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First Lesson: Genesis 15:1-6 (NIV)
Second Lesson: Hebrews 11:1-3,8-16 (NIV)
Gospel : Luke 12:22-34 (NIV)
- CW 828 Where Your Treasure Is
- Change My Heart, O God
- Psalm 121 Keep Me as the Apple of Your Eye
- CW 800 How Firm a Foundation
- CW 868 By Faith
Luke 12:22-34 holds a special place in my heart. It’s a passage for those who worry too much. It’s a passage for those who don’t think they are good enough. It’s a passage for control freaks, for those struggling with God, for those who feel unloved, for those who are too self-confident, for those who can’t find the beauty in life, for those who need a home, for those who are sinners. This is a passage spoken to those whom Jesus loves. He wants only the best for his children and therefore urges us to focus on his kingdom, full of riches and treasures given to you.
Last week, Jesus told the crowds around him about a man who had so much and yet so little. This man had so many possessions it was hard to even imagine it all, but while he was building up earthly treasure for himself, he wasn’t rich toward God. Here, directly after speaking to the crowds, Jesus turns back to his disciples to give them further commentary on the issue. He wants them to increase their understanding and prepare them for their ministry to come.
And so, Jesus begins explaining. He says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, and what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.” I’m going to stop right there for a second. There are definitely people in this world who worry about where their next meal will come from or if they will even have clothes to wear. There may be people here who can relate to that, but I’m not sure all of us can, as richly blessed as so many of us are in this country. So, I want to look at it in a slightly different way that still falls into the confines of Scripture. How many of you stress yourselves out over what to make for dinner or what to eat for dinner? How many of you take so much time in front of the mirror, not just to look nice, but because you are worried about what people might think of you? In the last month how many of you have looked at a picture of someone and wished you looked more like that person, whether it was their face, hair, muscles, clothes or whatever? God tells us, “Life is more than food and the body more than clothes.” There is more to it than just appearances or stuff.
In verse 24, God invites us to consider the ravens. The Greek word used here for “consider” suggests careful study so that one might learn something. What do you know about ravens? God tells us these birds do not have a huge storeroom or barn like the guy in the parable from last week. They do not sow or reap. And yet, they are not worried because God feeds them. Martin Luther once said, “If a little bird can desist from worrying and acts in such a case like a perfect saint, and yet has neither land nor barn, neither box nor cellar; it sings, praises God, rejoices, and is happy, for it knows that it has One that cares for us, whose name is Father in heaven; why, then, do we not also act thus, we that have the advantage that we can work, till the ground, gather the fruits, put them together, and keep them for the time of need.” And God tells us we are much more valuable than birds. So we can “Do as birds do; learn to believe, sing, be happy, and let your heavenly Father care for you.”[i]
How many of you can extend your life by worrying about things to come? Anyone? Think of your life. An hour is almost nothing, often insignificant in the years we have on earth and yet try as we might until we are red in the face, we cannot add even an hour to our lives. Actually, stress can sometimes do the opposite and take that extra time away.
Worrying is really a type of fear, because worrying fears what could happen. Fear is a powerful emotion that controls a lot of people. The pressure can overtake us. It can freeze our actions and leave us rooted where we stand. I am convinced there is something stronger than fear, something that can help overcome it. Love. I would imagine many people are afraid of running into a burning building. However, people will do it out of love. If someone is stuck inside that can be saved, people have been known to rush in to save him or her. I’m sure Jesus wasn’t looking forward to dying on the cross and yet the love he had for us snuffed out the fear so he could save us. The love God has for us is a powerful reminder that God has our life in his hands. God says, “Why worry?” His love will help us focus past the worry.
The next section asks us to consider how flowers grow. There’s that word again, “Consider.” So we have to look at this section carefully to learn something. Every once in a while, I’ll go to a flower shop to pick up some flowers for Sarah. I’m not an easy guy to impress, but all the different types of flowers astound me. Go ahead, imagine you are surrounded by flowers. Take a deep breath and inhale the pleasant fragrance. A flower is a beautiful sight. Just this week, I was in awe over a field of sunflowers, even though those flowers didn’t labor or spin. Flowers are just gorgeous. It might be a little tougher to sell you on the beauty of grass, but you could argue that grass, fully nourished and grown to its potential, planted over a rolling hill, can still be an impressive sight. As beautiful as flowers and grass can be, you are so much more valuable. If God makes even them beautiful in their short time, how much more you? Do you even know how beautiful you are? You are so beautiful that God has a plan for you, specifically for you.
It can be hard to trust someone else’s plan, especially God’s, because it’s not our plan. Our plan has us checking off the boxes of what we are going to eat and drink, what we are going to wear, which hunk or babe is going to fall madly in love with us, how hordes of people will praise us even for our smallest deeds, and how easy life will be. The passages we are looking at today can often make people upset because God’s plan is not our plan. God wants us to trust him. He’s given us every reason to trust him, but bitterness can get in the way of trust. “I didn’t like how painful that moment was in my life, God.” “This isn’t as fun as I thought it would be, God.” “God, why are addiction, anxiety, relationship problems, or “fill in the blank” a part of my life?” Christian apologist Lee Strobel once said, “Bitterness is always a poison. It keeps your pain alive instead of letting you deal with it and get beyond it.”[ii] In other words, bitterness blurs our focus of God’s kingdom. Someone once said, “Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” It’s not helpful. Today, we see we have something better than bitterness, something better than the best we can manage on our own. Today, God gives us the daily and physical things we need but focuses us more on his kingdom. Only then does everything fall into place.
Let me share a story about how God can use even pain and sorrow caused by sin to bring about something amazing. Amanda Pierce was 18 years old. She was driving on a trip to Tennessee. On the way she saw an accident in front of her. She swerved her car off the road in order to avoid it. But in doing so she hit a tree. Early the next morning she died. That’s a terrible story. You and I know because sin is in this world, evil things happen. But that’s not the whole story. There is another character. Garrett’s life was a struggle from the start. 24 hours after he was born, his left ventricle stopped growing and therefore stopped functioning. After surgery and numerous medications, he battled through and survived. In elementary school, he was suddenly diagnosed with cancer, but was able to beat that too. Then, in high school, Garrett found out he had coronary artery disease, which means he would need a new heart. He was put on the transplant list as his health continued to slowly deteriorate. As he took a turn for the worst and it looked like it was all over for Garrett, a heart suddenly came in that was an exact match. They rushed him into surgery and Garrett came out alive and well, his heart beating strongly. The heart he had received was Amanda’s, the girl who died in the car crash. When something horrific and awful happened, God brought life out of death. That’s the kind of God we have. There’s a little bit more to the story. A year after the surgery, Garrett met with Amanda’s family. And he brought a stethoscope so they could hear their daughter’s heart beating again. Garrett understands how precious life is better than anyone. And that day, he and Amanda’s family shared God’s Word with one another and how God can bring something miraculous from tragedy.
Isaiah 55:8-9 says: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God’s not going to waste your pain. Even if you’ve been through something that has broken your heart into a million pieces, God can use that to bring you or someone else a healing found only in him. Through his Son’s death, he has truly done the miraculous bringing all of us from death to life. God reminds us to focus past our plans and seek his kingdom first. God has a better plan for you. He has the best plan for you.
Recently in church we talked about not putting too much value into earthly possessions. This week we talk about putting all that we value into God’s kingdom. When you invest in other things, you fear you don’t have enough. You believe you need more and more and more. You can keep what you have for only a limited time. Investing in the kingdom of heaven is like having treasure that never becomes too old, never fails, no one can take it from you, and it never decays. Its value never dwindles. Its richness is beyond compare. When you invest in God and the work he does through churches, through believers, through the body of Christ, God multiplies everything you give. You can’t outgive God! Let’s just look at some of the things you get when you focus on the kingdom. You take hold of the forgiveness of all sins through faith. You gain a family of believers. You get to immerse yourself in the love of God. You grow in knowledge of God’s salvation plan for you. You recognize how your Savior Jesus is constantly caring for you and acting on your behalf. You become firm in your identity as a child of God. You have the joy and peace of knowing there is a place in heaven for you, earned by Jesus’ pure life and sacrifice and proven by his resurrection. You have the satisfaction of knowing and sharing the knowledge that saves others. You get to be part of the process of saving souls. The payout is overwhelming. You receive a legacy that lasts. God helps us focus past things that don’t last, but instead on these eternal treasures.
Last week, I left you with a verse. I’d like to leave you with the same verse today. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Where is your heart? God helps you put it where it belongs. Love focuses us past the fear of not having enough or of people thinking we are foolish. God’s plan focuses past our own plans and on the bigger picture. He focuses us away from things that fade, but instead on things that endure forever. Our God, with all his wisdom, mercy, and love focuses us where we need to be, in his kingdom. That is where true peace, life, and joy are found. Amen.
[i] Luther, quoted in Besser, Bibelstunden, 578