Bible Reading Luke 12:22-34
Daniel Whittle wrote that there are a lot of things we do not understand about God’s gracious acts for us and within us. But we can know in whom we believe -- and be persuaded that he is able to keep what we’ve committed to him until he comes again. We will hear later about how Jesus warns the crowds about relying on the wrong thing, but then in Luke 12:22 ff he assures those who are following him can be confident of God’s care…
Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing.’ Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things? “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things.
These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. (NLT).
Message Covenant Confidence Luke 12:13-34
Abundance is a relative term, so when the Bible talks about our focus in economic stewardship, we relegate those texts to the very rich, and almost no one thinks they fit that category. In one interview, Business mogul Ted Turner said "People love money. It doesn't matter how much you've got, you want more…. look at Bill Gates, ... he's given a lot away, but I challenged him to give even more, because ... he can buy and sell both of us and then keep the change.” The host said to the audience: We're live in New York with [the] poor Ted Turner ....
The people Jesus addressed that day would consider most all of us very wealthy. The text applies to us. But how does it apply? The context gives us clues.
Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” Jesus replied, “[Man], who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” (Luke 12:13-14) (NLT)
Crowds are pressing around Jesus as he treks to Jerusalem. He was warning them about things that get in the way of their spiritual journey. He assures us that God cares about even the smallest part of your life – using his care for small sparrows and the hairs on our head as an example of how extremely valuable we are to him. Therefore we should take confidence in and prioritize God who has power over our soul and whose Spirit will guide us through every trial.
Then someone in the crowd, maybe he couldn’t hear that well, maybe he was just distracted, and/or maybe the words about security and trial triggered his thoughts about a legal dispute he was having with his brother over his father’s inheritance, as if that would provide the security he needed, and called out from the crowd, “Teacher, make my brother give me what I want.” .
This man was on the opposite page of everything Jesus was trying to say, so he is, let’s says, not happy. He says, “Man, (a word of distance and dis-connection) who made me judge over your case? The authority I carry, the purpose I have come -- is not about this kind of material stuff -- Then Jesus turns to the crowd and warns them all to beware of ALL kinds of greed and coveting something that belongs to someone else).
A dog was crossing a bridge over a stream with a large piece of meat in his mouth. He saw his reflection in the water. Thinking it was another dog with a bigger piece of meat, he immediately dropped his meat and dived to attack the other dog. His greed cost him everything. He lost the illusion of meat he chased thinking it would make him happier. He lost the meat did have to the water. And he ended up wet and went home with his tail tucked between his legs. Beware of wanting things you aren't meant to possess.
Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” (Luke 12:15 (NLT))
After the warning, Jesus tells a parable, then turns from the crowd to his followers and backtracks to where he was before he was interrupted -- reminding them what you heard read by Debbie -- that they don’t have to worry or be afraid about life or food and clothes because God cares even for ravens and lilies and he knows our needs and wants to give us the kingdom and we can be willing to share of ourselves and resources because you can’t lose out in that kind of an investment. Worry and fear adds nothing to the life you are living.
Let’s back up to the parable.
Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” (Luke 12:16-21)
Foolish Barn Builders (F.B.B.)
If we study this imagery apart from the words that surround it, it may seem like Jesus is criticizing someone for working hard, doing well, and preparing for the future. Ecclesiastes 3:3 tells us there are times to tear down and times to build (in this case, bigger barns). But Jesus is warning that there is a larger issue, a spiritual emptiness which this man has foolishly ignored.
We know this, first, because Jesus is using the story to illustrate his answer to the man in the crowd about the dangerous temptation of greed, and that there is more to life than the sum of the things we have.
(F.B.B.) Think only of self
We know this second, because is this very short story, there is a plethora of “I” and “my”. So much so that he even sought counsel only from himself and predicted the results of his plan only to himself. Not a single thought went to God who gifted him -- yes he worked the land, but the language makes it clear this went way beyond a bumper crop - it was a miraculous crop. I liken it to when the disciples fished and caught nothing, and then under Jesus instruction caught so much they couldn’t haul in their breaking nets without help from another boat.
(F.B.B.) Confuse material gain with spiritual security
And not a single thought to the community from whom he may profit as they purchased the crop, and perhaps it is even for them that he had been so blessed, so that the community could survive the next season. Yet he doesn’t give God or others a first, second, or stray thought. He thinks only of himself.
So much was this foolish farmer counting on his material wealth that he now figures he is set not only for life, but for eternal life. We can be tempted to get so comfortable and secure with our possessions that we forget about our need for God, forget our frail mortality, forget that we can't take it with us.
It is like the story of the professional who had accumulated great riches and was convinced he could take it with him. He withdrew two large bags of money from the bank and told his wife to hide them in the attic; so that when he died, as his spirit rose he could grab the bags on his way up. Years later, the death occurred, and the wife was cleaning out the attic. She discovered the two large bags of money. She shook her head and said, "I knew he should have told me to hide them in the basement".
The rich fool, and sometimes we too, forget that our life is not ours. Apart from God, there is no way that we can accumulate what is needed to bring strength and safety and life to our spirits. We cannot control our life -- we cannot add one hour to it; by worrying; or by what we own. Jesus said "what good is it ... to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit your very self'?' (Luke 9:25 (NIV)). What good is it to chase after and accumulate things if the pursuit costs you the very essence of who you are meant to be... denies you the ability to fulfill your destiny?
Wise Barn Builders (W.B.B.)
You know the old joke about when someone says taking such a certain action will kill you. And the reply comes back, “Yeah, but what a way to go”. In a serious take on the joke, there were many people of the Bible, including Jesus, who boldly faced insurmountable odds that ultimately cost them their life. But, generally speaking, even if they knew it may mean death, it wasn’t choosing to die or how to die, but choosing how they were going to live not matter the resistance.
Being rich is neither good nor bad, having possessions is neither good nor bad; having big and full barns is not good or bad -- what is critical -- is that in any situation and circumstance, we choose to be rich toward God. But what does that mean?
(W.B.B.) Grateful for the gift
First, we do it by being grateful. Who enables the seed to germinate, who sends the sun, the rain, the soil? Granted, we artificially do some of these things today, and no doubt this farmer's hands worked diligently to cultivate his crops. But who enables the hard work? Who enables our next breath? Our next heart beat? The farmer’s contemplation, and ours should consider how to properly and generously express our thankfulness for God’s gracious material and/or non-material blessings that he gives and/or enables us to gain.
(W.B.B.) Invest in and for others
Thanksgiving for blessings al-ready given helps establish a confidence that what God has provided, he can provide again, which leads to a willingness to invest the resources God has given to us to accomplish His will, because this is why He has given us these blessings in the first place.
For our provision yes, but if there is extra -- to provide for true needs of others whose (to keep the metaphor of the story) whose crop has failed -- who have had unfortunate setbacks in life.
In 1783, French general and politician Marquis de Lafayette managed to fill his barns with wheat in spite of a generally poor harvest in the area. One of the workers said, "The bad harvest has raised the price of wheat, it is the time to sell." Lafayette thought about the hungry peasants in the surrounding villages and said, "No, this is the time to give". He invested in his community.
(W.B.B.) Generous in re-sources and/or deeds
True treasures are found when we invest ourselves in the lives of people -- meeting needs by exercising the gifts God has given us and the skills he has enabled us to learn and perform. We may discover the treasure of Christ-in-others as we gratefully and generously invest our lives in each person that Christ places across our path.
Robert Fulghum, of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten fame, admits that success is a challenge, and the challenge is to be a good steward. He said, "I don't think I should be given extra credit for doing [the charity work that I does]," he says. "I think you should think ill of me if I didn't do that."
When God blesses us with life itself and so much more -- The wise way to build our spiritual storehouse is to seriously consider the wonderful privilege of how we can invest the blessings he has provided for us to work with. It may include material wealth, or we may have only spiritual gifts, skills, talents, and time, as the means by which we can invest our lives in others -- beginning with those right in our own household.
Paul advises us (in 1 Timothy 6:17-19) to not to be arrogant or to put our hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put our hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment, and that we should be rich in good deeds, and generous and willing to share -- and allow us to take hold of life that is truly life. Or as Art Linkletter once described spiritual richness as the desire to: Do a little more than you’re paid to; Give a little more than you have to; Try a little harder than you want to; Aim a little higher than you think possible; And give a lot of thanks to God for health, family and friends --- [because we aren’t in it for the money -- we are in it for how we can contribute to our world].
When we give ourselves fully to the Lord, all other giving becomes easier and falls into place. God calls us to be generous with whatever resources and or abilities we do have. Let's give thanks for that which we have been blessed, and out of the abundance of what we have, continue to use our resources to sow seeds of compassionate generosity to God and to our communities.
Hymn # 354 (vv 1,2,4) I Surrender All
Closing Blessing Go now with purpose, and God will honor the dedicated offering of your lives. Go in love and peace, for it is the gift of God to those whose hearts and minds are rich in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.