The fear of not having enough (Luke 12)

We could maybe identify that there are two polar opposite categories of people when it comes to a view of money and material resources and how to use them.

The first category might be those who worry about not having enough for whatever might happen in the future. They therefore hold tightly and cautiously onto what they have, saving and hording against the day of trouble.

The second category could be seen as those who see money as something to be used and spent. They don’t worry about tomorrow, figuring there will be more money at that time from somewhere. So get what you need, and don’t fear fulfilling what delights your eyes.

There is some truth and danger in both perspectives, and it could be argued that wisdom is found in a balance of the two. However, in light of the teachings we have been sharing, not only in this passage at the beginning of this series but also in light of the previous series on giving, we would promote a third view. And that is to see money and material resources as the provisional gifts of God over which we are temporary stewards.

Having preached Sunday and written yesterday on the parable of the rich fool, I asked this first follow-up question of the week: Week 2, Question 1 – What are the natural motivating issues of human life that drive us (if unchecked) to desire to greedily accumulate material assets?

We could suggest multiple answers for sure. Perhaps for some it is the pride of life and success – to have the ability to enjoy the fruits of riches and to flaunt it for others to see.

But the question asks what are the NATRUAL motivating issues for accumulation. And I think the answer to that is fear – the fear of being caught short, of not having enough. And so long as that feeling is present, a person is not going to feel the ability and comfort to be generous – not towards others or toward God and his Kingdom.

And I think this idea really fits with the passage and the parable given. And the reason I say that is because of what immediately follows in the text as the further words of Christ …

Luke 12:22 – Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

So does this passage mean we should go out and sell everything we have and give it to the poor? No, just like we are not to “hate” family. These are sayings in a culture where points were made by stating the extreme position.

But what it is teaching is an overarching perspective that should cause us to not fear being generous by having a view of this world that it is temporary, and that the only lasting components of it are those things that are done for Christ’s eternal Kingdom. We should not fear generosity; we should make using our resources for God to be our number one priority. And when that is done, everything else naturally follows and flows into place.

Never were truer words spoken than the inseparable connection between a person’s heart and their wallet.

Here is a second question of the week that sort of takes off on the first one and builds upon all that we’ve been discussing …

Week 2, Question 2 – What might we list as foolish reasons for hoarding material assets; and what would it look like to (a) “build bigger barns” in 2015, or rather (b) to be rich toward God?

As Mike Myers would say in the “Coffee Talk” sketch on Saturday Night Live, “Talk among yourselves!”

Keeping Score on True Success (Luke 12)

People have been fighting over inheritances since practically the beginning of time. I shared a story in a sermon not long ago about how it had even happened in my family system on the one occasion of my administration of a will. The individual disputing it was not a surprise. He had been worrying about this for decades – hoping for the best while fearing the worst, all driven by greed.

And that is the setting for the parable given by Jesus in today’s text. It is a brother who is unhappy with the way the settlement of an estate was progressing. Jesus was considered by the people as a rabbi – a teacher – and it was not uncommon in the Jewish culture for people to come to rabbis in order to have an adjudication or opinion in the midst of a controversy.

Luke 12:13 – Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 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.”

At first, this does not seem like an unreasonable request. Perhaps the man was being dealt with unjustly. The likely scenario is that this is a brother who is not the first-born son. There were particular rights that went along with the first born that included a double portion of the inheritance. So, with two sons, the eldest got two-thirds while the other received one-third.

The Scriptures comment in other places that Jesus was able to see into the hearts of individuals and know the true motivational condition of those with whom he interacted. And on this occasion he was able to see that the issue of greed was inspiring the petitioner. And to that subject he gave a warning by also giving a story … what we know as “The Parable of the Rich Fool.”

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “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. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “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?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Let’s make a couple of observations:

  • The man was already rich and highly-blessed even before he had an unusual harvest.
  • Though the man was certainly not lazy, the reason for his “abundance” was not sourced through extra work, but rather a bumper crop from the ground.
  • The only consideration crossing the man’s mind was how he could keep the entire produce of the crop for himself – it never seems to cross his mind that he could give it away or share it with those in need.
  • Even if future years would not produce at the same bonus rate, presumably there would be enough, so the effort to work now was to avoid work later – clearly stated in his “eat, drink and be merry attitude.”
  • There is nothing to be taken from this passage to suggest that prudent planning for the future is not a good thing … but this is a matter of a person who is trusting only in himself and his own provision, rather than in God to supply.
  • Conclusion: God and the eternal values of his kingdom are not in his equation.

The man presumed that he would live long and have great pleasure, but in the story we see that his life is cut short unexpectedly, and all his wealth was of no value but to be passed on to whomever might receive it.

The application is to rather be rich toward God, and in this way there can be a generous use of resources both in this world, yet also with eternal value for God and his kingdom. By this, our identity is as a steward of God – who gives us the resources to use well and wisely.

But we know that in American – beyond any country or culture in the history of the world – there is no shortage of people who rather find their identity in the accumulation of material possessions or in positions of prominence. It is as if these assets are a sort of score card or grade report that identifies them as winners and achievers.

Over the course of today and the following three days, I am going to ask a series of thought-provoking, discussion sorts of questions – one for each day.

So here is the first of four major questions this week:

Week 2, Question 1 – What are the natural motivating issues of human life that drive us (if unchecked) to desire to greedily accumulate material assets?

Come back tomorrow and we’ll think and talk about this some more.