Wealth Luke 12:13-34 4/22/07 Luke is a good teacher. Good teachers repeat basic lessons. We come to a passage that for the second time reflects back upon a line in the parable of the Soils. You recall there were four kinds of soils. The third kind was full of weeds. So the seed sprouts in the soil but it is chocked out by weeds. The weeds in this parable are defined by the Lord to be And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. Luke 8:14 The story of Mary and Martha illustrated the good soil and the weedy soil. Mary showed careful attention to the word of the Lord, while Martha was preoccupied by the “cares of life”. Her problem was not that she offered Jesus hospitality. We saw that she did well in receiving Jesus into her home. Her problem was that she then became worried and harassed by worries and by anger at Mary. The weed of overwork was a danger to her spiritual health. Now we come to a teaching about the second weed – Riches. Just as the lack of things, the lack of time, the lack of help can cause us worry, so the abundance of things could cause us to become complacent and lose interest in the Word of God. This is first illustrated in a parable and then explained in Jesus teaching. We will look at these in turn. I. Parable: Riches are not found in things. It is interesting that this teaching begins with two brothers. Like Martha and her sister, this brother was preoccupied by a matter concerning his brother. He asked Jesus to tell his brother to share his inheritance. He had no doubt been thinking about whatever unfairness was involved in his father’s will. Maybe his brother was the oldest and received the most – and he wanted what was coming to him. He had a wish list written out in his mind. Jesus refused this role of estate judge. Rather he took it as a time to teach about the weed of wealth. First he stated a general principle: Luke 12:15 "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." “Oh,” you say, “I know that it is bad to be greedy! I have read the Christmas Carol and know that I should not be like Mallory or Ebenezer Scrooge.” Yet when we read this parable, it is not about Ebenezer Scrooge, but about a farmer and a barn – what could be more peaceable than a farmer and his barn? Read – v. 16-20 “Take Care.” What strikes us as we read this story is that there I nothing bad about what this farmer does. Here is a wealthy farmer. He has planted a good crop and he has reaped an abundant harvest. The barns he uses to shore his grain are too small. What is he supposed to do? Leave the grain piled on the ground for the rain to spoil or for wild animals to eat? So he builds better barns. Then he takes into account what he has accomplished. He has made himself and his family secure. They have all they will need for the foreseeable future. His life is a much easier life – because he does not have to worry. But it is this quality of innocent accumulation that is the problem. Jesus did not say, “Take care unless your money bites you!” Or “Take care unless the gold in your safe falls on your head.” It is rather the secret transformation of the human heart that occurs when we go from need to abundance. When we had needs we looked to our work, and to God’s blessing to provide what we need. If we achieve easy and comfort, we look to our barns, or our bank account, or our investments to take care of us. There is one problem. Your wealth can not guard your life. “Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” The story continues. While the man is dreaming the sleep of the happy, God requires his soul. He dies, in other words. What happens then? What good will his barns do him in death? Nothing. He has taken care in his life to work for wealth. He has taken care in his life to make his wealth secure – he built those barns. What care has he taken to prepare for death? Do you see the deceitfulness of wealth? It is a blessing and a comfort. Yet it can become the thing we value and attend to most in our lives. However, it is only a comfort while we live. It dies nothing for us in death. Take Care – We need to all follow this command. To you take care that your security is not in this world? We saw the story on Easter Sunday of Job, and how every worldly thing was taken from him – yet he was not empty – True, he said, “Naked came I from the womb, and naked shall I return from whence I came?” Or as we say, “You can’t take it with you.” But Job also was able to say, “I know that my redeemer lives.” Do you take care of you needs in this life? We should. We can not always be Mary sitting inactively. Mary was not always inactive. We need to work and to buy food and pay bills and plan for our retirements. Yet, while all that goes on, we also need to lay aside wealth for our Eternal Retirement. The Rich Fool is an example to avoid -- “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God." If the lord called for your soul tonight in your sleep, what would be your condition? Have you given thought to life after death? Have you received the Gift of Salvation so you have a home with God? And, have you laid any investment ahead for your eternal life? II. Teaching – Life is not found in Things. We see in Jesus teaching the dangers of wealth. We see how wealth and the worry of wealth can choke out the word of God. The cares of Martha and the riches of the farmer can become a field of weeds. Don’t let it happen! Read 12: 22-30. Life is more than food and clothing. We are a good time in Wisconsin to pay attention to this lesson. It is hard to look at birds and flowers in January. Even the birds are smart enough to go where it is warm! However, in recent days I have seen Cardinals, sparrows, robins, morning doves, grackles and sparrows, crows and wood peckers flitting around my trees and hunting for my worms. They do not have to pay a mortgage. They do not have to pay taxes. They have no driver’s licenses. They simply go out day by day and do their work. On Monday they were looking for stringy stuff – I guess it was time to build a next. Jesus said that we should think about the birds and their lack of financial planning. If God takes care of the birds – he put worms there in the dirt for the robins and bugs in the trees for the wood peckers. This is also a good time to look at the flowers. Like birds, they do not have papers and investments. They don’t have to wander around East Towne or West Towne for hours looking for the right clothes. Yet they are dressed better than all of us. They dress better than royalty. I suppose if we moved the model of good taste up to the 21st Century, we might say they dress better than all of the beautiful people on the best dressed list. Now what are we supposed to think about flowers? Flowers and grass area all here for a short time and then they die. You, however live year after year. The birds live a few years, but you will live for a few decades. Both the flowers and the birds end their time and return to the dust. Yet, we are the children of the Heavenly Father – we do not return to dust, but are gathered up by God for life in eternity. So then, this is the lesson. We should not look first and foremost to our stuff. We should look to the author of all our wealth. We should not look only for the gold that comes from the mountains, but to the one who set the mountains in place. We should not gather our green dollar bills without remembering what has been written on each piece of money printed or stamped out by the Unites States Mint – IN GOD WE TRUST. Here is Jesus application. It is not that we take no thought for our future for our possessions. It is where we hold them in our hearts. It is where we place God in relation to our things – For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Luke 12:30-31 Will God give me a car and a mansion and let me win the lottery? No, not likely, but he will be for us all that those things promise to give – only we can count on him. III. Application – The commands In Matthew’s gospel, the teaching is left at the level of giving principles. Luke, however, has a lot more to say about wealth. We will return to this theme in chapter 14 and twice in chapter 16. Vv. 32-34 gives us the applications. (Read) Reduce - The first thing said is “Sell your possessions.” What? Are you crazy? Do we just sell everything? Before you reject or explain away this passage, listen to it carefully. We know from the rest of the old and new testaments that it is ok to own things. Even Jesus ministry team had clothing and a money bag. I think this means for us to REDUCE YOUR STUFF. We are buying things all the time and bringing them into our homes. Some of that are groceries that we eat or clothing that we use and wear out. But other stuff just seems to pile up. Jesus first teaching is that we should reduce. Instead of building a bigger house to hold more stuff – that was what the foolish farmer did - we should cut down on our stuff. Can you get by with a smaller house? One less car? Fewer books? (Ouch! It hurt me to say that). Doesn’t it feel good to see your house clean after you have cleaned out the extra stuff? Give – What are we supposed to do with all that extra stuff? Well you can give it to someone who needs it. You can donate it to a charity. You can sell it and give the money to missions. The best antidote to being a miser is to give. You probably have more than you think, and you can free yourself from the bondage of wealth by giving it away. When have you last given freely to someone else beyond what you were expected to give? Don’t wait until you are as rich as Bill Gates, you can start giving when you only have a dollar or a dime. Invest -- Jesus said to get money bags that do not grow old and treasure that does not fail. What he means is to invest in eternity. The Foolish Farmer invested in this life with no thought for the life to come. We live about 70 years, more or less. We should take care of our needs for that time. However, we are fools if we invest only in what we can see. Someone said, “He is no fool who gives what he can not keep to gain what he can not loose.” Value -- Every good joke and every good story has a punch line. That one thing that is memorable and the one thing, if you forget all the rest that you should hold and remember. Here is the one for today: Luke 12:30-34 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Know that riches are not found in things. Know that life is not found in things. Riches and Life are found in God. In God you should find your treasure, and the object of your first love. All the rest takes its place when this is in order. What is the Lord saying to you today about your wealth?
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