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Our Attitude toward wealth


Luke 12:13-21

The parable of the rich fool

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 towards God.’



Sermon

So, I read this and I wonder: What did the man in this story do wrong? He had a surplus and wanted to keep it? Who has not had to review the size of their on-farm storage at some point? He had a good season. Thank God. But maybe that was the problem. He didn’t thank God. He thanked the abundance of what he had and looked to that for his future security.

He had more than he needed and instead of giving it away or doing good with it he relied on it.

He looked to it for his future good and became lazy? Are these really such horrible crimes that he had to pay for them with his life?

Now, there are two things that we have to remember here before we start teeing off on God for being the kind of God who would kill someone arbitrarily just because he looked to the created rather than the creator for his security. (Which if you think about it, is a form of idolatry, isn’t it? Worshipping the created thing rather than the creator? Remember what Martin Luther said: Whatever is your greatest good, there is your God)


Something to remember:

This did not actually happen. God did not take the life of the man in the story. This was a parable, an earthly story meant to convey a heavenly message. I would like to believe, in fact I have to believe that God does not go around killing people just to teach them a lesson about idolatry! That is not the God that we know! But we know that Jesus used exaggeration to make a point often, he took things to the improbable degree to make the point more stark, to make the contrast more intense. It is in fact my justification for many of my fishing stories. Never lie, only exaggerate. 😊 Exaggeration, as I keep telling people, is a legitimate teaching tool.


This was part of a section of Jesus life and teaching immediately followed by the section telling us not to worry about anything, as God has is in control, you know, the famous words about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. It contains these words: “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” and also “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. It is about where we put our trust.


I cannot see the situation where it becomes this pronounced. It is very rare that we give up all other beliefs in life and trust in our wealth to such a huge degree, and then God supposedly demands our life?

It is rare that it is an all-or-nothing decision with us. But that doesn’t mean that we can discount this lesson, or think that it is not for us as we would never do that.


Jesus teaching was not theory, or just airy-fairy ideas, it was always very real, always very concrete, always very applicable in the little things in life, the little decision we have to make every day. Jesus’ teaching is there to help us in our everyday lives and struggles. Most of the time our life doesn’t consist of the extreme, even exaggerated life and death moments. (Although once or twice in our life we may come across them too)

Instead, it is a choice in lots of little moments everyday to decide where we put our faith, and how we approach very ordinary, everyday mundane things.


There are two moments that I want to share with you from my life that I hope can help to illustrate how we become aware of the presence of God in what he provides, and how this has helped to shape my attitude towards money. And we are all a work in progress, aren’t we? It needs to be shaped every day.


While we were a newly married couple, living and studying in Adelaide, Anne and I had the experience of deciding to put the last $20 that we had one week onto the offering plate in worship one Sunday. We then looked at each other and wondered where our next meal would come from. Now, as well as being a little terrifying, this was an exhilarating, freeing experience. We had no control over what happened next. None at all! And as exhilarating as it was, I earnestly hope that it is an experience that you never have to go through. But through it all, we knew that God would take care of us.

Wouldn’t you know it, if my memory is correct (it has been a little while) I am pretty sure that when we got home that day, one of the local churches had just held their harvest thanksgiving service and given everything that was offered that day to the married Seminary students. So we went and got whatever we needed, and we have never been more aware of how God provides for us. We have always had everything we need.

I hope you know that too, but I hope you are keenly aware of it without having to get to such a low point.


The second experience was this week.

Last Sunday on the way out West to do the services in the Chinchilla ministry area, my beloved Triton, that is 14000klm and 6 months out of warranty died on me, on the highway. Only about 10klm out of town. Anne came and swapped cars with me, and I kept going and did my services, and she limped it home.

My first reaction was to worry. Maybe it’s just a split intercooler hose, that’s pretty common with these. Maybe I will get out of it pretty cheaply. I ran through all the scenarios in my head.

Checks this week have revealed that the turbo in it is gone. This is going to cost us over two and a half thousand dollars, and my reaction then was to worry about that! That’s not an expense we needed! But looking at the reading for this week, I have had to look at it a little differently.


My mother and Father, when they graduated as a Pastor and his wife, made each other a promise that they would give up whatever was needed to make sure that their children had shoes. I can’t even imagine being in that situation. We are so blessed! We have never had to make a promise like that! God and his church has looked after us.


So I had to move my confidence from the fact that we have the money to pay for this, to the fact that we have a God who has blessed us to be ABLE to pay for this. We know what it is like to have almost nothing (which even then is so much compared to so many in the world) and we know what it is like to do okay. But the same God blesses us, and gives us the ability we have to make a living, to support our family. That is the important thing to remember.

So somehow I have gone from wanting to curse a dodgy expensive turbocharger, to thanking God for his blessings in our life. If that lesson cost me 2 or 3 thousand dollars, I think maybe it is worth it?


After all, if we are going to start adding up the cost of things, we need a very big reality check.


Firstly, it cost me nothing that belongs to me anyway. Everything I have and everything you have belongs to God,


And secondly, we can NEVER compare the cost of anything that might happen to us with the cost of what our sin, our idolatry, cost God: even as much as his own son, where on the cross he proved to us just how much he is willing to give for us, for the life of the world. He showed us just how much he is willing to sacrifice to have us back in loving relationship with him.

How can we do anything but bow in thankfulness for all that god has given us!

Thanks be to God for all his goodness to us.

Amen!

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