Pentecost 11c

Preached: August 12, 2007

Life Doesn't Come from Many Possessions
Luke 12:13-21

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who pours out the Holy Spirit on us through his Word and Sacraments. That word before us today is Luke 12

A man from the crowd said to Jesus, Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me. Jesus said to him, Man, who appointed me as a judge or arbitrator for you?
He said to them, Watch out and guard yourselves from greed, for someone's life does not come from his possessions even when they overflow for him. He told them a parable, The field of a certain rich man produced well. He reasoned with himself, What shall I do, since I do not have any place to gather my crop? And he said, This is what I'll do: I'll tear down my storehouses, build larger ones, and gather there all my grain and my goods. I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many good things laid up for many years. Keep at rest, eat, drink, and make merry.
But God said to him, You fool! This very night your soul is required from you. Who will have what you prepared? So it is for the one who treasures up for himself and is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:13-21).

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints of God:

6:05 p.m. Wednesday, August 1. Who traveling on I-35W would have thought the bridge was going to collapse? Life was flowing along as normal: People returning home from work, heading out to appointments, preparing for an evening with family or friends. And then life changed.

How quickly death can overtake any one of us! We might be traveling on the Interstate, sitting at home, or going about our business. How quickly death overtook the rich man in Jesus' parable! He was not ready. His hope and trust was in the abundance of his possessions. Are you ready? Where is your hope and trust? Jesus' words lead each of us to examine our own heart as he teaches us that life doesn't come from many possessions.

A. Guard against greed

Someone from the crowd wanted Jesus to tell his brother to divide the inheritance with him. After dismissing the questions since he wasn't going to be drawn into disputes that the laws of the land settled, Jesus points out the sin that lies at the root of the question: Greed. Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke 12:15 NIV).

Consider the parable of the rich man that Jesus told. Jesus mentions nothing evil or sinister about the man's actions. His riches don't come from fraud or theft or any other illegal activity. In fact, his good crop indicates that he is a hard-working man. His good business sense and devotion to his farm has led to a bumper crop. He could be a poster boy for the American success story. And he doesn't appear to be a stingy Scrooge either. Would Scrooge say, Eat, drink and be merry? In fact, who would begrudge him enjoying the fruit of his hard work? Isn't that what retirement is meant to be? Isn't that why we have Social Security and IRA's?

But consider his attitude. Listen to what he says to himself and count how many times he uses the words I or my. What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops . . . This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods (Luke 12:17, 18 NIV). Nine times almost a quarter of the words are focused on himself. He doesn't even mention God with a passing thought. Greed is focused on what I can accomplish, what can I gain, what can I claim as my own.

Also notice what his hope trusts in and where he looks for happiness. And I'll say to myself, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry (Luke 12:19 NIV). His hope and confidence was in his wealth. He thought that all that mattered in life was how much you had. Greed trusts that money will make us feel good. Then when we get some money and don't feel as good as we think we should, greed trusts that more money will do the trick. That's why greed is like a monster. The more the monster eats the hungrier he gets. Greed always cries out More!

Guard against greed. You don't have to be a rich man to fall into the sin of greed. It tugs at each of our hearts. When we look at what someone else has and think to ourselves, They don't deserve that as much as I do, that's greed. When we feel that we need a little bit more income or a little bit more leisure to be truly happy, that's greed. When we devote ourselves to work trusting our hard work to secure our future, that's greed. When we wish to win the lottery to solve our problems, that's greed. When we worry about our savings or retirement or bills, that's greed. When we feel secure because we trust our money or insurance to see us through, that too is greed.

You see, greed trusts money and things and our hard work to make us happy and secure. Greed looks to money and things and our hard work as our hope and the solution to our problems. Greed leaves God in the background. For you see, greed makes money and things and our work into our god. For what we look to for happiness, what we turn to for help, that's what in reality is our god.

See why Jesus warns us against greed? Greed is idolatry. Greed worships the gods called money, things, and work. How deadly the sin of greed is! It cost the rich man eternal life. And it can rob you of that life as well. A bumper sticker expressed greed in this way: He who dies with the most toys wins. That's what greed thinks. But Jesus makes it clear: He who dies with the most toys . . . still dies. This very night your life will be demanded from you (Luke 12:20 NIV)

B. Be Rich toward God

You see why we need a Savior? My greed damns me to death and hell as an idolater, and your greed damns you. But Jesus paid for my greed with his blood on the cross. And that's what he did for you. His blood pays for your greed. Jesus who did have it all, gave up all to rescue greedy sinners like you and me. The Apostle Paul puts it this way: You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9 NIV).

Now we begin to see our true riches. Our true riches are not measured in dollar or cents or hours worked, but in the blood that flowed from our God's side and in his words that still today speak forgiveness to us from the Scriptures and bring us life. With our hearts fixed on Christ, our crucified and risen Savior, who reigns above, our attitude toward money and earthly things changes.

We now give thanks to God realizing that no matter how hard we work everything we have, from the smallest pin to the biggest farm, is a gracious gift of his mercy. Instead of looking to money, things, or our hard work for happiness and security, we look to the Giver. We trust him. And since he did not even spare his own Son for us, how will he not graciously give us all that we need, caring for you as the good and gracious Father he is?

Thanksgiving to the Father for all that he has given us, and trust in the Son whose blood saves us, that's what's in the heart of someone rich toward God. Thanks and trust. That's what the Holy Spirit works in your heart.

As this thanks and trust fills our heart, it overflows into our actions. That's what cheerful giving is all about. Cheerful giving isn't about arguing over what percentage or amount to give. Cheerful giving flows from a heart of thanks that confesses that all that we have comes from God in the first place, and we can never out give him. Cheerful giving flows from a heart of trust that clings to Jesus. Since Jesus already sacrificed himself for you to bring you eternal life that's our faith, can we not trust him to take care of our earthly life as well? Plan your offerings from a heart of thanks and trust. Plan your offerings to show that greed does not rule over you.

Life doesn't come from many possessions. Life comes from Jesus. Greed is blind to that truth. Guard against greed. Rather be rich toward God. Rich in thanks and trust. For then, no matter what bridge collapses beneath you, no matter when death strikes or how unexpectedly, you have life, life in Christ, eternal life. You wear the bumper sticker: He who dies with Christ . . . still lives.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313