October 20, 2017

Sunday’s Gospel: Don’t Be a Fool, Be a Follower

By Chaplain Mike

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Lectionary Readings
• Hosea 11:1-11
• Psalm 107:1-9, 43
• Colossians 3:1-11
• Luke 12:13-21

Today’s Gospel

Here’s a little secret: God is not against money. Nor is he against people having lots of money. God is not against possessions. Nor is he against people having nice possessions. God is not against enjoying pleasurable things in this life. God doesn’t love poor people more.

Read Proverbs. Read Ecclesiastes. Note that God promised an abundant and prosperous land as his gift to Israel. Remember Abraham, David, Solomon, and a number of faithful people in the Biblical narrative. Recall the prominent people who helped Paul, his mission, and the churches he started.

Nevertheless…

God warns us often about money, possessions, the pursuit of pleasure. He warned Israel that their prosperity would cause them to forget him and think they were hot stuff—slaves who had become princes by their own wisdom and strength. Solomon? The evil trinity of money, sex, and power turned his heart away from God, and succeeding generations paid the price. Lots of people Jesus and Paul talked to couldn’t be persuaded to take up the cross because they refused to lay down their money bags.

And guess what? You don’t have to be wealthy and prosperous to fall prey to the deadly snare of materialism and greed. Look at the guy in today’s parable. Probably just an ordinary guy. He was involved in a family dispute about an inheritance. This is a common matter of conflict in families from all classes of society. Whether we have a little or a lot, I damn sure want what is mine!

Luke 12:13-21 (NRSV)—

Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’

It’s not the money or the inheritance that is the problem here. It’s this fellow’s attitude. If you read carefully, the emphasis of Jesus’ warning is clear:

  • Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.
  • One’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.
  • So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves, but are not rich toward God.

Greed makes money and possessions an idol—displacing the true and living God from my heart. A sinful view of possessions sees them as all important for my identity and significance in life. If I am making money for myself, with no view of my relationship with God and my responsibility to be a generous steward of the resources he has entrusted to me, in the end it will all mean nothing.

When it comes to money, possessions, and material things, don’t be a fool, be a follower. Imitate the One who is ever giving, ever generous, ever loving, ever kind, ever unselfish with all his riches.

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

• Philippians 4:19 (NLT)

And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say,

“They share freely and give generously to the poor.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”

For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.

Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous….

• 2Corinthians 9:8-11a (NLT)

Comments

  1. A sinful view of possessions sees them as all important for my identity and significance in life.

    Yes. The fault lies in thinking that it’s mine merely because I earned it.

    “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'”

  2. A sobering and convicting parable for me. “All kinds of greed” is less about material things than knowledge and the securing of myself through the accrual and possession of it.
    ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly’. Jesus begins this parable with a wording that reminds me that it’s the “land” that produces abundantly. I can quickly forget that everything belongs to the Lord and that it is he who is the creator and giver of all things.

    You’re right about motive and attitude. This parable reflects a man who sees everything coming as a result of his powers and abilities and only for himself. “I”, “my” and “himself” are used throughout the story. Everything is self-referencing. Ultimately, it is not our wealth or knowledge that is our heart’s treasure but self. Christ alone can set us free from deceptions, whether than come from within or without. Lord, have mercy!

    • >“I”, “my” and “himself” are used throughout the story.<

      Our pastor did a wonderful job of emphasizing that very point this morning.

  3. I agree God is not against wealth itself, pleasure itself, and all those things that make life a little more delightful.

    Nevertherless, the Scriptures do warn us that idolaters will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10) and that those whose lives are characterized by following after the flesh rather than the Spirit will perish eternally (Romans 8:13). I did not say this but it is Holy Writ.

    You were right on about this post Chaplain Mike but I wondered why you didn’t talk about the consequences of idolatry and habitually living after the flesh.

  4. Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven etc. Putting moneey,fame power, sensuality first and most important goals in one’s life will make it hard for Jesus to dwell in you.I like the example of Jesus on your right and the devil on your left. You are eitherwalking toward Jesus and away from the devil, or vice versa. You caan’t walk towards both at the same time.

  5. A sinful view of possessions sees them as all important for my identity and significance in life.

    This is the heart of the matter. I’d add to this the closely associated sin of seeing material possessions as our source of security, which is certainly what the man in Jesus’ parable does. Seeking first the Kingdom of God is the remedy to this, of course. Ultimately, we are owned by that which we most dearly seek. May that ever be Jesus and His kingdom.

  6. Buford Hollis says:

    If it’s okay to pray for world peace, then why is it wrong to pray for a big bag of money? (Or both at the same time, like I do.)

    I think people are probably embarrassed at being considered selfish–at having the ratio of petition to praise etc. be too high (or the ratio of petition on behalf of Number One vs. everybody else). But this can easily be fixed by padding what we really want with a bunch of other stuff that isn’t about us, even if we don’t really care as much.

    Oh sure, Jesus thinks poverty is just dandy. Well that was easy enough for him (while it lasted!), since it looks like people were always inviting him to dinner. But I don’t have that “rock star” personality, and anyway, I aspire to something more than a Third World hippy lifestyle. So, how ’bout it God? Money, money, money, money.

    Anyway, I figure I’ll get points for honesty.

    • “Anyway, I figure I’ll get points for honesty.”

      You and a thousand prosperity Gospel preachers, whose motives are so transparent it’s laughable.

    • The chance for world peace and a big bag of money are the same, ZERO, so don’t bother. There will never be utopia on earth until Jesus returns and creates a new heaven and earth. Social justice for one is confiscation for another.

      • “Social justice for one is confiscation for another.”

        Justice, from the dictionary: “the administering of deserved punishment or reward.” Social justice isn’t confiscation, it’s an exercise in lawfulness.

        Social justice is helping the injured and aggrieved get back what was stolen from them, nothing more.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Unfortunately, the injured and aggrieved can also get greedy and/or vengeful when it comes to defining “what was stolen from them, nothing more.” Whether it shows as padding the list of stolen goods or demanding Payback and Revenge like you wouldn’t believe. Remember the French and Russian Revolutions?

          (In a society where there are only Masters and Slaves, “freedom” might only mean “Now *I* get to be the Slavemaster!”)

          And the political philosophies of those two Revolutions (one the child of the other) contaminated and hijacked the term “Social Justice”; when SJ hit the Newman Center I was at back in the Eighties, what resulted had mutated/been hijacked by Sixties Chic Radicalism to where the Social Justice Trinity was Karl Marx, V.I.Lenin, and Fidel Castro with a Christian coat of paint. And its biggest True Believers were trust-fund kiddies and yuppie puppies from exclusive gated communities in Irvine.

  7. Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

    As I was listening to a visiting pastor preach on this passage today, I had an interesting thought as to a way the passage can apply to the church. The rich man decided to tear down his old barns and build new ones because his surplus could not be contained in the old barns. For growing churches, we tend to do the same. If the congregation grows too big for the current facilities, you have a building drive, build a bigger “barn,” etc.

    The implication on God’s anger with the rich man seems to me to indicated that he should have done something more generous with his surplus. Maybe when our congregation grows too big we could do the same. I.e. plant a new church and spread the love a little bit rather than hoarding.

    • Josh in FW says:

      Great thought. I love how parables can be so multi dimensional.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        That’s the sign of GOOD storytelling. No matter how many times you’ve heard/read/watched the story, you can always come back and find something you missed before.

  8. I can attest that it is, indeed, just as easy to get caught up in hanging onto possessions when we have little as when we have much. Thanks, Chaplain Mike, for the reminder that it is about attitudes, not amounts.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Greed and selfishness can express itself just as strongly in the “You’re Rich! I’m Entitled! You Gotta Gimme!” of the have-nots as it can in the “Mine! Mine! All Mine!” of the haves.

  9. Our preacher suggested that part of the problem with wealth is that it separates its owners from others mostly by making them suspicious. What the successful man should have done (in Jewish culture) is ask the elders of the village. Maybe they could have found guys who had some spare storage – but this would have involved trust. Consulting would also involve others knowing about the wealth, with all the fears of unending requests for charity, not to speak of the ancient equivalent of telesale reps…
    From suspicion of others, it is but a small step to suspicion of God, which I believe is the ultimate sin and the polar opposite of faith.

  10. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’

    Note that not even Jesus would step into a family inheritance fight.

    I have been in one, and they get NASTY like you wouldn’t believe. (Including the Arab-Israeli Wars, the latest round of a 4000-year-old Inheritance Blood Feud over who is heir to God’s Promise to Abraham — Islam through Ishmael or Israel through Isaac?)

    Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’

    In other words: He Who Dies With the Most Toys Is Still DEAD. (And, given the leadup, an implication of one helluva inheritance fight. “The things you have prepared, whose will they be?”)

  11. Is it just me or does anyone else find that when you follow Jesus you cannot help but loosen your grip on material things — and perhaps more on prayers for “my will” instead of “your will, not mine” whatever it is I pray about?

    Maybe it was coming to my end from a crisis at the hands of another but when I finally laid it all out, found God faithful to prosper my heart, finally nothing is better to aspire for them more of Him.

    Prosper me, yes. Praying for prospering, yes. Prospering of my heart.

    Thanks for this post, Chaplain Mike.

  12. Mike (the other chaplain) says:

    Great post! Also a great reminder that it’s not just the rich who are on the hook (an extremely relative label–if you never go without food, are always well clothed, have adequate shelter by modern standards–you are rich compared to the rest of the world) , but also those who covet or are so jealous of those that have more that they engage in constant class warfare in order to get what their own hands have not earned.