Sermon, Sunday August 4, 2019. 8th Pentecost C
Confirmation Day (10.30)
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
It was really disappointing. I was walking through the school one recess time and I said hello to one of the little grade 4 kids who happened to say hello to me.
A couple of days before we had talked about his bible text in chapel. He was now going to give me his ‘feedback’.
Pastor, I want to be rich”. He said that when he grows up, he wants to have lots of cool things and lots of money so he can do whatever he wants.
At least he was being honest! He was not trying to hide his complete belief that acquiring things and doing whatever he wanted with those things is the goal of his young life! He was obviously was sold on it, no matter what anyone (including the pastor/chaplain) said!
I left the conversation worrying for this young man and his family, and young people in general. I left checking myself and my own motivation and direction in life.
I know this nine year old lad is not alone. He never has been. Jesus came across this attitude this day among the crowd.
This random man whose name we do not know just wants easy money. He wants his independence from his family, and he wants it now. He wants to ‘live his life his way’.
We are not sure if his father has already died. If so, this son is obviously having trouble negotiating the will with his brother. If his Dad is still alive, then this is a really bad request. He wishes his Dad dead!
Jesus zeros in on what his request really all about: greed. Jesus will have none of this demand of making easy money for the man.
Why? Because Greed is not good for you and Jesus is.
Greed is not good for you because it is deeply unfulfilling. It can’t fill you, and so it eventually kills you.
Why is greed self-destructive? Because the goal of it (money, power, looks, health, etc, etc, etc) can’t take the weight of your soul. You have to keep chasing these things more and more, so, the chase becomes more and more all–consuming.
For example: For people searching for approval from others, there is never enough approval. For foody people, there is never enough food. For gym junkies, there is never enough gym time. For the alcoholic, there is never enough alcohol. For the sex hungry, there is never enough sex. For the fashionista, there is never enough fashionable look and etc…..
You keep chasing and consuming and buying but somehow it never fills you, makes you or gets you the end point of rest and bliss Jesus mentions in his little parable.
Jesus is saying, I think, that sitting around eating, drinking and being merry, is not all it is cracked up to be. We are made for community. We are made to contribute. We are made for relationship with our Creator and Saviour. Work is actually a gift not only a chore. There is more value in in our work than we think. Just ask someone who has no work and desperately wants a job.
But somehow, we struggle to be content with what he delivers; the deeper thing, the pure things, the timeless things a person really needs. So we keep chasing those things that can’t deliver what we really need to be fully human and fully alive.
For some of us, greed left to run free in your soul will make you like Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. You will do anything for “The Precious”. For others, it is a dangerous enemy, like it is for Frodo as he battles to resist the same pull of “The Precious” – the gold ring to eternal power.
And the real kicker is that when you ‘barns happen to be full” and you settle in to eating, drinking and being merry time, it only encourages you to keep going. That is why gambling is so insidious. Not because it is simply a ‘wrong thing to do’ but because it will take over your life and burn up your relationships as every now and then you actually reach the goal – you make some easy money. And then what do you do? You chase it more. It is never enough.
And besides that, it is just plain foolish, says the wise man in Ecclesiastes and THE wise man, Jesus. Why? Because “All the kingdoms in the world end up in wills”, sung the band, Switchfoot. You work hard and build bigger barns. You save, you achieve and then someone else gets it all!
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
Answer? Not you!
So, what’s the better way? What’s the way live this life and even enjoy money and houses and cars and technology and rewards for hard work?
Well it is not a matter of being smart but of being loved. It is not about achieving more but receiving everything as gift. It is not about working for the weekend or some amazing retirement, but about finding the gift of God in your daily work, study, activity and relationships.
Jesus says that in his new way greed is not needed. It is redundant in his way of being human. “Being rich toward God”; or living in relationship to your heavenly Father, your brother Jesus, your wise counsellor, the Holy Spirit and in Jesus’ human body on earth – the Christian community is so much more fulfilling, satisfying and long lasting.
In Jesus’ new creation – the one into which you have been baptised, called, gathered and enlightened, you don’t need to even chase him or his people. You enjoy receiving all he gives, and they give. Greed goes out the door of your soul and what God gives enters in and everything looks different.
We can see that still choosing to chase the stuff and the approval and well-being in anyone of anything more than Jesus is simply mistrust.
He freely gives you everything he has, including his own life for you; and all for you, who can’t make it rain, can’t make the crops grow, can’t make the seasons turn. Everything he has is yours. Everything he has cannot be achieved or earned because he freely gives it as needed. Greed is not needed in this new creation with Jesus.
How do I know? Well, what did this Jesus go and do for this greedy man? It would not be long until this same Jesus who calls him out on his greed gives up everything he is and has for this same greedy man! Jesus obviously wants to fulfill and satisfy greedy people with very thing they chase – acceptance, status, ease, rest, less suffering, more joy, more blessing. They and we just need to trust him – that he really does.
Friends, Jesus’ acceptance, his love, his power, his promises that never fail because they are made by him, not me, is “THE Precious’.
We don’t need a generation of young people who want to be rich. We need a generation of young people who know that already are by faith in Jesus no matter if they have money, status, fashion, food or anything else – or not.
When I turn away from my chasing after the illusive dream of easy money, fame, fortune and power and all that goes with it and I come to my Saviour in all humility and RECEIVE him and all he has for me on a daily basis I am re-defined back again.
Then I won’t be a user, I will be an encourager as I work and study and live.
Then I won’t be a consumer. I will be a giver as I share my house, my car, my money.
Then I won’t be a taker, I will be a lover who has quality relationships in which I know love and joy.
Then I won’t be chasing after the wind but be renewed by the Wind of your Spirit every day, teaching me, helping me, guiding me.
Friend, your life does not consist in the amount or value of what you own, but the high value that is GIVEN to you by Jesus’.
Big barns or Big Life? Jesus enables me to have the second one.
Don’t get rich. Use your richness in Jesus to make others the same.