This sermon is offered by the CRCNA as part of our Reading Sermons series.
Scripture: Luke 12:1-21
Text: Luke 12:15
Sermon Submitted by Rev. Carl J. Klompien (retired), Sioux Center, Iowa
Perhaps you can remember an experience somewhat like this. Imagine it is early spring and you have just been through a late winter storm. The snow is piled high as a reminder of winter's last gasp. But the sun is out and it is very warm. As you are trying to cross the street in your town you see a shorter way than the designated shoveled walk. It looks safe and so you proceed just as someone hollers, "You better watch out!" And just then you put your foot down on the slick pile of snow and slide into the cold murky waters of the melting ice and snow. Now, that wasn't the worst thing that ever happened to you in your life. It only bruised your pride and gave you a wet cold foot for the rest of the afternoon or until you could get home and change your clothes.
But today in God's Word we hear a warning concerning our life in God's world. And this warning is much more significant for it deals with a matter of our relationship to God. Listen to the text from Luke 12:15 "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."
Now this text is an answer to a request. As Jesus is teaching someone says to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." Well, this request sounds legitimate enough. You and I don't like it when something isn't fair or right. Maybe the other brother was somehow trying to run off with the father's estate. But Jesus reminds the person making the request, and also us, that He did not come as a judge, but as a Savior.
And in this passage we notice that Jesus tells us the truth. He tells us the truth about ourselves. About our desires, our yearnings, what is really important to us. You see, we were made in the image of God. Not only to know God, but to reflect the character of God. For God is a God of grace. He is a giving God. And as His image bearers we are to live in relationship to God. Trusting God. Believing in God. Taking Him at His Word. Relying upon His grace. Depending on His supply of our needs. And sharing with others what He so freely gives us.
That's what this whole parable of the Rich Man is all about. And that's what the story of our life, our striving, our planning, our living is all about. "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed." Jesus speaks to all of us and He tells us the truth about ourselves.
And He also tells us the truth about greed or covetousness. That's what greed is - covetousness. One writer says, "Covetousness is an unquenchable thirst for getting more and more of something we think we need in order to be truly satisfied." And I believe he is correct. God knows our hearts. And He knows that all of us as fallen image bearers are coveters. Wasn't this something of what motivated Adam and Eve to disobey God's command? They were not satisfied with God's provision for their need and thought that they needed the one thing God had told them not to take.
And the world today is a wonderful place to live. But many are being deceived by the world. Coveting is encouraged by the world. Advertising, entertainment, education, sometimes even friends: the message is the same. "If you buy this phone, all your communications needs will be met." "Get this car, these clothes, and you will be accepted, respected, and feel good about yourself." "Have this fund, or account, or investment in land and real estate, and you will be set for the rest of your life." And soon the object, which is encouraged and we desire, consumes us. It becomes what we want, work for, think about, and plan our life around. Money, position, plans, friends, status, house, things, securities. "Be on your guard against all kinds of greed (covetousness)."
"Why?" you ask. Because Jesus is speaking here about sin, about our relationship to God. "You shall not covet." You shall not set your mind (your heart) on something so that it becomes the goal (god) of your life. In I Timothy 6:5 in speaking about covetousness and the love of money the apostle Paul speaks of false teachers, men of corrupt mind robbed of the truth "who think that godliness is a means to financial gain." These are people who appear to be religious. They say all the right things, but they are just in it for the money. They are covetous sinners robbed of the truth. And verse 6 goes on to say, "But godliness with contentment is great gain."
John Piper in his book Future Grace (p.221) says, "Covetousness is desiring something so much that you lose your contentment in God." The opposite of covetousness is contentment in God. So God is speaking to us in this passage about the most important thing in the world: our relationship to Himself. As covetousness increases, contentment in God decreases and vice versa. That's why it is in the lists of terrible sins like Romans 1:29, I Corinthians 5:11, I Corinthians 6:10. And listen to Colossians 3:5 as the list comes to an end, "….evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." WOW! Did you ever realize the Ten Commandments begin and end with the same commandment: "greed (covetousness) which is idolatry." #1 - "You shall have no other gods before me." #10 - "You shall not covet." And even #2 - "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything." These commands talk about idolatry and greed in the same breath.
We read the story today. And oh that personal pronoun pointing to self is so large. Read verse 17: "He thought to Himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops….' 'This is what I will do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.'" The story of man apart from God: I, Me, My, I'll. Thank God He tells us the truth about ourselves, about our greed, and about our sin.
But notice also that Jesus saves us from the lie. We must always ask ourselves the question, "Why did Jesus come?" And of course we know the answer from the Bible: Jesus came to be our Savior. Jesus came to save us from ourselves, from our bondage to sin, from our focus on things. Jesus Himself says in Luke 19:10, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."
Thus, the passage before us today is not just a good story, but it is a call to us in our sin to repent and believe in Jesus. And perhaps you think or say, "Who? Me?" Yes, you and me. Jesus is not just telling a story about a rich man long ago who had his life all messed up. No, Jesus is speaking to us about our priorities and our trust.
Who is Lord of your life? Where do we place our priorities? Right now, if you are really honest, what is the most important thing in your life? And listen to God's Word as you consider this question. "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed (covetousness)." And it's not just having lots of money or lots of things. Maybe you covet someone else's looks or physique. Maybe you covet someone else's family or friends. "If only I was in that group or had brains like so and so, or had a job like that one, or a wife who was more understanding, or a husband who was more gentle, or children who were more obedient and appreciative." The world says, "He who has the most toys wins." This is a lie. And many have swallowed it hook, line and sinker.
Jesus has come to set us free from our covetousness - of putting our wants, needs, desires in place of Him. Jesus says, ". . . .; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10) And again He says, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3). You see, the Bible says, "a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." It is not what you have, but Who has you. It is not what you possess, but Who possesses you. Understand that the man who approached Jesus thought the problem was with his brother. "If we could only get this problem settled rightly." But Jesus knows the real problem we have is with God. We need our hearts changed. We need new hearts. And today so many want Jesus to serve them as they think they need Him to settle disputes. Instead Jesus has come to serve us in saving us from our sin and separation from God.
The man in the parable Jesus told had a problem: what am I going to do with my wealth? If we say, "I wish I had that problem," we are only revealing the covetousness of our own hearts. In I Timothy 6 God's Word goes a bit farther in verses 9 and 10: "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." And so God's Word says in Psalm 62:10b, "...though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them." Thank God Jesus has come to tell us the truth and to save us from the lie of covetousness and our own selves. And always with a purpose.
Jesus saves us to live in the truth--to look up to God in Jesus Christ as we live our lives here as citizens of the Kingdom of heaven. Oh what a shame when all we do as God's creatures is look down. The song says, "Look, how we grovel here below fond of these trifling toys." What a shame when we do that and miss the glory and blessing of God. Sometimes we get so busy in our business that we leave God out of the picture and forget it is His business and we are here on business for the King. And I can almost hear someone thinking, "But we do have to work and provide for what we need." And I would answer, "Of course, but in whom do you trust?" Oh, how often we worry about our clothes, what we are going to eat, how long we are going to live, and then Jesus says to us in verse 30 of this chapter, "For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly father knows that you need them...." God knows, God cares, and God will provide. As we live in the truth we look up to God in Jesus Christ who blesses us for His glory.
And as God saves us from ourselves and our preoccupation with things and self He gives us His Spirit to look out as we live in the truth. Verse 31 says, "But seek his kingdom..." (Matthew in 6:33 adds the significant words "first" and "righteousness": "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.") Trust God. How often we hear it said and remind ourselves that our help is in Him. Doing that, we can give and share and help and build. This is God's work in us and through us.
"Watch out!" Who and what is Number One? If God is first then His kingdom and righteousness will be first. The man in the story had a problem. He didn't know what to do with his crops (God's blessings). He never gave God a thought. He was living his own life, for himself. He had it all planned. Well, think of your own life. What's first? Is it God, the church, the poor, missions, Christian school, Christian ministries of mercy? Or is it me, my house(s), property, accounts, trips, self and the things of this world apart from Christ? "Watch out!" And living in the truth, look out and see the calling we have as redeemed children of the heavenly Father who loves us. Hear Him as He says, "Be on your guard against all kinds of greed."
And as we seek to live in the truth looking up to God in Jesus Christ and looking out to the world in need as Jesus did, we may also look forward. As we seek the kingdom righteousness Jesus promises in verse 31, "…and all these things will be given to you as well." Verse 32 says, "…your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." And verse 33 adds, "Sell your possessions and give to the poor." Rather than say God didn't mean that literally or that's not in the Bible for us, ask yourself the question, "How am I doing if I measure myself against the truth of God's Word?" You see we do not need to change the Word. Rather we need the Word by the Spirit of God to change us.
One writer says, "People who are satisfied only with the things that money can buy are in great danger of losing the things that money cannot buy." And that is what this message is about: the future in the light of our present living. It is about living by faith now in our working and thinking and planning and giving and investing. How we think of God and serve God or ourselves now in the use of what He gives us will reveal what our future will be like. Matthew 6:24 says, "You cannot serve both God and Money." Our text says, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed, a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Life consists in Who is your Savior and the Lord of your life and your possessions. So ask yourself this question, "What changes do I need to make in my thinking, my living, my giving, my attitudes as I share in the life and live before the world the life Jesus came to give me?"
Order of Worship
Call to Worship: Psalm 95:6-7
Hymn of Praise: Psalter Hymnal # 242 ‘Come, All You People, Praise Our God’
Greeting from God
Reading of the Law or Confession of Faith
Hymn of Response: Psalter Hymnal #262 ‘My Faith Looks Up to Thee ’
Song: Psalter Hymnal # 500 ‘How Firm a Foundation ’
Scripture Reading: Luke 12:1-21
Scripture Text: Luke 12:15
Sermon: Watch Out!
Closing Song: Psalter Hymnal # 548 ‘When We Walk with the Lord ’
Parting Exhortation: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Benediction or Closing Words: Hebrews 13:20-21