Luke 12:13-21
The Rev. Adele K. Langworthy, preaching
July 31, 2022

We have just sung the wonderful truth that the treasures we have been entrusted with are to be used for home and kindred, and to spread the gospel word.   This might be easier said than done at various points in our life, and we can not be reminded of it any too often no matter our stage in life.

As our scripture passage begins today, Jesus is interrupted by someone in the crowd who has a family issue.  Chances are the young man has liked what he has heard in Jesus’ teachings and hopes he can get Jesus’ attention so he could be the arbitrator, the referee that he needs with his brother.

New Testament Professor Fred Craddock writes of this young man’s inheritance concern:  The ugly dispute is all too familiar:  haggling over furniture, dishes, silverware, house, land, and savings account left by the deceased.  Jesus is asked to be a referee and he refuses; after all, who can judge whose greed is right?  Rather than act as judge, Jesus states a proverbial truth and elaborated with a parable. 

And that proverbial truth is this:  One’s life does not consist of an abundance of possessions (verse 15b).  Possessions are not bad in and of themselves, but they can easily become bad when hoarding and covetousness take hold.  To drive this point home, Jesus then shares a parable.

The parable involved a rich farmer.  There is nothing in this parable about the mistreatment of workers, illegal business deals, price gouging consumers in the sale of his goods, or cutting corners to make a buck.  He is simply a man who has done well and is rich.  “The land of the rich man produced abundantly.”

On the surface, there is nothing inherently wrong with his actions so far.  Lets read on.

“And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’  Then he said, ‘I will do this:  I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store my grain and my goods.”  Okay, you might think—he is being responsible with what has been entrusted to him—being a good steward, keeping his crops safe.  Perhaps everything is okay, but he is very close to entering the danger-zone.

Look what comes next in the parable in verse 19, “And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”

Bingo—the rich man has not only reached the danger-zone but has fallen prey.   He is storing up all his goods for himself and himself alone.  His motto could have been, “It’s all about me!”  He talks to himself, he plans for himself, he congratulates himself.   His life is set … Or is it?

God calls him a fool in verse 20 and for good reason.

Martin Luther King Jr, in his sermon on this parable highlighted three things that led God to call him a fool.

  • The first reason King noted was that the man made what is merely a means – his wealth – an end in itself. King said, “He sought the means first, and in the process, the ends were swallowed up in the means.”
  • The second reason King said he was a fool was that he failed to realize his dependency on others. He had learned farming from farmers before him; and, even though it was his vision to build the larger barns, he failed to acknowledge anyone else in their building of them.
  • The third reason that the farmer was called a fool was that he failed to realize his dependence on God. He took credit for the success of all his crops.  The rich farmer believed that it was his efforts that brought about his success and his work alone.  He lost sight of the Creator who brought the sun, the rain and the fertile soil to help his crops grow.

Jesus would not be the referee the young man wanted him to be, one who would settle a financial dispute between siblings.  Jesus wanted to deal with a deeper and more crucial issue, an issue that we today have to deal with as much as that young man did 2,000 years ago.  We will be a fool like the rich man if we don’t acknowledge:

  • First, that there is more at stake than acquiring riches. Money will buy a bed but not sleep; books but not brains; food but not appetite; finery but not beauty; a house but not a home; medicine but not health; luxuries but not culture; amusements but not happiness; religion but not salvation — a passport to everywhere but heaven. [Christianity Today]
  • Second, that we are connected and dependent upon each other. Even when we think we are going it alone, we are not.  Others are part of the journey. For example, the farmer grows the produce, someone else picks it, another transports it, yet another sells it at market, and then you purchase it, prepare it and eat it.  Even eating alone is not done in isolation from the world.
  • Third, that we are dependent upon God. It is only by yielding to God, that we truly succeed; it is only by letting the power of possessions dissipate that God has power over our life.

Donna Schaper tells this story, “There we were, two 28 year-olds in love, on the rim of the Grand Canyon on New Year’s Eve.  As we watched the sun go down, we remembered the hotel was full and we needed a place to stay.  My husband had a brainstorm,  “I’ll bet the ranger in the bottom of the canyon is lonely, especially tonight.  Let’s call him and see how he would feel about having some guests.”  The ranger’s telephone number was in the book.  She dialed, explained the situation, and offered to bring groceries down.  Gary, the ranger, said he and his wife, Gina, would love company.  A half hour after dusk, we were on our way down.  After an uneventful passage down the curving canyon, we arrived at the bottom.  We were invited into their large cabin and they served us a nice dinner.  Then they showed us their “sports room.”  It was full of abandoned sports equipment—high-class hiking boots, expensive back packs, fancy hats, and even fancier walking sticks.”

People made their way into the canyon with all their hiking gear, but to make it out they had to lighten their load.

The rich man was a fool because he did not lighten his load.  He did not share the wealth; he did not connect with others or with God.  He wasn’t able to make it out of this world.

But we don’t need to fall prey as did the rich man; we can grow rich by sharing not hoarding:

  • Perhaps you are rich in time, so you call someone to uplift them or write a note rather than spend all your time binge-watching your favorite series for the 5th time
  • Perhaps you are rich in hair, so you grow it out to give it to those who make wigs for children and adults battling cancer
  • Perhaps you are rich in knowledge, so you tutor a child
  • Perhaps you are rich in money, so you help support agencies that make a difference that align with the passions that grab your heart
  • Perhaps you are rich in energy, so you volunteer to help others.

Share riches, connect with others, connect with God and you will find your life richer beyond your wildest imagination!

May God be your vision!!

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