Trust Jesus Not Possessions!
Pentecost 11 (Proper 13) Trinity Lutheran Church
31 July 2016 Murdock, NE
+Jesu Juva +
“Take care, be on your guard against all covetousness / greed, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
“Covetousness / greed which is idolatry.”
Well. It doesn’t get any more scandalous than this, does it?
You were offended weren’t you? The words you just heard from the Lord and His apostle set your teeth to grinding. Your hands to white knuckled fists. Your feet to stomping. Your mind to reeling. Why? Because you believe that you have better words than the Lord. You falsely believe that the person with the most toys / possession wins. You love your toys. What you love you cling to with all your heart and you won’t let go. So round and round you go. In the race to get more and bigger / faster and better. In the endless rat race that doesn’t go anywhere. When you believe that your life consists in possessions / wealth – when you believe that material possessions are utopian / salvific / salvational, you will soon learn like King Solomon who had everything under the sun and more that “all is vanity,” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)!
You don’t have better words than Jesus. So I’ve been sent by Him to speak His Word to you. No matter how scandalous or offensive. No matter how deadly they are to your sinful flesh.
Jesus speaks words that you need to hear. Oh, yes, His words hurt. They cut you to the quick. They kill you. Thanks be to God for that! Seriously! Because that’s the only thing that can be done to your sinful flesh or old Adam that believes the life consists in possessions and wealth. The old Adam can’t be tamed, domesticated or house broken. He has to be killed. Put to death. DAILY. The deadly work that was begun in your baptism into Christ’s death and will only be finished when you’re buried six feet under.
This isn’t a mater of getting priorities straight. It isn’t a matter of putting Jesus first and letting everything else fall behind Him. Jesus will not be treated as a priority on your list of priorities. Jesus wants to be your God alone who has Good Friday-ed you. He claims your wholehearted fear, love and trust ABOVE ALL THINGS. Jesus is the center of your entire life – your work, your play, your family, your toys, even your bank accounts. With Jesus at the center, everything then has its proper place and perspective. Without Jesus as the center or Savior everything in life then is truly meaningless, empty, vanity – IDOLATRY!
Yes, that’s right IDOLATRY! The apostle said it! “Greed / covetousness is idolatry.” He lumps greed with sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires. You’re shocked again, aren’t you? Stunned? Shaken? Or better yet: your old Adam put to death! The desire that you have to 24-7-365-relentlessly-without-any-Sabbath-Day-rest to accumulate vast wealth and endless possessions falls under the same condemnation as sexual sin, lust and wicked desires. All sin at its heart is idolatry. It is the worship of the self not the worship of Jesus. It makes yourself to be lord and savior not Jesus!
So Jesus warns you: “Take care, be on your guard against all greed / covetousness.” Greed sets neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother, and church member against church member. Most especially in the bitter bickering over an inheritance. It’s a ghastly thing when families and friends are divided over inheritance money and property. When blood brothers and/or brothers in Christ argue and take each other to court over their father’s inheritance. The two in today’s gospel reading even tried to enlist Jesus as a judge to adjudicate an inheritance case! Trying to get Jesus to approve of their greed / their covetousness! They should have known better. You should know better too!
And that’s why Jesus tells the parable. The rich farmer has a bumper crop. The best ever! Truth be told, however, it was the ground that produced the harvest, not the farmer. The farmer is nothing. His servants plant the seed. They tend the soil. The rain and the sunshine come at the right time and in the right amounts. The earthworms and fertilizer did their thing. The grain was copious. IT WAS ALL A GIFT FROM THE LORD! The farmer did nothing.
Harvest comes. And what does the rich farmer do? HE’S FRANTIC! HE WORRIES because his life consists in possessions. His dilemma is what to do with the extra! “I have no place to store my crops.” So he does what any farmer would do. “I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones to put all my grain and my goods.” Did you catch what he said? MY crops. MY barns. MY grain. MY goods. MY, MY, MY! The litany of the self-made idolatrous man! It is the liturgy of – IDOLATRY! The worship of the covetous / greedy heart!
Build the bigger barns and he can kick back, relax, take life easy. “I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample good laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” God has other plans. “Fool! This night your soul is required of you and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? Tonight you die!” The rich farmer foolishly figured he had time. Time to build. Time to store. Time to enjoy.
Would he have done the same had he known that day was his last? What would you do? How do you know that today isn’t your last day? The day that will be demanded of you? What better place to be than here in the divine service! Hearing the words of Good Friday Jesus – the forgiveness of all your sin! Eating and drinking the Body and Blood of your Savior Jesus!
Greed robs people. It robbed two brothers of harmony and peace. They argued over an inheritance. So have you. Greed robbed the rich man of any joy that he might have had from his wealth and possessions. Greed deprived him of the joy of using his stuff and money for the sake of loving others. To take care of the poor. To feed the hungry. To provide jobs and income for others. Yes, greed cheated him, fleeced him of the ability to enjoy life and the gifts God had given him. His covetousness never gave him the time to relax because he was always wanting more. And when he finally tried to enjoy it all, it was too late! He died a miserly man. Alone. Without friends. Without family. He died talking only to himself!
Rich in things. Poor in faith. Barns bursting to the brim. Yet hearts empty and cold toward Jesus. That’s exactly how it will be with you or anyone that store up things for himself but is not rich in faith toward Jesus! You die and someone else will get to play with all your toys. Or your family will fight ferociously over them when you’re gone!
As your pastor I must warn you as St. Paul did with the early Christian church. And it is this: the “love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs,” (1 Tim. 6:10)! You can destroy your faith in Jesus if you run after riches! You cannot serve both Jesus and money! Only One can be the center of your life. And that’s the One that hung on the cross saves you on the Friday we all call “Good!”
So, brothers and sisters, Jesus came so that you can have a life. An abundant life! Jesus was rich. But for your sake He became poor. Born of a humble virgin mother. Laid in a manger. A poor preacher from Galilee. No place to lay His head. Crucified as a capital criminal. Yes, He became poor in your sin and hellacious death so that by His poverty you would become rich in His life that He gave into a Good Friday death FOR YOU! So that you are rich in His mercy. Wealthy in forgiveness. Opulent in true freedom.
Jesus has set you free. Not just from sin and death but also from every false hope, from all anxiety, every worry, every idol. Jesus has freed you. Raised you. Seated you with Him at the Father’s right hand. You have already died the big death in baptism. Your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Jesus has made you kings and queens, royalty, in His kingdom. He has anointed you priests in His priesthood. He has given you gifts that gold and silver, credit cards, or all the wealth of the earth cannot buy – ETERNAL LIFE! FORGIVENESS. SALVATION. THE HOLY SPIRIT. HIS BODY. HIS BLOOD.
Here is the truth. Your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions. Your life consists in the abundance of what Jesus has done FOR YOU and gives to you. You could lose everything you have today – your house, your work, your savings, your checking, your pension, everything – and yet you will have lost nothing. The kingdom of God in Jesus IS YOURS! The riches of all of heaven are yours. Eternal life is yours.
Solomon said in Ecclesiastes that, “there is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” Satisfaction in work and the joy of life comes when Jesus is the middle. With Jesus Christ crucified for your sins and raised for your life in the center, you are free to enjoy what God gives you in this life. You are free to give generously to God and to others. You are free to work and then to enjoy the fruit of your work – to be content with what you have. After all, the meaning and purpose of your life is not tied to what you have or what you do BUT TO WHO YOU ARE AND TO WHOM YOU BELONG. You are God’s baptized children. “Your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
Many today still talk like the ancient Greeks. They gave a toast: “Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.” You speak and believe differently. You who are Good Friday-ed and baptized, who have been crucified with Jesus, buried with Him, raised with Him, glorified with Him talk like this: “Let us eat, drink and have great joy! For tomorrow we live!”
Indeed. For starters, let’s eat and drink His Body and Blood trusting His promise that all is forgiven. And where all is forgiven you have life and salvation!
In the Name of Jesus!