Pentecost 8C - Luke 12:13-21

Luke 12:13-21 (NIV)

 13 Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then He said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

16 And He told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

          Great Aunt Peggy died.  She left a bundle - including lots of antiques.  Her niece was upset when her nephew laid claim to the rocking chair.  Everyone fought over the family silverware.  Such are family squabbles over the possessions of someone who has died?

          Jeremy's neighbour bought a new ride on mower.  His neighbour just had to have a new one too.  Let's keep up with the Jones's.

          Peter and Jenny were so busy working over-time to build up a nest egg, so their future would be secure, that they eventually could never be contacted by family or friends.  And then they were never quite sure what their teenage children were up to.

          When we fight over possessions, try to keep up with the Jones's, or when we strive only for economic security; we're fools! Scripture tells us that the pursuit of happiness through earthly wealth is futile.

In the wisdom writing of Ecclessiastes we read: I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. (2:18f.)

          The desire for riches in this world, only to satisfy ourself is GREED! St Paul used a much stronger word, he called it IDOLATRY! It is idolatry to pander to our own desires at the expense of the starving millions in the world. It is IDOLATRY to only give the small change left over in our pockets at the end of the week to God.

          The Lord requests our voluntary giving of the first-fruits of our income!

          In the parable of the Rich Fool there are 2 idols: the Rich Fool himself and his wealth. Concerning the rich man we read in verses 17-19:

17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, … He already had barns – what a waste. …and there I will store my surplus grain. More than he needs. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’

          Did this man have an ego problem?! In the New International Version he said 'my' five times and in the Greek he said 'I' eight times. This concentration on himself points to an ingrained selfishness.

This man is not concerned to use the wealth God has blessed him with wisely. He is trying neither to serve God nor help other people. He is concerned only with self-indulgence. Today’s Bible readings and especially this Gospel text challenge us to ask: How often do we only want to gratify our self?

          Jesus highlighted the wisdom tradition of the Old Testament and repeated the God given wisdom which teaches that material wealth only gives a false sense of security: nothing can be gained by a bank balance, a holiday home, a boat, the latest I-phone or 8K television. 

          In WW II a number of Eastern European folk, I’ve met over my years of ministry, who fled first the invading German Army and then the invading Russian Army had come to realise what is important – most told me that what was important for them was: their faith, their life and their family.

          This is highlighted by the following story.

In 1923, a group of the world's most successful men met: the president of the largest steel corporation, the greatest wheat speculator, a man who was to be president of the New York stock exchange, a U.S. cabinet member, the canniest investor on Wall St., a future director of the World Bank for International Settlements & the head world's largest monopoly.

The fate of these men few years later was: Charles Schwab died in debt, Arthur Cutten died in obscurity, Richard Whitney was insolvent and spent time in Sing Sing prison (his name was blotted from Who's Who), Albert Fall was pardoned from prison to die at home. Jesse Livermore, Leon Fraser and Ivar Krueger committed suicide.

          All these men learned to make money. None of them learned to live. Charles Scwab said in 1930, "I'm afraid; every man is afraid. I don't know, we don't know whether the values we have are going to be real next month or not."

          What has happened in New Zealand? It’s estimated that between May 2006 and the end of 2012 there were 67 New Zealand finance company collapses with some three billion dollars lost at the expense of some 150-200,000 people. It could happen again tomorrow.

          Jesus said, "...from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."  What have we been entrusted with?

          Immediately after the parable of the Rich Fool, Jesus tells us that God cares for us and will always supply what we need for this life. Have you ever had to go hungry, I mean, really hungry, like those people in Burundi and the Southern Sudan today?  Has not God provided for you?

          God provides more than material wealth. He gives spiritual wealth! His Son, Jesus; given to you, to make you rich with a store eternal wealth in heaven.

Take hold of Jesus before you even think about getting materially rich. Invest your time, your energy, your material wealth with Him and His desire for your life. With Jesus in your life God will give you everything else that you need.

          Likewise, Jesus will bless His Church with what it needs here on earth when we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.

God gave you your Saviour. He gave His Son's life for you. With material things you only end up empty and naked in the grave as Job says: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." (1:21, NIV)

(You were born with nothing, accumulate lots, downsize to nothing material, but in Jesus you have everything that is important: faith, hope and love.)

          Anyone who rejects Jesus' teaching about wealth is a FOOL! A fool because their priorities are wrong. Only a fool will settle for less than the hope God offers. Only a fool will settle only for finite material belongings - which pass away - when he or she could have eternal life.

When you stand before God to be judged will you have only:

          -money that will burn?

          -a car that will rust?

          -clothes that will rot?

          -a load of guilt and sin?

Or will you:

          -be naked of wealth?

          -be naked of all you've strived for?

          -only have the covering of the Lord Jesus who died for you?

           Will you be:

          -covered with the robe of righteousness, given by God, which will                not burn, rust or rot?

Amen.