be able to eat it all. He just enjoys staring at it because it makes him feel good about how much he has. He’s probably even showing off to others and driving home the point that he has more than them. He can’t even contain all he has. This man has so much, he has to build a giant new facility just to store it all. He has so much, he’ll never have to work again. What do you call a man like this? Blessed? Lucky? Talented? Intelligent? Powerful? God doesn’t call him any of these things. He calls this man who has everything a “fool!” God says to him, “You fool, this night your soul will be demanded from you. Now who will get what you have prepared?” It’s not going to go to the rich man. He’s going to have to leave it all because “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Even though the man stored up treasure for himself on earth, he was not rich toward God. And that is what really matters.
I see a major tragedy in this parable. The first is that the man doesn’t understand he has received a gift from God. God gave him an abundant harvest. God had also given this man the gift of life on earth, which one day would be taken away from him just as it will be for all of us. The question then becomes what will this man do with these gifts? Will he hoard the gifts for himself as a proud and greedy Pharisee might do or will he use his possessions to share with the people around him? To bring them closer to Jesus as the one thing that really matters. The tragedy within a tragedy is this guy consults with no one about his choice. If you look, he doesn’t ask his friends, his family, not even God what he might do. His decisions are not tempered by the wisdom of godly people or by Scripture because he thinks he is completely self-sufficient. Even as he celebrates his possessions, his greedy heart sentences him to celebrate alone. He’s a fool. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart there is no God.” This fool decides that even though he will never get to use all of it, he’s going to selfishly hoard all of it. In his mind, it was all his. Notice throughout the text he says, “my crops,” “my barns,” “my surplus grain.” Verse 19 in Greek says, “And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many good things laid up for many years; take your rest, eat, drink, and be merry.” But even that soul is not his to keep. It was a temporary gift that really belongs to God and is demanded back to God.
All gifts are from God. Everything we have, we are simply stewards of until it is time to go home. But it’s really hard to think about it like that. It’s ironic that we are richer than almost all of our ancestors, but our generation is probably the most greedy too. Because we like stuff. And we invest our money and ourselves into this stuff. “I want that TV.” (stuff money into a jug for each item listed) “I want a bigger house. I gotta have that dress. I have to have that game. I covet that Michael Jordan autograph card. I need those Youtube subscribers. I must get that snowmobile. I don’t even know what the thing my neighbor just bought is, but if he has it, I want it too. God looks at all the stuff that we invested in throughout our lives. “What is this junk? This isn’t real treasure.” (Slap the jug away) And we realize we had nothing all along.
Now all of this stuff isn’t necessarily bad, but if you are looking for true joy in stuff, you are not going to find it. In the Bible King Solomon was the richest of all and yet he wrote in our first lesson for today that those looking for peace and happiness in earthly things will be disappointed because all earthly things will pass away. But there is good news because not everything will pass away. There is something, someone worth investing in.
We saw from the parable that anyone who stores up things for themselves must leave all riches behind him and only eternal hell lies ahead. But the Bible tells us the opposite is true for believers. You can be rich toward God and it lasts forever.
Remember how I told you life isn’t fair. Thank God for that because otherwise we’d belong in hell for our mess-ups. Jesus unfairly put himself on the cross in our place. Because of Jesus’ actions we mercifully do not get what we deserve. Instead, we are guaranteed heaven by grace through faith. Jesus is a treasure that lasts. Someone who is truly worth investing in. Our second lesson from today helps show us what this looks like. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” I’m going to skip ahead to verse 10. “…and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
You have an opportunity before you. Two things to invest in. You can hoard your possessions for yourself. Or you can use them to invest in God. The good news is you’ve already been investing in God simply by being in church and hearing his Word. Throughout the service, you may have noticed I kept putting money in a jar. This was to signify how you are investing in strengthening your faith in the one true God. When you are volunteering your time, when you are sharing God’s Word, when you are giving offerings to the cause, when you are spending time reading the Bible you are filling that faith inside of you. And a joy will spark within you that sustains in the bad times and elates in the good. And this joy lasts even beyond death into life everlasting.
As we finish our message for today, I want to leave you with one verse and a question. The verse is from Matthew 6:21. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Where is your heart? Is it with your stuff that fades away or is it within the fortress of God’s love and protection? You know the answer to that. The way you choose to view your possessions will show you. God wants you to have what’s better. He wants you to focus on him. And focused living properly values earthly wealth. Amen.