+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Luke 12:21
Theme: True Wealth
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
God wasn’t invited to the party. He arrived unannounced and He crashed it. He does those kinds of things. It was a private party. It was the sort of event we’re all prone to. It involved a confidential conversation a man had with himself; a type of dialogue between his mind and his ego. The questions were rhetorical and the conclusions were unanimous. Life was good. But then, swiftly, and compulsorily…the summons!
His soliloquy was interrupted by the One who made it all possible. God burst his balloon, shattered his dream, breached all lines of defence, and posed the pertinent question. “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”1 God has His own rhetorical questions. They are not asked out of ignorance. They are intended to bring us to conviction or lavish us with comfort. They always direct us beyond our own narrow perspectives.
But what is really the nature of Christ’s warning about eating, drinking, and merriment? Jesus is not talking about the daily bread which He has just told them to pray for. He’s not even talking about the enjoyment of good food and drink. These things are not forbidden because they are sanctified by the word of God and prayer. He is talking about greed and gluttony. He is talking about a deeply ingrained mindset of autonomy, of self-sufficiency, and of self-aggrandizement. He’s referring to a soul-less hedonism that takes no thought for God, for others, or life beyond the here and now.
It provides an opportunity to ask ourselves what we value most in life. Ours is a culture of unapologetic materialism. It can cause disaster. Consider the many lottery winners who have had their lives ruined by their newly acquired fortunes. British man Michael Carroll won nearly $20 million in the lotto. Over the next ten years he spent it all on wild living, once hiring 20 prostitutes and smoking $6,000 worth of cocaine in a single day. British teenager Callie Rogers won nearly $6 million at the age of 16. She lavished family and friends with expensive gifts and also started taking drugs. The money was gone in a mere six months. Then there’s the tragic case of the New South Wales woman named Maria Devrell She won 5 million dollars in 2011. She was murdered by her longtime accountant in a fit of rage because he thought she was spending wastefully. The commonality in these cases is that they lost focus and purpose in life. They became bored with spending money. They became over-indulged and addicted and lost interest in pursuing goals. There are, of course, also lottery winners who manage to change nothing significant about their lives. But considerable discipline is required.
Uncontrolled greed reminds us sin is not superficial. It is not able to be rectified by cosmetic adjustments. It is possessed of a pathology that leads to death. It is beyond what we can manage. Only God’s intervention through Christ radically restructures the proper value of things. There it is! There’s the cross and apart from that you have nothing of lasting value, are nothing of lasting value, and can look forward to nothing of lasting value. It sounds like a ridiculous claim to human reason or an audacious scare tactic by a religious radical. That doesn’t deny the history of accomplishments in the world achieved through aggression or repression, greed or dishonesty, unbelief or idolatry, goodwill or charity. Faith is not necessary to make a name for yourself in this world. But it does mean emphatically and unequivocally that apart from Christ and His sacrifice for your sins the future is less than bleak.
Christ is the only one who died and rose again for your salvation. Luther talks about the worth of this treasure in this way, “I believe that Jesus Christ…has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.”2
Therefore, believers are always in contention against the desire to sin. Unbelievers may also seek to avoid the embarrassment, shame, or punishment that may come with falling into sin, particularly breaking laws or pursuing unethical behavior. Yet, the motivation is different. Believers want to live according to God’s will even when they are conflicted. It is the Spirit’s prompting. We are moved to love Him for the sake of His goodness. Such love is the chief fruit of faith. We trust that God is not seeking to repress us, but to free us from those mindsets, decisions, and practices that will bring physical and spiritual harm. The person who has no fear, love, or trust of God may fall in line with the law, but only for self-serving purposes. Even if they do not recognize it.
The Bible talks extensively about the dangers of wealth. Perhaps most famously St. Paul says “that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”3, and Jesus says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”4 But the Scriptures are also crystal clear that the issue is not how much or how little material wealth a person has, but whether or not the person is rich toward God. Abraham was a wealthy man, as was Job. Luke tells us that Joanna5, the wife of King Herod’s household manager supported Jesus out of her own means. Poverty certainly doesn’t guarantee someone will be receptive to God.
The life of the baptized is a life where we are freed from slavery to those things the world values. We are free to be stewards of God’s gifts. He is the owner of all things. Christians already live in view of the life to come. The apostle Paul says today, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”6 Every Sunday is a celebration of God’s grace. Every time we dine at His holy table we are lavished with the food of immortality. These spiritual gifts have immeasurable value for soul and body.
Yes, God has a way of crashing the self-absorbed celebrations of the self-righteous ego. One day He will do it on a massive scale in a magnificent way. God has announced He will come again. Many will still be caught unaware. We are told that when Christ returns society will be like it was in the days of Noah. The world will be nearly spiritually bankrupt. But in Christ we have spiritual riches beyond measure.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
31 July, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Luke 12:20
2 Luther’s Small Catechism
3 1 Timothy 6:10
4 Luke 18:25
5 See Luke 8:3
6 Colossians 3:1-4
7 Hebrews 4:16