Emmitsburg Council of Churches

 

The Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." 12:14 But he said to him, "Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?" 12:15 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." 12:16 Then he told them a parable:

"The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 12:17 And he thought to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' 12:18 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. 12:19 And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' 12:20 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?' 12:21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God." Te Gospel of the Lord . . .


Think of God First

We have this lesson today where Jesus is teaching us about Sorting out the difference between "being an owner of our possessions" and "being owned by our possessions." Jesus is stressing the importance of not allowing our trust in material goods to control the way we act or the way we feel or the way we might behave toward others.

Central to this lesson is a theme that comes up every once in Jesus teachings . . . , "We cannot become complacent with the way things are and we cannot trust in our own resources to provide for lasting comfort but we must place our trust in God." At some level, Jesus will tell you and me that our best behavior, even our best intentions will never add up to the high calling of God. And so we're all subject to FOLLY . . . which should serve us by directing us to God's mercy.

I used to think it rather tragic when my Mennonite friends up in the Cumberland Valley of PA always qualified whatever statement they made (mostly referring to agricultural crops) with, "If the Lord wills it." This statement seemed especially tragic in the case of the one family whose little child was killed in a farm accident a few years back the little boy was playing behind the tractor and his older brother never saw him there . . . He was run over by the tractor. In spite of this most deepest of losses, the family remained steadfast in their faith. "It was the Lord's will" I heard them say . . . and for a long time I have wanted to fight their fatalistic view of faith because I cannot except that "it is the Lord's will" that a young child should be killed. But after several years of thinking on this, I have a deep respect and appreciation for the vulnerability of those faithful people, they place themselves at God's mercy and they teach us about deep abiding faith . . . definitively not superficial.

But maybe the rich landowner's self resolve is also fatalistic in its own way.

In the teaching about the wealthy landowner "If the Lord Wills" did not apply to the rich man. For he was already set upon by his own will. He was quite consumed with himself so much so, that he thought only of his own well being, (notice all of the references to "I" and "My" in the parable) and so he formulated his own plan in order to work out his own happiness.

But Jesus wants us to realize that Self-Sufficiency and Self-Centered plans and attitudes will not gain Security for the Soul. "You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you."

This sounds harsh to our ears . . . .

Can't we make some financial plans for ourselves? We work hard for what we got! Some of us are busy at this time of the year with harvesting all sorts of crops from the vegetable garden . . . so is there anything wrong with canning and freezing?? (I hope not, or else I'm in big trouble! Though admittedly, I'm rather possessive about my canned cherries --

They're MINE!!!

Others of us are doing our darndest to put a few dollars aside each month for retirement, is there anything wrong with that??

Let me try to clarify what Jesus is saying about this rich man's plans as compared to our own. We begin in the lesson where "The Rich Man thought to himself." Right away, Jesus is cluing us in that something is wrong with the attitude of this man.

We are being invited into the scene of the rich man's contemplation "of himself." He is devising "a plan for his self preservation." We are invited to consider what his plan was, and what he might have done. We are given an opportunity to examine an alternative path he might have chosen:

Perhaps, having this great harvest, he could have thought of his hired hands maybe there could have been some profit sharing! After all, he was already rich! But instead, he thinks only of himself. He plots and schemes toward an outcome that will bolster his already secure position in life. This is selfcenteredness not an attribute that Jesus wishes us to harbor.

Most of us most often attempt to plan out our retirement (and the filling of pantry shelves) not so much for our personal well being . . . but the intent is to alleviate our families of any burden that might come about should we become disabled or otherwise incapacitated. There is no sin in this. But in this story the man seeks only his personal welfare/satisfaction he is smug in his wealth of material goods and anxious to gain soul satisfaction for himself.

The lesson points to our need to honor God with all of our goods and wealth. We are reminded that everything we have is given to us purely by God's grace -- "If the Lord has willed it, we may be blessed with wealth or we may suffer poverty," but how will we react to our lot??**

Thus, we must constantly remind ourselves that whatever we have belongs to God and is made available to us as a trust. To view one's possessions in this way surely takes a high level of spiritual maturity and that is what Jesus is calling us to .

** We ought to take note here, that it does not matter whether we are rich or poor in this matter of "Being Possessed" by our goods . . . any one of us can fall into the sin of being controlled by life's possessions. A person could even use their impoverished life as a means to control someone else for personal gain, and therefore:

We must exercise humility -- Even in the way we carry our life's burdens. Otherwise our lot in life, whether Rich or Poor, becomes a stumbling block to our faith. We become independent operators who plot and scheme like this rich land owner . . . and the blind eye we cast to others (other than ourselves) becomes a hindrance to the way of faith and truth that Christ calls us to walk in.

Don't become a victim of "the Fool's Folly." Pride is the downfall of many a person . . . even as we heard in the Psalm today, "Those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches" [Their reward is just that boasting]. The Psalmist continues ". . . Truly no ransom avails for one's life, there is no price one can give to God for it."(Psm49:6-7).

If we are going to boast of what we have made for ourselves in this life whatever that is . . . then we must boast in the Lord.

This is what Jesus is pointing us to in this lesson:

Don't merely go through life trying to satisfy your own self . . . saving your own soul or messaging your investments without regard to others is selfishness and does not honor God. But if we boast in what God has done, and if we seek to share what we have with others rich and poor alike, then we are more worthy of our inheritance in eternal life and will be truly blessed in this life for such is the Kingdom of heaven.

Let us pray,

Gracious God, It is you who give us all things, give us grace to accept the lot that is ours and give us faith to believe in the goodness that you desire for all. Enable each of us to be generous in sharing every gift you entrust us with. In Jesus name we pray. AMEN

In what do we place our hopes, in what do we place our values??

The man in the beginning of today's reading is hopeful that Jesus will side with him in a dispute that he is having with his brother likely the older brother who has the first share of the family inheritance. In fact, there were laws written in Leviticus that spell out how a Jewish family is to divide the inheritance:

From Deuteronomy 21:17: The Law provides that a double portion of the inheritance is given for the firstborn son. If there are two sons, the elder receives two-thirds (67 percent), and the second son one-third (33 percent). If there are three sons, the elder receives two-fourths (50 percent), and the others receive one-fourth each (25 percent). If there are four sons, the elder receives two-fifths (40 percent), and the others receive one-fifth each (20 percent). Deuteronomy specifies that the father's affection or lack thereof for the wife of the firstborn must not affect the inheritance right of the first-born son.

To this hopeful young man in the crowd, Jesus says that he will not get involved in the family dispute over property or money . . . but instead, Jesus uses the opportunity to tell his listeners that there are more valuable things in life that we ought to concern ourselves over things that are not material nor charged with "emotional attachment".

THIS IS NOT TO SAY THAT GOD IS UNCONCERNED WITH OUR PHYSICAL WELL BEING OR THE "THINGS" THAT WE NEED TO LIVE A HAPPY LIFE. But simply, that Jesus forsees what will become of those who allow Greed and/or Covetousness to rule their lives.

Living for the sake of keeping one's wealth, and accumulating "Greater Wealth (especially, when one is already wealthy, as is the land owner in the story) will not a good disciple make. Allowing riches to rule our lives does not make soul sense!

In fact some of the greatest atrocities in human history have been justified in the name of greed and possessiveness.

Rather, ought not become

As human beings we have an innate desire to posseess things and own things, esp. valuable things . . . like shinny pieces of silver or gold or jewels. Throughout the ages, men and women have been willing to risk their life, their health, and their good name in order to possess what we call riches. It took years, cost lives, and challenged all who served as members of Mel's loyal crew. Mel Fisher made a commitment of his greatest personal effort to find the Atocha, believing every day that the elusive lady was ready at last to reveal her lavish secrets. Lesser men would have failed. On July 20, 1985, after more than 15 years, Mel's dream was achieved, and the Atocha's mother lode was located. Thousands of artifacts, silver coins, gold coins, many in near mint condition, period and earlier amazing Spanish objects and wares, exquisite jewelry set with precious stones, gold chains, disks, a variety of armaments and even seeds (which later sprouted!) were recovered. These and more discovered by Mel Fisher and his "Golden Crew" reflected the richest treasure find since the opening of King Tut's tomb in the 1930's. The lives of Mel and Dolores Fisher, their family and all their crew were lifted onto the world's stage as people who truly contributed to the priceless historical and cultural heritage of the world.

This man's self-interest clashes sharply with the context in which he makes his request. Jesus has been teaching people by the thousands (12:1). He warned them of Pharisaical hypocrisy (12:1). He told them not to fear those who kill the body but those who can cast them into hell (12:4-5). He encouraged them to confess the Son of Man before people (12:8-9). He told them that they will face opposition, and assured them that the Holy Spirit will give them the right words when they are dragged before the authorities (12:11-12). In the midst of these serious concerns, the man interjects a request for help with his inheritance. In doing so, he reveals that he has not heard Jesus, but is concerned only about his personal problem. His interjection is trivial by comparison with the teaching that he interrupts, and so is inappropriate and disruptive. . . . How often do our "fleshly desires" , weaknesses, emotions, get the best of us. While Jesus wants to build the kingdom in our midst and good things are beginning to happen . . . in a moment of self-interest -- we are so easily swept away from the teaching and the giving of faith that Jesus wants to work in and through us. We can identify with the sudden outburst of this younger brother . . . because we become blinded to the things of God, by our self-interest. "I want what's rightfully mine." or "I'm due what's owed me!" But as we have seen in this particular illustration, the younger brother was going to receive what was owed him according the law, which, in his eyes felt unfair because he wanted more!

What is of greatest importance is that we remain focused on the things of God.. What is it that God desires to do in our midst or even by the possessions that we have?

"Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed" (v. 15). Jesus, who sees the heart, sees greed in this man's heart (v. 15). He addresses his reply, not just to the man, but to "them" -- to the crowd. He uses the opportunity to teach about the danger of greed.

It's not that gaining something like a reward for our labor, or even an inheritance, is a bad thing. The Worker deserves their wages, the laborer must be fairly compensated . . . but when we lose perspective of the things of God, and "goods" or treasures become our sole purpose for living, Then we have taken a step away from the kind of faithfulness that Jesus is trying to instill in us.

For one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions" (v. 15).

While the man addresses Jesus as teacher, he does not request instruction. Instead, he tells Jesus what he wants and asks (or commands) Jesus to do his bidding. He wants to take advantage of Jesus' moral authority -- seeks to use Jesus' authority to gain power over his brother in the dispute over their inheritance.

Peace