Text: Luke 12:13-21
The real question is how you look upon your life and what you have -- whether you see it in terms of 'I', 'my', and 'mine', or as a gift and a trust from God.
The real question is what you do with what has been given to you - whether you 'stall' it -- in your purse, bank account and personal pleasures, or whether you see yourself as one of God's stewards, with the holy obligation and happy opportunity to manage it and use it to serve and to glorify God.
Being Rich Vs. Thinking You Are
(The Story Of Two Farmers)
One of the multitude said to him, 'Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me.' But Jesus said to him, 'Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?' And Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of all covetousness; for a person's life does not consist in the abundance of their possessions.
And he told them a parable, saying, 'The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he through to himself, "What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?" And he said, "I will do this; I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry." But God said to him, "Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?"
So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
A funny thing happened on the way to preparing this sermon, that just Had to be the work of the Holy Spirit.
Anytime I'm going to write a sermon, I type the full text of the passage on a piece of paper -- like this (Show)
This is the Gospel for the day, and the parable of the rich farmer is right here in the middle paragraph. (Show)
This is how it should read: - 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops? I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones; and there I will Store all my grain and my goods."
This is how it came out when I typed it: - "What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?"
(So far, so good)
"I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones; there I will Stall all my grain and my good."
See what happened? The correct copy reads, I will build bigger barns and Store all my grain and my goods. "The printed version reads, "I will stall all my grain and my goods.
I was a little annoyed, at first, because I'd have to go back and type the whole passage.
But then it dawned on me: - 'wait a minute . . . that's a major thrust of this story, isn't it?
Here is a man who is so blessed with such a bountiful harvest that he doesn't have room for it all!
And what does he do?
Does he ask his rabbi for the names of some needy families? Does he sell the crop and share the profit with some social agencies in the community? Does he let himself become a channel through which the lives of some other people are blessed with the basic needs of life?
No, it is none of the above; instead, he Stalls his grain and his goods, by putting it all in new and bigger barns, keeping it all for himself.
What's the matter with that? It's His isn't it? Didn't he buy the seed and plant the seed and fertilize it and disc it and weed it and harvest it?
It is his, isn't it? And doesn't he have the right to do whatever he wants to do with it?
We're not going to answer that just yet; were going to leave that hanging for a while.
I want you to hear another story; not a parable . . . a True story; about a farmer who lives in Alice, Texas. He is a rather well -- to -- do farmer, also.
One year -- when the crop was real good -- he, also, asked a question about what to do with all of his grain and his good.
The question he asked was this: - 'Lord, you have blessed me with a bountiful crop and a bountiful life; what do you want me to do with it, to do the greatest good for you?
He was led to consider all of the hungry and hurting people in the world, and to take a very careful look at all of the relief agencies in the world.
He had to know . . . who did the very best work of feeding the hungry people in the most effective and efficient way?
And, when he had found the answer to his search, he sold his first full train car of grain, and gave all of that money to Lutheran World Relief.
And every year since, when the first carload of grain is sold, that farmer in Alice sends a check for the entire amount through the synod for Lutheran World Relief.
And those years when the crop isn't so good? He adds money from another source, so that people all over the world can be blessed, as they share in the harvest God gives that farmer.
And -- with this farmer in Alice -- it isn't, "Soul, you have ample goods' take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry", either . . .
When he retires, he plans to spend the remainder of his days personally flying the airplanes that deliver the good and the clothing and the medicine and bring supplies to the people who wait in the jungle clearings and on the top of mountains.
What a contrast, between these two farmers . . . one hoards, the other shares; one clutches, the other freely gives . . . one thinks only of his own desires; the farmer in Alice thinks of the needs of other people.
One asks, "What do I want to do with my grain and my goods, so that I can enjoy it all?
The other asks, "Lord, what do You want me to do, so that others may benefit from this bountiful harvest you have given; how can others, too, enjoy the benefits you have entrusted to my hands?"
Now, I believe, we are ready to go back and to consider that question we left on the table a few minutes ago . . .
Why shouldn't the rich farmer in the parable pull down his barns and build bigger ones, in order to store all of this grain and all of his goods?
After all, it is his, isn't' it?
Well, if you listened to him you'd certainly some to that conclusion:-
'My crops' . . . 'my barns' . . . 'my grain' . . . . 'My goods' . . . 'my soul '.
When you get home, today, read this parable again; count the number of times 'I', 'my' and 'mine' appear.
Let me save you the trouble . . . eleven in the five lines of the parable which record the man's conversation with himself, 'I', 'my', 'mine', appear eleven times.
And the name of God appears No-Where . . . not even once
No question in the rich man's mind as to whose all of this is; no question at all about who owns it, or to whom it all belongs . . . 'I', 'my', 'mine',.
Is that true? Are we the owners? Is what we do with it all, up to us to decide?
The farmer in Alice doesn't think so. He believes God is the real and true Owner, and that he -- the farmer -- is God's steward,
Entrusted to manage and care for and use and administer all of this in such a manner that God's desires and God's wishes and God's purpose and will for all it can be realized.
So this farmer, in Alice, looks to God for guidance and answers -- and decisions are made on that basis.
The farmer in Alice asks that his name not even be mentioned, lest somehow that draw attention to him, rather than to God.
But the parable and the teaching and the truth our Lord sets out here isn't just for rich farmers, is it?
God had been pretty good about blessing you and your life, too, hasn't he?
Compared to the rest of the world, you arerich; your life, too, represents a bountiful harvest of God's goodness and gifts and mercies and blessings.
Actually, the real question isn't even about amounts, is it?
The real question is how you look upon your life and what you have -- whether you see that in terms of 'I', and 'my' and 'mine', or as a gift and a trust from God.
The real question is what you do with what has been given to you . . . Whether you 'Stall' it -- in your purse and your bank account and personal pleasures,
Or whether you see yourself as one of God's stewards, with the holy obligation and happy opportunity to manage it and use it to serve and to glorify God.
At the very end of the parable, Jesus talks about being "rich toward God."
Tell me . . . which of these two farmers would you say is "rich toward God." . . . the farmer in the parable, or the farmer in Alice, Texas?
Do you remember the statement Jesus made, before using this parable as an illustration?
"Take heed and beware of all covetousness, for a person's life does not consist in the abundance of their possessions."
"A person's life does not consist in the abundance of their possessions."
I was watching '9-1-1' the other evening. One of the episodes showed a house fully engulfed in flames. Inside, the three occupants were asleep.
The woman and small boy escaped from the burning house, but the man did not; he was found lying face down on the bedroom floor, overcome by smoke and heat -- and unconscious.
Happily, while on the way to the hospital, the EMS people were able to get the man breathing again.
Some days later, the man was permitted to leave the hospital.
The last scene showed the father, mother, and son standing together. This is what the father said, "we are blessed; we still have each other" . . .
To which the mother added, "We learned that having things isn't really that important at all."
That's just what Jesus said, isn't it? "A person's life does not consist in the abundance of their possessions."
I think of Lee, who does not have an abundance of possessions at all, but she is truly one of the truly rich and most alive people I know . . .
Every day, she is out and about -- brining flowers to brighten up someone's room, or taking them to the store, or visiting them in the hospital, or greeting them with a warm hug and an encouraging word.
And I remember Alton . . . no matter how busy, always finding time to inquire about their well -- being, or slipping the pastor a few dollars
To help someone who was having a hard time making ends meet, or coming by several times in the spring and summer to mow the lawn of a woman who had lost her husband
And I think of Henry and Minnie, who were always giving themselves and their love and their money and their time -- and opening their home -- to be sure that everyone else could share the goodness and blessings God had granted to them
You know people like this, don't you? . . . people whose lives are vibrant and full; whose joy is so evident, whose countenance beams . . .
People who really know what it means to live because they have discovered, and evidence the truth
That the secret to being 'rich toward God' is to be doing what God is always doing -- giving yourself away for the well-being of others;
Spending yourself for the sake of someone else;
Using what you have -- and freely sharing it-so that another may be blessed and enriched.
'Beware of covetousness', says our Lord. Covetousness Can Kill You, you know; you can smother yourself to death by clutching 'my barns' and 'my grain' and 'my goods' so close, it will actually suffocate you.
Just take a look at the Dead Sea . . . it receives from five or six different sources -- but it has not even one outlet;
It takes and takes, and receives and receives -- and holds it all; it does not give even one drop away.
As a consequence, because there is no flow, there is no oxygenation, and so the Dead Sea cannot support any kind of life. It simply stagnates. It is dead.
Those possessions you have, whether few or many, are yours, not in the sense of ownership, but in the sense of trusteeship.
God is the true Owner -- of you and of your possessions; you have been blessed by God with the high calling to be
The steward of all that God sees fit to entrust to you for care and use and management on God's behalf.
Just think . . . God has this marvelous vision and dream, this will and desire of what this world -- and lie in this world --p is to belike;
And through the life and possessions God entrusts to you, God allows you the high privilege of joining with God to make all of that come true.
Ah . . . now we must take off our shoes, for we are standing on the holy ground of what it is like to be "rich toward God."
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George Haynes was ordained in 1951 and is currently a mission developer for Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Rockport, TX and is an ELCA Stewardship key leader.