2nd Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of our perfect Savior, Jesus Christ, dear friends in Christ,
“You can have it all!” Have the best of both worlds! Ever heard that or something like that before? “Lose weight without all the work!” I remember a number of years ago there was this contraption that was this belt that you could wear with little devices on it that would send an electrical pulse to your stomach muscles. The idea was that you could simply wear this belt and it would transform your abs into 6 pack abs without ever having to do one sit up. “You can have it all!” If you’ve ever watched that show “House Hunters” you see typically a couple come up with a wish list of what they really want in a house hoping to “have it all” – stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, a good location, hardwood floors, two sinks in the master bathroom, and a super duper low price for it all. “You can have it all, right?” But…there’s never one that exactly meets all their wishes. The price is over budget, there’s no granite counter tops, it’s not in an ideal location. “You can have it all!” It’s really a lie the world tries to feed us. You can’t have it all. The idea that we can have everything in life that we could ever possibly dream of is a lie, it’s baloney. Why? Because every time we say yes to one thing, we say no to something else.
When was the last time you went to a restaurant and the waiter or waitress asked you, “So, would you like the whole menu tonight?” No, he or she says, “May I take you order.” And what they mean is, “Which entrée would you like to pick?” So you pick the baked fish, but when you do so, you’re saying, “No” to the hamburger, the steak, the stir fry and everything else on the menu. Life is kind of like that. When we say yes to one thing we say no to something else. Saying yes to extra hours at work in order to make more money is saying no to time with spouse or family or rest. Saying yes to the desire to want more and more and more is saying no to contentment and peace. Saying yes to greed is saying no to God.
And that’s the warning that Jesus gives us in our text for this morning. Someone told Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Was his brother not giving him his fair share of the inheritance? Was his brother not giving him any of his inheritance? We don’t know. But we do know that he was saying yes to wanting things and saying no to family peace and contentment with what he had. So Jesus responded, “Who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” It was not Jesus’ calling to act as a government official to settle disputes, Jesus had a much higher calling and higher mission than that.
That leads to Jesus’ warning “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Greed, this desire, this wanting to have more and more and more is a sin, a sin to which each one of us are prone. So, it is essential that each of us be on our constant guard against it. And greed doesn’t just have to do with money or things, it can come in different forms too, like wanting more and more power, or more and more pleasure, or more and more prestige. But Jesus wants us to know that life is not fuller or less full based on the amount of possessions that are ours. The possessions of this earthly life belong to this life, and since this life is not nearly important as our next life, so the things of this life should be valued far less than the things of eternal life.
So He continued with a parable. There was a rich man whose ground produced for him a good crop. Notice how Jesus described this rich man. It wasn’t sinful for this man to be rich, he was respectable, he did it through honest good farming practices, he didn’t get it by scheming or fraud or theft, he was simply a good farm manager, made provision for the increase of income, so here Jesus is pushing us beyond the mere fact that he was rich. Having wealth is not a sin. God has blessed each of us with talents and abilities and he wants us to be faithful with them and use them to the best of our ability. So, Jesus pushes us to look beyond the outward accumulation of things and to the heart, look to the heart of this man, and it’s the same heart that could be found in a middle-income person or a person who has hardly any money to his name, it’s the same heart that could be found in me and you. It’s the heart of an idolater.
And we begin to see it. We begin to see how spiritually poor this rich man was. Notice what’s missing? No thanksgiving to God for the blessings He’s given, no gratitude to the Lord. But what do we see? We see and obsession with self. “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.” “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.” And then his heart is really exposed by what he says next. With the expanded facilities he congratulated himself to now having the means to enjoy a long life devoted entirely to indulging in all appetites and pleasures he could imagine. His life fulfillment was found in the accumulation of stuff instead of God.
What a smart guy, right? But his soul was a desert wasteland: no gratitude to God, no loving worship to his Lord, but only honor for his wealth and the pleasures it could supply. He thought he had it all, but in his saying “yes” to greed he effectually said, “no” to God. And the result for this “smart” guy? He thought he was smart, God calls him a fool. He thought he would have a long life to enjoy his pleasures, God says tonight he will die. He thought he would get to enjoy everything he accumulated, but who will get it? Clearly not him, perhaps some laughing heir or some brother who’s going to quarrel over it with his brother. Is this what he worked for? Is this worth the loss of his own immortal soul?
Then Jesus says, “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” Perhaps a better translation would be not “rich toward God” but “rich in God.” So, here this man came to Jesus wanting his share of the inheritance, such a big deal, earthly stuff so often looks like a big deal, so large, so great, so important, but the reality is that man would live whether he got his inheritance or not. But he would be an utter fool if he knew of no higher wealth than possessions. Being rich in God is having the wealth that God gives: His pardon, His peace, His forgiveness found in a crucified Savior, His eternal life. Gathering earthly stuff should never get in the way of our gathering of those real treasures.
We live in a country not just “content with a little” we live in a country that demands and expects a feast. We constantly need to be checking ourselves as to how much the ideas, the philosophies, the mind-set of the sinful world that we live in is affecting our own thought processes and our own mind-sets. Are we struggling with greed? Do we live always wanting more? Are we constantly wanting something else? Is greed taking root in our hearts? What are the things we are saying yes to and what are we saying no to in life?
Certainly God wants us to live joyfully and secure, to eat and to drink, but we can only do so NOT because we have things thing or that thing, because we are healthy and wealthy, because we are able to enjoy all kinds of earthly treasures and pleasures, we can live joyfully and secure in life because in Jesus we have all that we need.
You see, Jesus has successfully made “greed” in every kind absolutely ridiculous. Why? Because in Jesus we already have everything we could ever need. What more could we possibly want?
That insatiable desire to have more or have something else or have something different will never be quenched unless it is quenched in Christ your Savior. Sure, once we get that thing that we really, really, really wanted perhaps we’ll enjoy a brief moment of enjoyment but then we’ll soon discover that there’s something else that we really, really, really want.
You see, if we are greedy we think that we need something else in life in order to be happy, in order to be successful, in order to really enjoy life. But if that is our thought, we haven’t fully grasped the beauty of the gospel! The gospel tells me that Christ died for me on the cross, that with his blood he bought me and won me, that he made me God’s dearly loved child, that because of him I have an eternity of joy and awesomeness awaiting me in God’s presence in heaven! In Christ, I really do have it all!
That’s the gospel! And it’s only the gospel that releases us from this pressure to succeed in life, to get more, to achieve more, to have more in life. In Christ I have it all, already! The gospel releases us to spend our lives not in getting more, but giving more, the gospel frees us to spend ourselves not in taking but in offering ourselves to God and to others. In Christ I already have it all! That means I can live generously, give generously, and worship my Savior generously.
In him I’m rich!