July 8, 2018
If you install new software on your computer you must register with the company. During the registration process there is usually a point at which you must agree to the terms of usage set by the company that produced the software. The terms of agreement, the fine print, if you will, are always available for you to read. I must confess that I never read the terms of agreement. I just click on the word, “agree,” and begin using the software. Sometimes I think about that and wonder what I have agreed to. So far it hasn’t gotten me into trouble.
But what about the fine print involved in being a follower of Jesus? When Jesus invited people to become his follower he spelled out the terms very clearly. There were some who began following him, but they turned away. They did not count the cost. In Lk.14:33, Jesus said, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Wow! Clearly disciples of Jesus Christ are called to renounce all that they have.
I. IN THE WORLD WEALTH IS USED TO PROMOTE ONESELF. Lk.12:13-21
In my opinion, the issue addressed in this passage is one of the most difficult issues for pastors in America to preach about. It is one of the more difficult issues of discipleship to Christ. The reality is that our country and most of us are deeply affected by wealth and materialism. Even if we are not all that wealthy or do not have many possessions, we are still deeply influenced by our society’s preoccupation with wealth and possessions. And we do not have to intentionally think this way because this way of thinking is deeply ingrained in us from the time we are young.
All of us are consumers and wasters. As a society we are addicted to having the latest technology. Or if it isn’t technology it is clothing or shoes, or automobiles. We like to go out to eat. We pay for cable T.V. and entertainment. Entertainment is not cheap these days. Just attending a professional sporting event can cost quite a bit. We have hobbies which cost money and of course we don’t want to be one dimensional people, so we spend the money. We like sports. Playing hockey isn’t cheap. We are concerned about upgrading our homes, our situations. We are looking for a promotion or a new job so that we can increase our income, so that we can maintain or enhance our lifestyle. We like to travel and we are willing to pay the price.
Total credit card debt has reached its highest point ever. The average American has a credit card balance of $6,375. Forty-three percent of Americans have been carrying a credit card balance for 2 or more years. The average household with credit card debt owes $16,883. The average household with credit card debt pays $1,292 in interest each year.
I mention all of this to help us see our complicity with the man in the parable told by Jesus in Lk.12. Before telling the parable, Jesus says, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness [greed], for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." So let’s look at this parable.
Here is a wealthy landowner whose land had an amazing year of productivity. He had such a crop and he realized that if he was going to be able to profit from this abundant crop he had to find a way to store it. He didn’t have enough barns to store it all. So he could see that the wisest thing to do would be to tear down his old barns and build bigger, state of the art barns to store his crops. As he considered his situation he realized that he was now in a place to begin to enjoy life. His crops would enable him to not worry about the future. He could relax and eat, drink, and be merry.
As far as I can tell from the parable, this man had done nothing wrong. We don’t get the impression that the man was cheating people or not paying his workers. His character seems as good as anyone else. He seems to be an industrious person who is careful with his money. His decision to build bigger barns makes a lot of sense. I mean if you and I have a productive year and make a sizable profit, do we not think about how to best invest that profit? We understand the value of saving and investing for the future. It just makes good sense.
But then we come to v.20, and everything changes. God says, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” I do not think this is a parable that teaches it is wrong to be wealthy or to make a profit. I don’t think this parable teaches that it is wrong to save for the future. Nor do I believe Jesus is teaching that relaxing, eating, drinking, and being merry is sinful. What is sinful is seeing oneself as the center of the universe. This man lived only for himself and his family. He may have made charitable contributions, especially if it provided a tax break. He may have volunteered in the community, especially if it enhanced his standing in the community. But what he was not going to do is jeopardize his future or his lifestyle. He wanted as much out of life as he could get. Unfortunately his life had come to its end, and he would lose control of all that he owned. What he thought was to his profit was no longer his.
And now he had other problems to deal with. He was now going to be dealing with God whom he had ignored throughout his life. And we get the impression that it was his wealth and possessions that so consumed his focus that he had little, if any, time for God. He certainly did not make any connection between his wealth and God. It never occurred to him that what he did with his wealth may have bearing on his relationship with God. This man may have believed in God. He may have even been religious. But his belief, his religion did not shape his life in this area.
Do you realize that your soul is not just yours alone? Your soul, your life, belongs to God, who gave our life to us. We are stewards of our lives. One day our lives will be required. In other words, we are accountable to God, our creator. And how we live, what we do with our wealth has consequence in our accountability to God.
I have no idea about your financial situation. More importantly, I have no idea about how you look at wealth and possessions. Those are matters deeply hidden in the heart. All of us should be concerned if our wealth and possessions are primarily used to promote ourselves and our lifestyle. In the world, wealth is used to promote oneself and when this is the case, wealth and our attitudes towards wealth will be our undoing.
II. IN CHRIST WEALTH IS USED TO PROMOTE THE WORK OF GOD. Lk.12:22-34
In the very next passage, Jesus begins to teach his disciples. He piggybacks off the topic of wealth in order to discuss anxiety about life. Our anxieties about living have much to do with income and wealth. We noted earlier that in Lk.14 Jesus says that, “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Wow! Those are challenging words. Jesus’ teaching in Lk.12 helps us appreciate the value of renouncing all that we have in order to follow Jesus.
One of the things that push us to acquire more and more is our fear: fear of not having enough to maintain our lifestyle, fear of not having what we think we need to live. Anxiety often goes hand in hand with greed and materialism.
In v.22-23 Jesus teaches that those who are his disciples do not need to be anxious about food or clothing. We need not be anxious because living life is a far bigger matter than just focusing on food and clothing. Life is found in following Jesus. Jesus came to give abundant life. He came to give us the same eternal life that he has. You never hear Jesus saying, “O, would you look at this! I have nothing to wear for Passover.” You don’t hear Jesus voicing concern that he might not have enough food even when he was in charge of feeding more than 5,000 people. Why is that? It is because Jesus understood the inexhaustible resources of life with God. What you eat and wear are the least things to worry about.
In v.24 Jesus explains that if God values the ravens enough to feed them, how much more does he value his people? God is the one who sustains our lives. In v.28, if God cares enough to adorn the grass with colorful lilies, will he not make sure his people are properly clothed?
But more than this, in v.32 Jesus tells us that God gives us the kingdom. Are you kidding me! Followers of Jesus get a kingdom? What is Jesus talking about? When Jesus walked the earth he taught that his presence on earth embodied and revealed the kingdom of God. What Jesus said and did revealed the amazing kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is the realm in which the will of God is always accomplished. In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.” In other words, we are asking that God’s rule would be accomplished on earth. And that is what Jesus showed us, God’s will being done on earth as it is done in heaven.
In fact, we know that Jesus is now reigning at the right hand of God the Father. He showed us the power and the goodness of God’s kingdom. He died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead for our justification, and ascended to the Father to reign, so that you and I can enter into life in the kingdom of God today. We may not be able to enter the physical reality of the kingdom because the new heaven and earth is still to come. But we can enter into the life of the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ, becoming his disciple.
All those who enter into the kingdom of God through faith, allegiance to Jesus the King, receive Jesus’ eternal life to live. Followers of Jesus need not worry about living life on earth because Jesus tells us that our lives will be fully supplied by our loving heavenly Father. But as long as we hold onto the wealth and possessions of this world we show our unbelief in the provision of God. Renouncing our allegiance to all that we have is key to living as followers of Jesus.
In v.21 Jesus refers to the person, “who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” In v.33-34 Jesus says, “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
If we are followers of Jesus we need to come to grips with our relationship to wealth and possessions. Do you trust in your wealth to secure your life? Are you generous toward God with your wealth? Specifically here, Jesus refers to giving to the needy. Do you see your wealth as a means to promote Christ and his kingdom work or is your wealth for yourself? Are you as careful in keeping track of what you give to the Lord’s work as you are in keeping track of your own financial picture? Do you make it your aim to give as much as possible to the work of God or is it your aim to keep as much as possible for yourself? The issue is not how much you have and what you own. The issue is about control. Are you willing to renounce it all and allow God to direct your steps in regard to your wealth?
Believe me, the goal of this message is not an attempt to get more money for the church. Rather my goal is to help us consider the value we place on being a disciple of Jesus. As I have been preaching these messages on the fine print of living life with Christ, I continually wonder if I am making life with Christ sound harsh. That is not my goal. The goal for me is to understand these words of Jesus. In Mk.10:28-30, we read, “Peter began to say to [Jesus], ‘See, we have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”
Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? Would you like to become a follower of Jesus Christ? Would you like to receive the forgiveness of your sins? Would you like to receive the eternal life of Jesus? Would you like to enter the kingdom of God today? If so, repent of your current self-directed life. Renounce all that you currently are and have and surrender in faith and allegiance to Jesus Christ as your Savior, Lord, and King. Amen.