Sermon / Feb 9, 2014 / Luke 12:13-21 / Free & Joyous Response Part Two / Jesus is True Contentment / Pastor Ted Giese
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Luke 12:13-21 / Sunday February 9th 2014
Someone in the crowd said to [Jesus], “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But [Jesus] said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And [Jesus] said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 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. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, 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 the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:13-21 ESV)
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. In today's Gospel we have some good advice from Jesus “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Listen carefully to the voice of the Lord, hear these words, they are spoken as crisply and firmly today as they were spoken nearly 2,000 years ago. The root of these words of advice and the parable Jesus tells afterwards can be found in the ninth and tenth commandments.
The ninth and tenth commandments are the commandments that deal with coveting and yes coveting is a sin, a sin equal to cold blooded murder and callous, selfish adultery, equal to opportunistic theft, equal to breaking any and all of the other commandments. First let's review these commandments so we know what it is that we are to be on guard against.
The Ninth Commandment: "You shall not covet your neighbour’s house."
What does this mean? "We should fear and love God so that we do not scheme to get our neighbour’s inheritance or house, or get it in a way which only appears right, but help and be of service to him in keeping it."
The man from the crowed in our Gospel reading says to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus wisely responds “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” Why is this a wise response? It's wise because if Jesus was to agree to that request Jesus would have been aiding this man in a scheme to get his neighbour (in this case his brother's) inheritance, in a way that only appeared right. If Jesus had agreed with his request this man could have gone back and said, 'that teacher Jesus said you have to split the inheritance with me." The trouble comes in the coveting, the man only asks Jesus this question because he covets his brother's inheritance, their dead father's wealth and worldly possessions. If you're looking for an example of a spot where Jesus is shown to be without sin this is a good one, because in it Jesus not only avoids coveting but will not assist in the covetous actions of another person. In fact by shutting this down and by telling the parable Jesus helps the man's brother keep his inheritance, thereby fulfilling the law, not only by resisting the temptation, but also in the positive sense of the law by serving and helping His neighbour.
The ninth commandment covers the topic of a person's house and or inheritance what about other things a person might have a sinful desire to acquire? For everything else God gives you the tenth commandment:
The Tenth Commandment "You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour."
What does this mean? "We should fear and love God so that we do not entice or force away our neighbour’s wife, workers, or animals, or turn them against him, but urge them to stay and do their duty."
At our Thursday evening Bible study with the youth we talked about this commandment and a discussion came up about corporate headhunting, yes your youth do in fact think about these things sometimes. The question was this, and I paraphrase, "What about the person whose job it is to find an employee in another company and convince them to change companies: The Head-Hunter who offers them better money to leave the company they work for to come work for the Head-Hunters company. Is that breaking the 10th commandment?" Yup! in fact I said "that's institutionalized coveting, where the owner of the company is so rich that he can hire a person to covet for him because he's too busy rolling around on his giant pile of money." OK that last part might be hyperbole, an exaggeration but you get the picture. The truth is that coveting is more complex and pops up in more places in our lives than we would imagine. It's not just the intense desire to have something that isn't ours to have, it can be banal, it can be institutionalized to the point that it looks right and normal, coveting can happen with no desire just as it can happen with other sins, coveting can become an evil routine.
For example coveting doesn't always involve money: The tenth commandment expands on the ninth, it includes relationships too. People will covet their neighbours wife or husband and even sadly act out on these covetous feelings all they while excusing them by saying "I'm in love" or "we're in love," or "I'm not in love with my wife or husband anymore" or "we fell out of love." The world has been conditioned by sin to see this as somehow OK even if it's sad. Then they will use divorce to finalize their covetous action "in a way which only appears right." True love would "urge them to stay and do their duty" in their marriage. This kind of disregard for marriage has become routine in our culture. At first this whole situation looks like it's about the 6th commandment, the commandment about adultery, or in the case of corporate head-hunters or inheritances it looks as if it's really about the 7th commandment (about theft), but all of these and the breaking of all of the other commandments usually has a component of coveting attached to them. It's like a terrible virus that enters the body and grows and eventually brings death without treatment. Saint James in his epistle puts it like this, he says that "each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." And so coveting can lead to other sin, and this is why Jesus says that we are to "Take care, and be on [our] guard against all covetousness."
Today we are in week two of our focus on stewardship. And as you can tell from looking at these commandments, which our Gospel reading draws attention to, coveting is about more than money, just as good stewardship is about more than money. What the man in the crowd is struggling with is contentment, this is the thing that we all struggle with when it comes to coveting. If coveting was one side of a coin, contentment would be the other side.
When someone is content with life
- then they are free to live it.
When someone is content with their wealth
- they are free to give it away.
When they are content with their time
- they are free to spend it on others.
When they are content with their marriage
- they build up other people in their marriage.
If in the dead of night when you least expect it God says to you, "This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?" the one who is content will say, "Whosesoever You plan to give it to, I'll need it not, I'll be where You are LORD, and Where You are there is no lack." In that place I will lack nothing.
In life we do prepare for death, this is good, in the parable the man Jesus gives as an example had no thought to his death he was simple satisfied with his life in the moment. Yet the moment will pass and when it does, if riches pass with it whose hands will you be in? It is better by far to be in the hands of Jesus. We draw up a will out of care for those we love because without a will they will not be as well looked after when we die as they would be if there is a will in place. Yet even still, whether poor or rich, their life will be best lived in contentment and trust in Jesus.
When you're endlessly anxious about your life and you think that your life is wrapped up in your things and that it's all your responsibility and the whole thing in crushing down on you remember what Jesus says, remember who you are: Jesus says, "One's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Your life is in Christ Jesus, your life is not your own possession for "you are not your own, for you were bought with a price," "not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ." In this way you are His possession, and as His possession you can rest assured that He will take care of you. You are in the palm of His hand whether you are rich or whether you are poor, and in His hand you are secure because Jesus tells you that He gives you eternal life, He assures you that you will never perish, and that no one will snatch you out of His hand. He has an inheritance to give to you, the Father lavished it upon Jesus and for the sake of the cross and Jesus' innocent suffering and death on your behalf this inheritance is now lavished upon you. This inheritance is not split up it's given to all people in the body of Christ.
Jesus knows your daily struggles, Jesus knows the things that tempt you. He knows this not just in His omniscience, His all seeing Divine nature, He knows this because He's experienced first hand the full spectrum of physical existence. So whether you consider yourself rich or poor Jesus knows your daily struggle. Your Lord Jesus knows what it is like to be hungry just as He knows what it's like to have expensive perfume poured on His feet. He knows what it's like to receive glory and praise from people and what it's like to be spat upon and beaten. He's been received under the roof of the rich man and He's lived without a place to lay His head. Born in a Stable, enthroned at God's right hand. He's hammered nails and worked with wood and He's been wrapped in the robe of a king.
Jesus knows the riches of the world and He resisted the temptation to covet them, Jesus knows the poorness of the world and poverty didn't entice Him into coveting riches. After Jesus' baptism in the Jordan river when He was in the wilderness those forty days, when the "devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And ... said to [Jesus], “All these I will give You, if You will fall down and worship me.” Jesus refused the temptation to covet, Jesus denied the temptations of Satan and "said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.’”
Take heart and know that in following Christ we enter into a life of service, we offer up our time, talents and treasures to help our neighbour in their need. One of the desperate needs that they have, and some don't even know how bad they need it, is to have God's Word in their Life, to have Jesus in their life, to know that their life doesn't consist in the abundance of their possessions, but rather their life will be content in Christ. They need to be brought to this altar to receive the true riches of life - the body and blood of Jesus with the bread and the wine, the gift given to from the cross to you, the only possession that matters, the only inheritance that matters when your soul is required. It is in Jesus that you are rich toward God, He is your true treasure. Let all we have, say and do serve Him cheerfully and be used to share this with those in need. Jesus guards you against being divided from Himself. Jesus removes the sin that seeks to divide the inheritance, He forgives you for coveting and for all that leads out of it. Ask and you shall receive. Jesus is true contentment. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 The text of the commandments is from Ex. 20:3, 7, 8, 12–17 click on the hyperlink to read all ten of the commandments as they are found in the English Standard Version Bible.
 Ibid, Pg 12.
 James 1:14-15
 1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a
 1 Peter 1:18-19
 John 10:28
 Matthew 4:2
 John 12:3
 Mark 9:11
 John 19:3
 Luke 19:1-10
 Matthew 8:20
 Luke 2:7
 Matthew 26:64
 Mark 6:3
 John 19:5
 Matthew 4:8-10
 2 Corinthians 9:7