Sermon from Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Rocklin, California, published via the power of IFTTT.
Proper 13c, Pentecost 11, (July 31, 2016)
TITLE: “Rich Toward God”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter twelve.
For Jesus, your possessions are like an E.K.G. for your heart. What is important to you? Look at how you spend your money, your time, and your energy. Your stuff is the best way of getting a read on the priorities in your life.
This is why there is no such thing as “just possessions” or “just my time” or “just my attention”. Just a little later in this chapter Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34). We tend to think of it the other way around. Where your heart is, there is your treasure. But Jesus knows your heart better than you do. He knows that money, time and energy flow out of what matters to you, and how you see yourself in relation to everyone else around you.
So when someone from the crowd asks Jesus to make his brother divide the inheritance, Jesus doesn’t have a lot of patience for him. Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (v. 14) Well, Jesus is the judge of the living and the dead, but He did not come to the earth to judge and be a new Solomon, cutting the baby in half so each person gets their portion. This is why Jesus warns against the great sin of the heart:
And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (v. 15)
Why is it that covetousness is the great sin of the heart? It’s very simple. Either your heart is oriented outward, toward God and neighbor, or your heart is oriented inward toward yourself. Either you have faith toward God and love toward neighbor, or you you have no faith and no love.
And that is where this parable of the rich fool comes in. The man is rich, with so much abundance that he talks with himself about what he is going to do to take care of all of his stuff. It’s never a good sign when you are so self-absorbed that the only person you can talk to is yourself. But there he is. Eat, drink, be merry! For he had everything figured out, years to live off of his smart investing. The spreadsheet was finished. The IRA is in place. He can live all his days off of the monies from his crops. It will all work out well for him. Or so he thought.
This is why God called the man, Fool. The problem isn’t that the man is rich. The problem isn’t that he has invested and planned. The problem is that he invested in the wrong thing. It would be like living up in the hill near us where all the fires are, but only getting typhoon insurance and not fire insurance.
The man’s life is required of him this night. He didn’t have the three ghosts to visit him like Ebeneezer Scrooge. His life was required that night. And the one thing needful was not the coins in his safe. He had treasure which he kept for himself, but he was not rich toward God. The man’s riches blinded him to his own great poverty, the poverty of soul which left him alone at his Last Day.
So let’s bring this to earth for us today. Every one of us worries about the future. Retirement, education costs, we fret and live in fear of whatever the emergency will be of tomorrow. And this worry, this anxiety of heart pulls you in to yourself, so that no one else can get in, not God, not your neighbor near or far. And because they cannot get in, you in turn cannot get out of your life. You’re stuck, trapped in your own greed and selfishness. God wants you rich toward him, so that you are free in turn to help those all around you that are in such great need. But you will not see God or your neighbor, and so all you can see is yourself. Repent.
There is, however, one who looks not to Himself but to you. There is one who is rich, but who became poor for you. There is one who washes you in His own blood, and who clothes you in the waters of Holy Baptism. There is one who gives of His own flesh and blood, feeding you with the bread of life and the medicine of immortality. The price for this food and drink is high, but He does it purely out of love for you, his wayward, greedy children.
Our Heavenly Father gives up His dearest treasure for you. He gives up His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. There is no holding back with Him. There is no rainy day. There is no emergency fund. He sends forth His only-begotten Son so that you might live, and be free of the bonds of sin and death.
And it is because of that great gift, which He continues to lavish upon you, you are free to get outside yourself. You are free to serve your neighbor, to give of your time, your energy, your treasure and to do so out of love, not because you must, but because you are free.
There is no slavery greater than the slavery of possessions. As we read In Ecclesiastes:
What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? 23 For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. (Eccl. 2:22-23)
If your life is centered simply and only around the accumulation and and keeping of stuff, then it is no wonder that you can easily become worried and full of care like our friend Martha. But Christ has freed you from this.
So be free of the slavery of stuff. Be rich toward God and give. Why? Because Christ our Lord has given all things to you. You are rich toward God. What more do you need?
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
O Lord, grant us wisdom to recognize the treasures You have stored up for us in heaven, that we may never despair but always rejoice and be thankful for the riches of Your grace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (C71)