Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; Sunday, July 31, 2016

Luke 12: 13-21 The Parable of the Rich Fool

NIV2010 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.”

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.”

Anyone who has lived through major life transitions, knows that during those times a big problem is often what to do with one’s possessions. None among us believe ourselves to be hoarders. We may even believe that we are able to keep our belongings to a minimum over the course of our lives. And then comes a major life transition, and the need to downsize becomes a reality.

It is in those times of transition that we realize that all of us hoard stuff to some extent, and all of us have much in common with the man in today’s parable. It is difficult and overwhelming to think about where all our stuff is going to go, and to whom, when we need to downsize.

What do I do with a Christmas Card that my wife gave me 20 Christmases ago? What do I do with my favorite shirt that is just a tad too small (I know I can get into it if I stick to my diet and exercise!). What do I do with that memento from the old country that crossed three continents and the Atlantic during my immigration?

It is difficult to choose what to keep and what to give up. It is so much easier just to keep it all and let others sort it all out as I watch them from Heaven.

But we cannot live without having at least some possessions (we all need a toothbrush). Possessions can also remind us of events in our lives and trigger memories. Possessions matter.

There is nothing wrong with having things.

And then there is today’s parable that Jesus taught. This parable scares me because I identify a little too closely with the “rich guy.” We are not told that he is a model citizen, but we know that he is not a cheat, or a thief, he is not even described as being particularly greedy. He is what most of us would consider an average working man. We are told that he has worked hard and saved money for his retirement. His 401k is funded and he is ready to move to his version of “Florida.” How many among us have similar goals or know someone who does?

There is only one problem. For the man in the story, the only things that matter have to do with himself and his possessions, and absolutely nothing to do with anyone else.

Listen to the way Jesus describes his thinking: “‘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. 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.”’

Today’s parable is not about the possessions that we have, but more about what our possessions represent. It is not some sort of morality tale about deciding what to keep and what to throw away or donate to the Goodwill Store. Listen to the last verse of today’s parable: “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

It is not about selling all you have and giving the money to the church, it is not about getting rid of your 401k. It is not about giving away all you have and devoting yourself completely to God. It is not about “possessions bad, spirituality good.”

It is about your heart.

What you have, what you keep, what and who you are trying to control, what and who controls you, what defines you materially and is a measure of your own self and how you understand who God calls you to be. The man in today’s parable cannot think about anybody but himself. He is inwardly focused. He has an illusion of being in control of his own destiny.

The story of the foolish rich man reminds us to consider our values. Pleased with his good fortune, the rich man focused on his well-being alone. He is focused on security, wealth, and comfort, and then discovers that he has forgotten to attend to his spiritual and relational life.

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

So what does it mean to be “rich toward God?” I think that this is a matter of time, talent, and treasure. As Christians we serve God by serving the world in which we live.

Our human condition is such that all of us tend to be concerned with having at least some sort of control over our future. It is not necessarily a bad thing because if we do not think about and prepare for it, the future will come and catch us unprepared. We will spend all of our lives trying to figure out how to survive each day. Jesus did not come so that we live just to survive; Jesus came so that we live “abundant” lives (John 10:10). For a church, the desire to bring others to Christ and to reach out to our neighbors is a form of thinking about and preparing for the future.

On the other hand, we crave to be successful. Without that craving, nothing would ever happen and we would still be living in caves. Unfortunately, our concept of success is skewed. We think of success as winning and in order for someone to be a winner, there must be losers. We think of success as an achievement when a person is either more affluent or more influential than others. In our minds that influence and affluence should result in the accolades and honors that “the winner” gets. In today’s parable, the main hero is described as such a “w­­inner.” He achieved affluence and he probably enjoys a lot of influence.

I think that today’s parable is about letting go, and I think it is a lesson for all of us. I think it is about letting go of what is, for the sake of what can be.

All human societies build a hierarchy, or a pecking order, and churches are not an exception. Historically, most achievements happen when hierarchies are relatively flat because these are the times when society is united by a common vision and common goals, and is willing to work to make the goals a reality and to achieve the vision (Acts 2:42-47).

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

When we find the courage and stamina to let go of the illusion of control that we build around ourselves, it creates conditions allowing us to build riches toward God. In Matthew 18:3 Jesus said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” When we are little is the time that we are most willing to learn, when we are most pliable and when our minds are ready to learn. We build riches towards God by becoming like little children, by being flexible, adaptable and patient.

That is when God has a chance to break through our defenses, hierarchies, habits, and assumptions and to use us, the community, to continually usher in the glory of God’s Kingdom and to be a blessing to the world around us.

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