Let us pray: Dear Savior, too often we get so caught up in living the life we humans have created for ourselves that we forget to live the life You have given to us. Too often we define happiness and contentment in terms of money, property and goods instead of inner peace, appreciation, and a carefree trust in You. Today teach us anew to reorder our priorities so as to get the most out of this gift of life that You have bestowed. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GIVER OF EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT!
TEXT: Luke 12: 13-21
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
I’ve probably made 400 to 500 hundred hospital calls during my ministry. Some were “good news” calls in that the person lying in the bed was recovering from successful surgery and together we thanked the Lord for it in prayer. Some were the joyous calls that stem from a new born baby, full of promise and hope. But others were what I term “hard calls.” That is, the member lying there was sick and facing death without much hope of ever going home. A few of those hard calls stick out in my mind. After preparing that person to meet their Lord and asking Him to get them through the portal of death into glory, eventually I had to leave. Walking down hospital corridors knowing I’d never see my faithful member again, alive, here on earth, is a sobering experience. Their final facial expressions of good-bye still stay with me years later….
If you’ve never been confined to a hospital bed, say a prayer of thanks to God tonight! If you have been so confined, you know that life’s events become crystallized. All those little daily things we take so seriously: getting to work on time, paying the bills, preparing meals, doing the laundry, taking vacations, etc. etc. etc.—Those items of daily life shrink when you’re really sick or facing your mortality. Suddenly, you’re aware of each breath you take, of each cloud in the sky, of each fond memory. The simple act of having the sunbeam come across your bed and rest upon your face becomes deliciously all-consuming.
I know none of us likes to dwell upon the hard side of life—our physical pain and our mortality. I know I really don’t like to preach much about it. You end up sounding much like an aged Solomon who says in today’s OT lesson: “Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.” And that certainly is not a positive way to live your life. Nonetheless, occasionally all of us really do need to be reminded of the importance of distilling life down to its vital components. Today’s gospel does that. So, we’ll ponder its meaning by considering:
WHAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT IN LIFE….
Did you ever wonder why God gives us two commandments that deal with the sin of coveting? Yes, both the 9th and 10th commandments warn us against it. Of course, the reason behind 2 such commandments is that coveting, or being consumed by greed, is especially deadly. It not only robs us of eternal life, but it also robs us of appreciating our time of grace on earth. This was the situation we find in our lesson. A man’s father had died. He and his brother were the only heirs. Apparently the division of property either wasn’t happening quickly enough to satisfy him, or somehow he was unhappy with his lot. So, he pesters Jesus to step into the fray. But, since Jesus can read his heart, Jesus knew this man wasn’t consumed with justice or equality, but with pure greed. And so, Christ says to him: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And then to drive home His point, Christ tells the parable that follows.
Most of you are aware of the facts of this earthly story with the heavenly meaning. A very wealthy man becomes even wealthier in his agribusiness. He hoards his wealth, his crops, tearing down perfectly good barns in order to build bigger barns to hold it all. Did you ever think: “Why do such a thing? Wouldn’t it be easier just to sell some off or perhaps build another smaller barn or two to hold it?” But, the man doesn’t do that, does he? Why? Could it be he wanted to show off? Could it be that bigger barns would somehow prove his self-worth to others? Folks, this was all an ego trip based upon valuing one’s life in purely monetary terms.
And after he’s fed his ego and become the biggest man in the village, this fellow decides to give himself over to indulgence. “Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry.” I know what you’re thinking.—Some might say: “Well, why not? He earned it!” Others might be thinking: “O, here it comes, the Pastor is going to rail against human excess—gluttony, drunkenness or just being lazy.” Well, you’re wrong. What’s omitted in this story? First, there is no thought to God Who provided the wealth to begin with; and second, there is no talk of loving His neighbor and “helping and befriending people in need” even though he could have easily done so. Those omissions tell us that this wealthy man was totally self-centered and self-absorbed. He defined life in purely human terms without a thought to God. I’m reminded of Christ saying: “But seek first, His kingdom and His righteousness, and then all these things will be added to you, as well.”
“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?’ ‘This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.’”
Recall when Christ also says: “Having food and clothing, let us be content.”? It’s really true. And even more true are the words that proceed that verse. “But Godliness with contentment is great gain, for be brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out of it, so having food and clothing, let us be content.”
Godliness, or focusing on Jesus’ perfect love and living out His justice and morality, and contentment go hand-in-hand. I say that because God’s Son says it. Yes, I know, the super-elites of today with their dream vacations, dream homes, and envied lifestyles seem to have everything. But, unless they have God, specifically Jesus Christ, in their lives, they have nothing. They really have no lasting contentment. They are only a heartbeat away from having it all go up–in the smoke of death. And never forget, extreme human wealth is usually achieved by taking advantage of another and then conning yourself into thinking: “I did it all.” It feeds pride. And pride always goes before the fall.
Personally, I’m glad I’m not wealthy. That’s because acquiring wealth and then keeping it is all-consuming. You worry a lifetime that you’ll never have enough, and then when you get it, you worry until you die that someone’s going to take it all away. Where’s the contentment with life in that? No, it’s better to labor for the Lord, isn’t it? Everything belongs to Him. Your life belongs to Him. He purchased it on the cross when Jesus died for all our sins, including our penchant for being greedy. Now He puts faith into our hearts so that we can “cast all our anxieties upon Him because He cares for us.” He’s ultimately in charge of giving us what we need to be truly happy in life. He knows what it takes to fulfill our lives. Yes, we work, but we work for God Incorporated knowing we’ll never get laid off by Him or get shorted in our pay stub.
What’s really important in life? Isn’t it: God, family, health, and being grateful for every God-given blessing? Isn’t it letting God be in control of your life and always giving Him the honor and glory for it? Isn’t it sharing the merciful heart that He extends to you in Christ with those who are floundering? So, why not live to show it? Doing so enriched Jesus’ life. How can it not do the same for you? Amen
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH…..
Pastor Thomas H. Fox