Sunday, June 5, 2022

The Parable of the Rich Fool: American Consumerism vs. God-centered Security

"From the standpoint of material wealth, Americans have difficulty realizing how rich we are. Going through a little mental exercise suggested by Robert Heilbroner can help us to count our blessings, however. Imagine doing the following, and you will see how daily life is for as many as a billion people in the world.

1. Take out all the furniture in your home except for one table and a couple of chairs. Use blanket and pads for beds.

2. Take away all of your clothing except for your oldest dress or suit, shirt or blouse. Leave only one pair of shoes.

3. Empty the pantry and the refrigerator except for a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a few potatoes, some onions, and a dish of dried beans.

4. Dismantle the bathroom, shut off the running water, and remove all the electrical wiring in your house.

5. Take away the house itself and move the family into the tool shed.

6. Place your "house' in a shantytown.

7. Cancel all subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, and book clubs. This is no great loss because now none of you can read anyway.

8. Leave only one radio for the whole shantytown.

9. Move the nearest hospital or clinic ten miles away and put a midwife in charge instead of a doctor.

10. Throw away your bankbooks, stock certificates, pension plans, and insurance policies. Leave the family a cash hoard of ten dollars.

11. Give the head of the family a few acres to cultivate on which he can raise a few hundred dollars of cash crops, of which one third will go to the landlord and one tenth to the money lenders.

12. Lop off twenty-five or more years in life expectancy.

By comparison how rich we are! And with our wealth comes responsibility to use it wisely, not to be wasteful, and to help others. Think on these things."
-Steve Williams

Sometimes we can forget in the United States just how wealthy we are. When we read the scriptures, we find many references to wealth, and the deceitfulness of wealth, and the danger of trusting in wealth before we trust in God.

So we must always remind ourselves, we’ve been entrusted with much wealth, every one of us here, and we’re called to use it wisely.

Wealth can be very deceitful.

Do you recall the account of the rich young ruler? He came to Jesus wanting to know how to receive salvation. And Jesus called him out about his wealth, he said give it to the poor and come follow me. But the young man loved his wealth so much he became sad and left. When we read about this rich man, we often think, well I can’t relate, I’m not that rich. But consider this prayer, A prayer written in Philip Yancey and Paul Brand’s book Fearfully and Wonderfully Made:

"Dear Lord,
I have been re-reading the record of the Rich Young Ruler and his obviously wrong choice. But it has set me thinking. No matter how much wealth he had, he could not-- ride in a car, have any surgery, turn on a light, buy penicillin, hear a pipe organ, watch TV, wash dishes in running water, type a letter, mow a lawn, fly in an airplane, sleep on an innerspring mattress, or talk on the phone,
If he was rich, then what am I?"
-P. Brand, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, p. 61.

Each of us today are in at least some ways as wealthy as the rich young ruler.

And this brings us to our parable today, from Luke chapter 12.

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

Have you ever seen or been part of a nasty dispute of an inheritance? Why does it often get so ugly after a parent dies? The kids fight over the possessions. The family will sometimes break apart and no longer communicate like they used to. It’s amazing how important the parents are to holding a family together.

In this situation a man came to Jesus. He’s standing a few feet from the living God on Earth. He’s got the opportunity to ask any question, he could ask, Lord what is the meaning of life? God, what is your purpose for my life? What is the plan of salvation? What is heaven like? What will the end times be like?

Instead, he brings up a petty dispute about money.

Jesus rebukes him wisely, and says, I’ve not been appointed a judge in this case. Secondly, be on guard.

That’s the first point I want to emphasize to you today, in general in your Christian life you need to be on guard against all sorts of things. Be on guard against laziness, be on guard against lust, be on guard against lukewarmness. It’s a common saying in the new testament. Be on guard. But today the emphasis is, be on guard against greed. The desire for more, more, more and in particular, in the abundance of wealth and possessions.

How does one “be on guard” though? We keep a watch on it. I ask myself the question, am I trusting in my wealth for my safety in life? Or am I really trusting in God? And that as well, is the main question I want you addressing in your mind during this sermon.

So in the context of this conversation he’s having with a man who wants money from a recent inheritance, Jesus tells our parable.

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But 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?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” -Luke 12:13-21

What’s going on in this parable? When we first read this on a surface level, it seems like the rich man is being fairly wise, right? He apparently owns a very large farm, with several barns, and he has a very good year with his crops.

So he has this massive surplus of grain. What does he do? He tears down his barns and builds bigger ones, and there he says I’ll store my surplus of grain. Alright, that’s reasonable I suppose. But then we see the key issue here, he says top himself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink and be merry.”

Here is the massive problem in this situation. He is trusting in the wealth he is storing up for his safety, for his blessing, indeed for his very soul. This is something I think we as American's often do and we don’t even realize it.

We say hey, I have my bank account with the money in it. I have my insurance plan. I have food stored up in my fridge and cupboards. I have the government, the laws, the police, my family. My children, my relatives. I have all I need. And very slowly, very quietly, and a bit arrogantly, we slowly shift God off the throne, as we trust in the god of money and power and prestige over the only true and living God.

Are you guilty today of this crime against God? Are you?

That is another question to ask ourselves today. When it comes right down to it, to where our feet hit the ground, where the rubber meets the road, do you trust in God or in your finances and personal power?

How does God respond to the rich man who puts off his feet, trusting in his big bank account. God speaks to him this way: 20 “But 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?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

God calls him a fool. That’s serious stuff. Because we’re told in the scriptures that a fool is the worst someone can be. A fool is someone in the book of proverbs which we’ve been studying at life group the last few weeks, someone who is completely in the wrong about just about everything.

God says to this person, so tonight you’re going to die, and what’s going to happen to all the wealth you accumulated? It’s gone in the blink of an eye. It will all go to someone else. For an inheritance. But he would’ve lost everything. Why? Not because he stored up wealth. That is not the central issue. It’s not wrong to have money, or to store up wealth, but this rich man is also a fool, because he is trusting in the wealth for his security in life, he is not trusting God.

He is poor in the things of God, and rich in worldly wealth. His soul is doomed to hell as a result.

Particularly in the United States, this is a serious concern. We can often have a sort of cultural Christianity. A sort of lukewarm Christianity. We think to ourselves that we trust in God, but we’re actually trusting our own affluence. I want to draw in another scripture from the book of revelation to illustrate this point.

It says in Revelation 3:15-18 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

This is from the 7 letters to the churches in the book of Revelation, and some believe that the letter to the church of Laodicea here is actually referencing the body of Christ today, in the lead up to the end times, when the body of Christ is lukewarm, and trusting in wealth, instead of trusting in God.

God is saying to some of us today, hey, you think you’re covered, you are not. So instead of trusting money, trust in me, I’ll give you clean white clothes to wear, salve for your eyes, so you can see, and a new golden beautiful spirit refined in the fire.
So in conclusion today, I want to give you some tips for making sure you keep God first as the trusted support for your life.

1. Always pray over every meal: And when you pray say this: God, we know this food doesn’t come from our wealth, no, it’s a gift from you.”

2. When you receive your pay, set aside the tithe: And when you do, say to God, Lord, this is not my money, this is your money, and I will steward it to honor you.

3. Every once in a while as you sit at home look around at all your possessions, furniture, bed, paintings, clothes, vehicles, and say this: “Lord, I know none of this comes from me, my abilities or talents, no, all of this comes from you God.

God, you are my provider. Everything I have is from you. Everything America has is from you. Without you lord we are nothing. We have nothing without you God, in Jesus name, amen.