Scripture Text: Luke 12:13-21
What is worship? How do we do it? I think of worship as giving value and worth to something or someone. We do it all the time, and sometimes we think we are doing it when we probably are not. For instance, sometimes we say we are praising God when we are probably praising ourselves. I think it is important that when we come together as the Church, we give honor and praise to Jesus Christ together, and we do this in a variety of ways. For some time, I have preached that worship is not just a segment of the time we spend together on Sunday, such as music and singing songs, but it is all of what we do while we are gathered together. The Apostle Paul wrote, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31) That is why we intentionally provide different opportunities for worship through fellowship, praying, singing, and preaching. One area I think we often do not emphasize is worship through giving. I asked a fellow minister about taking up an offering during a revival, and he believed that the congregation should have an opportunity to worship through giving.
Do you think of giving money as an opportunity to worship God? Maybe you think of the offering as a requirement? Maybe you think it is something expected or something that is needed to do the ministry of the Church. I read an article recently where the author was asking whether we should quit talking about tithing. The author’s point was that tithing gives the impression you are being coerced, which I suppose could be true. The author said that giving because we are told to give or because the church needs it are not bad things, they are just secondary. He wrote that giving is about generosity that connects us with God. When we give away what we have worked so hard to earn, we understand the Gospel a little better. We experience the heart of God Who saw His Son dying on a cross for the sin He did not commit, but generously gave the best He had for us. For God so loved the world that He gave, and He gave generously. I would say that we should want to give much because we have received so much. So, I believe that giving is about worshipping God because we value Him more than our possessions.
What does our view of money and how we use it say about our faith in Jesus Christ? Do our check books or bank statements show more of a love for God or a love for self? Would it show that we are saving and spending for ourselves? Would it show that we value God above all else or that we value ourselves above all else? Money and possessions are a strong force in our lives. So strong they are, Jesus mentioned that they can “choke” the faith and Word that is sown in our lives. Money is one of the most prevalent reasons that married couples fight. Some value it more than they do their marital relationship. Why are money and possessions so important to us? Do we depend on it too much? Jesus spoke a great deal about money and this passage today is a story about the value one rich man placed on his wealth. For some of you, you may think this does not apply to you. Many of us do not have the means to have an abundance of crops or the need to build bigger barns. But think of it in this way: What does your attitude about money and the way you use it say about your faith in God?
Context of the Parable
Just before Jesus told this parable of the rich man, He spoke about whom we should fear and about confessing Him before men.
Luke 12:4-5 Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!
Fear God and not men. This ought to set the priority of our lives. Jesus then said:
Luke 12:8-9 Everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.
So, do not deny Jesus Christ, but rather, acknowledge Him before men. What Jesus said here led up to the present parable concerning money and possessions. Therefore, think of it this way, does our use of money acknowledge Jesus to this world or does it deny Him? Does our attitude on money and use of it honor God and point people to Him, or does it point to us? Jesus made several statements within this passage:
- Life is more than acquiring things
- Focusing on wealth is foolish
- We should treasure God, not possessions
Life is More than Acquiring Things
Money is important to us, oftentimes too important. It was important to the Jewish people, too, particularly a family inheritance. Someone from the crowd who heard Jesus speaking came up to Him to request a judgment regarding his inheritance.
Luke 12:13 Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.
As we learned with the prodigal son, inheritances were important, just as they are now. Unfortunately, families often quarrel over inheritance. One of my most memorable moments was just after my grandmother passed away. After the funeral, the family had gathered at her house and were discussing who should get what of her possessions. While the conversation may have been civil, I could not help but think how some of my family seemed to care more about getting her things than about her. I am sure they all loved my grandmother, but it just appeared to me that they loved her things far too much. It makes me wonder if people think they have some right of ownership to things just because they share the same bloodline. People placing too much importance on acquiring things seems to be a common human condition. Jesus said:
Luke 12:15 (NLT) Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.
We tend to make life about getting more things and becoming more than who we are. This is a temptation of mine. I am often tempted to have the next best thing. I am looking for the next iPhone, iPad, or some other piece of technological wonder. It is not just about things we want. Life is also more than the accumulation of needs. Later in the same chapter of Luke, Jesus said something similar in regards to food and clothing.
Luke 12:23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.
Life is more than food, clothing, and anything else we acquire in the world. In fact true life is something much more than any of these things. Jesus also said:
John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
Therefore, a helpful reminder is that life, true life, is found in Jesus Christ. When we focus too much of earthly things, we miss the true purpose of life. In fact, we miss life itself. It may seem that we are truly alive when we have an abundance of things, but it is an illusion. The one who has nothing but has Jesus Christ has everything. That is a difficult thing to believe, but it is the truth. Life is knowing the only true God.
Focusing on Wealth is Foolish
Focusing on wealth is also foolish. Jesus warned the crowd to guard themselves against greed. He then told them the parable of the rich man to illustrate this truth. The rich man in the story looked at all that he had, and said to himself:
Luke 12:19 Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.
The rich man had acquired so many things, he had built bigger barns to store all that he had, that he told himself, “Take it easy. Feast on your goods. Enjoy yourself.” Does that not sound like what the world says to us? Make all the money you can. Get all that you can get. Live the good life. But, what is the good life? What is so good about gathering all the earthly possessions we can, making our lives as easy as we can here, but then missing the greatest thing, the most fulfilling life, and indeed the purpose for which we are here. It is foolish.
In the parable a rich man failed to guard himself against greed and thought that success was measured by the abundance of his possessions. Although he had more than enough, he could think only of himself. Count the number of times he mentioned “I” in this parable.
Luke 12:17–19 17…he thought to himself, “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?” 18 And he said, “I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”
He mentioned “I” six times. If you count “my” it will be ten times. It is apparent that this rich man was focused on one person: himself. He took no thought of using his riches for someone else. This is foolish. After all, can you take your possessions with you when you die? All that you can do is leave it. Focusing on all that we have for our benefit misses the point for which we have things. We are to use things to honor and praise God. We are to use it to give, not keep. The rich man in this parable was foolish. He thought the accumulation of wealth and things was the mark of true life. Jesus said:
Matthew 16:26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
This rich fool focused on the wrong things and the wrong person. He planned for years of ease—a time to eat, drink, and be merry—but an eternal destiny apart from God awaited him. He was going to depart this earthly life, and his wealth, his large crops, and his bigger barns were no good. True life is found in Jesus Christ. Focusing on earthly possessions at the expense of knowing Jesus is both foolish and deadly.
Make Life about Treasuring God
Do you think God is impressed with our material possessions? Do you think He expects us to get all that we can so that we can take it easy and live the good life? Apparently not! The last point here is that while we are not to focus on acquiring riches here in this life, we are to be rich, though. In the last verse of this parable, Jesus said, it is foolish to lay up treasure for ourselves and “not [be] rich toward God.” God wants us to be rich in Him! This is similar to having “treasure in heaven.” God wants us to be rich in heavenly, eternal things, not earthly, temporary things. Therefore, getting more wealth is not the problem. What we do with it can be a problem. Our wealth should be used to glorify God. If Jesus saw our check books and budgets, would He say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” or would He say, “You have been foolish with the things I have given you.” Our check books and budgets will determine what is most important to us?
I think this goes to the heart of where our treasure truly is. Do we have money and things for our benefit or for the benefit of a particular church, or does God entrust to us these things for something bigger? I believe it is for something bigger! Let me encourage you to think of your money and the Church’s assets as resources to reach more people for Jesus Christ. And to be clear, reaching folks for Jesus Christ is more than people coming to a particular church. That is part of it, but it is really about bringing more people into the Kingdom of God, wherever they happen to be. Anytime we have an opportunity to use what God has given us to expand His Kingdom, no matter where that happens to be, we ought to support it. Some people think it is a waste of money to send money to missionaries to preach the gospel when they cannot see the results. It is true, we may never see the result of supporting missions. In fact, we may never see the results in any evangelistic effort we do. Does that mean we should not do it? It may not seem like a good use of our resources, but it is. It is treasure in heaven.
Some of you may be good at making investments. It is like the stock market, you want to buy low and sell high. You look for investments that will yield a high return. We need to think in that way. We need to invest our earthly assets in order to make an eternal return. How can we use what God has given us to treasure Him more? How can we take what He has entrusted to us in order to make an eternal difference, such as more souls for the Kingdom of God? We need to think like that. It is not about making our lives better, like the rich man saying to himself, “relax, eat, drink, be merry.” It is not about making our lives more comfortable, but about reaching the world for Jesus Christ. What is invested with God is permanent. When God took the life of the greedy rich man, his temporary possessions were all left behind. Instead of being rich toward God, he lost all he ever gained and far more. Be rich towards God, not towards yourself.
Our money and our possessions are not permanent. We will not take them with us when we leave this world. However, we can invest them into the Kingdom of God. We can be rich towards God. Jesus told this parable about a foolish rich man to make a point:
Guard against the foolish desire for earthly wealth and invest in eternal things.
Seek first the Kingdom of God, focus not on earthly treasure, and make God your most treasured possession. Be rich in Him. Later in the same passage, Jesus said:
Luke 12:34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
What ever you desire most will be your treasure! Does your life show your treasure to be God or the things of this world? Do you desire Him above every other thing and person? If you do, then you will value the things God values. Share Jesus Christ. Give to the ministry of reaching the world for Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the hope that the whole world desperately needs to hear. Let us generously support that with what God so generously entrusts to us. By doing so, you will lay up treasure in heaven. Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.