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Sermon: Luke 12:13-21
Pentecost 11 – August 25, 2019 – Rev. Steven J. Radunzel

There comes a time in a person’s life when they need to begin to downsize a little bit and sometimes a lot. In other words they need to start getting rid of some of their belongings. And the reason may be that they’re retiring or they’re moving from a house to a smaller house or to an apartment. And it might be that they feel their house is just too cluttered and they need to get rid of a few things.

I’ve been doing a lot of downsizing over the last few months myself. I haven’t been quick to throw things out over the years. So for me there’s been a lot of paper to get rid of – forty years of sermons, forty years of Bible classes, income tax returns going back to 1980, and many other papers and records. I’ve also brought about ten boxes of books from my library up to our seminary where they’ll be sold on a book auction. And then there’s furniture I don’t need anymore and lots of pictures and wall hangings, not to mention clothes, bedding, blankets, rugs, kitchen items, and much more.

In the middle of this whole downsizing process I’ve asked myself the question, “How did I get all this stuff? How or why did I accumulate so many things?” It’s not like I spent large sums of money on lots of expensive items. I didn’t. I bought what I needed, and much was given to me. One way or another we become accumulators of lots of stuff.

Two of our scripture readings today talk to us about the accumulation of things in our lives and that when we die it all goes to someone else. So a very logical question then is what purpose did all that stuff serve in your life? And the much more important question that Jesus really poses in our text is how did all your possessions and wealth affect your relationship with God?

Today we ask the question

Our text today is the parable of the rich fool. I like this parable a lot because Jesus makes a rather obvious lesson so blunt and clear. He tells the parable for quite an interesting reason. While he was preaching among the people someone in the crowd came up to him and said, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Siblings have been fighting over the family inheritance for centuries – an indication already that people have a tendency to want to inherit wealth and to have things and hang on to things.

This man who came to Jesus clearly was having an argument with his brother about dividing up the inheritance from their parents. So he comes to Jesus because he’s a teacher, he’s a well-respected rabbi. He should make the decision about how to divide the inheritance. The man probably thought let’s get a third party to decide this, someone who can be more objective. He clearly respected Jesus and thought he would have the wisdom to decide who gets what. I also suspect that this man imagined that if he got Jesus on his side in deciding this inheritance matter, it might work out pretty well for him.

So he said, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Red flags immediately went up for Jesus! He responded, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” In plain words Jesus was saying, “Oh, no! I’m not getting involved in this. Whatever decision I make would result in two people very angry with me. And more important, I didn’t come into this world to be a judge or a lawyer distributing property. That’s not my job. I came to preach the word of God.”

But Jesus didn’t just walk away from the situation. He saw an opportunity to teach this man, all his listeners, and us an extremely and eternally important lesson. He said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” In plain words: There better be something more important in your life than all the money and wealth and stuff you can accumulate. And if there’s not, you’re going to live a very unfulfilling and unhappy life, and you’ll face a very tragic and bleak eternity.

In our Old Testament reading today King Solomon speaks quite bluntly with similar terms. Solomon was a man who spoke with knowledge about the accumulation of wealth. He was the king of Israel and was one of the richest men in the world. But by the end of his life he put it this way in that intriguing book of Ecclesiastes: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” . . . “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” . . . “I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me.”

It’s interesting that Solomon doesn’t complain about the meaninglessness of possessing much wealth and good things; his complaint is that in the end you just leave it to someone else, and you don’t know if he’ll deal with your possessions and wealth wisely.

Jesus makes a similar point in the parable he tells to the man who was eager to get his family’s inheritance. He says there was a man who was a rich farmer. His fields produced a more than bountiful crop. He harvested so much he didn’t know what he was going to do with it all. So he said to himself that he’d tear down his barns and granaries and build bigger ones. And then when they were built and the fields harvested he would very proudly and self-sufficiently say, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” He had a good plan. We might even think he had a great plan. There was just one thing he did not plan on. That night he was going to die.

And 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?”

Who’s going to get all your stuff? That question forces us to get the proper perspective on all the things we possess. Why do we have all the things we have? How are we going to use our wealth and what we have in life? What’s going to happen to it when we die? And most important, how does our wealth affect our relationship with God? How much do we love our stuff? How much do we love God?

First of all, why do we have all the things we have? We might say, “Well, I worked hard for all the things I own, my car, my vehicles, my home, my bank accounts. And except for gifts and money and material we inherit, we do work hard for the things we have. But God would also gently remind us, as he did the people of Israel, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, . . .”

It is finally God who gives us all we have, and he has given us great abundance. Compared to most of the world we are among the wealthiest people, and we live in the wealthiest nation on earth. God does give us much. So the point of his parable is not that it’s wrong to have lots of stuff. We need homes to live in, clothes to wear, cars to drive us from place to place, money to purchase food and other necessities. We simply need much of what we have in order to live. And if God gives us much more in addition, it’s a testimony to his fatherly grace, love, and goodness. And make sure you regularly thank him for all his goodness and generosity.

God gives us what we have to care for ourselves and support our families. God gives us what we have so that we can give to others and help out people who are in need. And God gives us what we have so that we can show our love to him by bringing him offerings. Our offerings help support the preaching of the gospel here and throughout the world. People will learn to know Jesus and one day be in heaven partly because of our offerings that support the preaching of the gospel.

But don’t make the same mistake that the foolish rich man made. He forgot that he was going to die. And then all his stuff was going to go to someone else. Who’s going to get all your stuff? If you’re wise you should have a will. You have every right to say where your possessions and wealth go. My plan is, God-willing, that by the time I leave this world I won’t have much stuff left to leave to anyone, and whatever financial blessings I have will go to support the preaching of the gospel.

Before you die direct where your stuff is going. Don’t be like the foolish rich man who died much sooner than he thought and didn’t get to enjoy all his wealth. Jesus had to ask him, “Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”

Jesus’ question, most important of all, forces us to get the proper perspective on all that we possess. Concerning the foolish rich man Jesus concludes, “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” How much do you love your stuff? How much do you love God? Finally, that’s what this parable is all about.

Use wisely what God blesses you with in life. Enjoy the blessings God gives to you. And if God blesses you with great wealth and abundance then praise God and thank him every day of your life. And I’ll even say use the blessings of God to eat, drink, and be merry. Don’t sin, but eat, drink, and be merry. Solomon would agree: “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?”

But love God more! That’s what Jesus’ parable is all about. Love God more. Love God more than your house, your car, your vehicles, your money, your bank accounts or anything else that you have. Love God more than anything else.

Love God more than anything because he loved you first more than anything else. He sent his Son Jesus to die on a cross to atone for your sins. He raised Jesus from the dead victorious over sin, death, and hell. Because of Jesus you and I can also rise one day from the dead and live with God forever in heaven.

That’s why the question is so important: Who’s going to get all your stuff? You and I are going to die. That’s what the foolish rich man forgot. That’s what millions of present day fools also forget. You and I are going to die, and we can’t take anything with us from this life. Someone else is going to get it all.

So love God now more than anything. Repent of your sins each day, and thank God for sending Jesus to save you. And when you and I die, God will welcome us into heaven where there will be eternal blessings beyond anything this world could ever offer. Amen.