Set for Life (On the Way to the Cross - Part 13) Back to all sermons
Date: January 5, 2014
Speaker: Micah Mercer
Series: On the Way to the Cross
Scripture: Luke 12:13–12:34
Synopsis: We all long to be set for life in terms of our money and possessions. The problem is that most of us are not where we want to be, or are afraid to lose what we have.The problem is that this longing leads to coveting, hording, and anxiety because your heart is always with what you treasure. Jesus taught that his followers are to handle money and possessions in better way that is free from these sins and glorifying to God.
If I could just win the lottery, I would be set for life. Once my business becomes profitable, I will be set for life. If I had half the opportunities as that rich person, I would be set for life. Have you heard people say this sort of thing before? Have you ever imagined what you could do if you had a lot of money? Do you have a lot of money and still find that it’s not enough? Or do you spend sleepless nights worrying about how your family will eat and be clothed?
Money and possessions are a source of anxiety for the poor, the rich, and everyone in between. Nearly every one of us has some sort of goal or ideal lifestyle that we strive to attain. For many of us, this ideal is lofty and far off; something we dream about. For some of us, it is something that we strive to hold on to, living in fear that it could all slip through our fingers and be gone.
The result is that we very often tend toward worrying about how we will live, coveting the things other people have, and hoarding our money and possessions. In our passage today, Jesus says there is another way to live in regard to finances. A way that is free from worry, free from fear. A way that has greater rewards than the highest salary can offer.
Let’s start with Luke 12:13-15:
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he 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.”
Jesus would not be caught up in someone’s financial dispute, instead he used the situation as an opportunity to teach his disciples that there is a better way, a Godly way, to deal with money and possessions.
The central principal behind Jesus’ teaching in this passage is verse 34: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Think about that statement for a moment. Whatever it is that you spend the most energy thinking about, worrying about, wishing you had, trying to hold on to, and striving toward is your treasure.
Jesus taught on two aspects of this truth that we will pick out from our passage today. The first is that Life is not found in the accumulation of things. Or as Jesus put it in verse 15 “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
The beginning of the passage today involves a dispute between two brothers. One appears to have received the family inheritance and has not shared that with the other. So the second brother now sees what the first brother has and he wants some of it. That is the very definition of covetousness. You see what someone else has and you want it.
You know what I’m talking about. When you see that your friend has a nicer car than you and you want one too. When you see that other lady with the luxury bag and you think, “If only I had that everyone would envy me.” When you know someone who always seems to have time and money for extravagant vacations, and you wish you had that. Or you see someone else’s husband or wife and wish you could trade yours in. The funny thing about covetousness is that things always seem so wonderful until you actually get them. Once you have that thing you coveted, it’s never as good as you thought it would be.
The law of God, especially the tenth of the Ten Commandment, expressly prohibits desiring what other people have. Throughout the Bible, covetousness is seen to lead to theft, disobeying other commands of God, and even war. It is no wonder that Jesus said in verse 15 to “be on guard against all covetousness.”
So what is the alternative to coveting? It is actually related to what we talked about last week. In Romans 13:9-10, Paul said:
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Coveting what others have not only displays a massive lack of trust in God and thankfulness for what He has provided to you, what it actually displays a lack of love for your neighbor. The better way is to love your neighbor instead of coveting what they have. You see, if you love your neighbor, you will rejoice with them in their blessings instead of desiring to have them yourself.
The danger of desiring to have things exerts itself in another way that Jesus pointed out the parable of verses 16-21. Let’s reread verses 16-19:
”16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and 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.’
We are told that the man in this story was already rich, he owned his fields, and that one year his land produced abundantly. It was such a bumper crop that the man did not have enough space to store it all. So, he made a plan to tear down his old barns, build bigger ones, store all his produce and live off the returns for many years to come.
It really seems like this man was living the dream. He was set for life, or at least for the foreseeable future. He could retire early and really start living. But there was something wrong with his plan, something that angered God and prompted a warning from Jesus as we see in verses 20-21.
20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Within our cultural context, this might be a bit hard to understand. We tend to think that retiring to a life of ease is a very good thing. Why would God be angry about that? We can begin to answer this question with the fact that God called the man a fool. In biblical terms, a fool is not just a stupid person, but one who lives as if there were no God. (See Psalm 14: “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.””)
In what way was the rich man living as if there were no God? Look at this passage from Deuteronomy 10:18-19:
[God] executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
Time and again in the law of the Old Testament, God commanded His people to love and generously provide for the powerless and needy people among them. When harvesting crops, they were commanded to pass through the fields only once and not to pick up anything that was dropped so that orphans, widows, and foreigners could come and glean in the fields. Even the holy tithe God required of everyone was to be distributed to provide food for Levites, orphans, widows, and foreigners.
In this light, the rich man in Jesus’ story was aggressively self-centered. He even talked to himself while making his plan. Remember, he was already rich. That means his old barns were already able to store more than he needed. Apparently the OT Commands to love neighbors, widows, orphans, and foreigners did not even enter his mind. The only thing that did come to his mind was to hoard his wealth so that he could live an easy life, ignoring his neighbors, ignoring the needy, and ignoring God.
God was angry with him and demanded his soul that very night before he could even begin any of his plans. Death brought a swift end to all his material gain and Jesus warned that this is the outcome for those who hoard treasures for themselves and are not rich toward God. The better way for us here is to do just the opposite. Do not horde what you have but be rich where God is concerned. (The better way is to be rich where God is concerned instead of hoarding wealth.)
John Wesley in one of his sermons wrote, ‘First gain all you can, second save all you can, then give all you can.’ In other words, be diligent in your work, get promotions, earn as much as you can without compromising richness toward God. Then save all you can, not in the sense of horading, but in the sense of living frugally, wisely, and below your means. Finally, give all you can. The goal for us should not be to accumulate more, but to give more.
The way John Wesley applied his philosophy in his own life: During his time at Oxford University, his salary was 30 pounds per year which was enough to live on at the time. He lived on 28 pounds and gave away 2. Later as his salary increased to 60, 90, and 120 pounds per year, he still lived on 28 pounds per year and gave away the rest to those in need.
I think this is a great example of following Jesus’ advice in this passage. In verse 33, Jesus said, “Sell your possessions and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.” Instead of striving for a higher income to increase our lifestyles and make ourselves ‘secure,’ we are commanded to use our blessings to bless others. In fact, I believe the biblical principle is that we bless others so that God will bless us so that we can bless others more.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. If you treasure having lots of things or the best things, you will be unable to love your neighbor, instead coveting what they have and hoarding what you have. The second aspect of this truth of your heart being where your treasure is that Jesus taught in our passage today is that Life is more than food and clothing.
22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
Abu Dhabi has an abundance of shopping malls and more are being built even as we speak. One of the wonderful things about shopping malls is that they are a perfect illustration of what Jesus meant by the nations seek after what to eat and what to wear. Think about it: How much space in the Mushrif Mall is dedicated to things you neither eat nor wear? Why is it that we are so fixated on food and fashion?
I would argue that this is because food and clothing are two of our basic needs as human beings. It is so deeply ingrained in us to be hyper-concerned about these two needs that even when we have enough of both we still want more. Yet, there are those among us who stay awake at night worrying about what they will wear and how they will eat. This is the opposite side of the hoarding coin and it is no less sinful.
To this Jesus said, “Do not be anxious.” His essential argument is that worrying does no good. It is an absolutely worthless endeavor. Why? First of all, because you are precious to God. God feeds birds even though they don’t work and he clothes grass with the kingly finery of flowers even though it’s burned up tomorrow. You are much more precious to God than birds and grass. He is able to clothe and feed you.
Secondly, Jesus pointed out that worry will not add a single hour to your life. Think about that. What are you trying to accomplish when you worry? Is it not safety, security, and provision that you mostly worry about? The sad thing is that we worry about these things, but the act of worrying doesn’t change our situations. It is useless to worry.
Finally, Jesus called those of us who worry about food and clothing “you of little faith.” Worrying about life, like covetousness and hoarding demonstrates that we do not really trust God and are not satisfied in Him. It is actually sinful therefore to worry.
Jesus said there is a much better way to live. That is to Seek God’s kingdom instead of worrying about what you will eat or wear. I want to point out that this is not a license to be lazy or to be foolish with money. You can’t expect God to provide for you if you lay around all day instead of being diligent. Or if you wantonly waste your resources on things you don’t need. What we are looking at here is simply a different focus in life: A focus on heavenly things instead of worldly things.
Think about it this way: If you clothe yourself with honor, purity and goodness, nothing on earth can take away or destroy these fine clothes. If your food is the Word of God, you will feast forever and never go hungry. Attached to this in verses 30-31 is a wonderful promise that when you bend all your life to obeying God, to seeking His kingdom, to focusing on His heavenly treasures, He will add to you the physical things you need as well. Trust God to take care of your bodily needs, you just focus on His Kingdom.
You might be thinking that this is good in theory, but what about in practice? The most practical way to live in this world that God has made is by God’s rules. I am living proof of this truth. Seven years ago I stopped living for and worrying about how to get money for food, clothing, and shelter. I entrusted myself to God and began to focus on obeying Him and storing up heavenly treasure, and God has faithfully provided all I have needed for food, clothes, housing, education, and much more. This is not just a nice thing that Jesus said. It is the truth and it is practical.
To echo what Pastor Cam said in a sermon a few weeks back, I decided not to make decisions based solely on finances, but on what I believe God is leading me to do. Do not worry, trust God and seek His Kingdom.
In all of these ways, Jesus practiced what he preached. He treasured what he knew would be the great joy of redeeming a people for himself and being back in his rightful place at the right hand of the throne of God. His heart was so set on his Father’s kingdom that he endured the shame of the cross so that we could be clothed with his righteousness and therefore become a people fit for his kingdom.
Your heart is where your treasure is. If God’s Kingdom is your treasure, you heart will be set on God’s Kingdom. If you seek treasures in heaven, your heart will be set on heavenly things and you will be set for life. If you seek earthly treasures your heart will be ensnared by worldly things and you will be full of covetousness, greed, and anxiety.
One of the ways I think we live with our hearts in worldly treasure is this whole idea of living for retirement. I say living for retirement because the first time someone told me that I needed to plan for retirement, I was 13 years old and in my 5th year of school. We strive to store up in big barns throughout our lives so that some day we can take it easy. Some day we can say to our souls, “Soul, you have plenty laid up for many years to come: relax, eat, drink, and be merry.”
In living this way are we not committing the same error as the rich fool of Jesus’ parable? We need to be rich toward God and not toward our retirement funds. We need to make God’s Kingdom the central priority and goal of our lives.
I also want to challenge you to think about how much income you actually need to live on. Are there areas of life where you spend unnecessarily? We don’t need to live like monks, but I think we do need to save all we can. This is not so that we can have a bigger number in the bank account, but so that we can give away as much as possible. In doing so we build trust in God, overcome the temptation of lavish living, and we display the gospel at work in our lives.
There is another profound truth in our text today. Jesus said not to worry about what you will eat or wear because he will provide for you as you seek his kingdom. Now think of this: Where ought this provision for those among us who are tempted to worry because they currently don’t have work for God to bless them in? Should it not come from those of us in the body of Christ whom God has blessed with abundance? Why should it be so hard for us to give when we have more than we need and there are those among us who do not have enough.
Concern about money and possessions can lead us to coveting, hoarding, and anxiety. Jesus taught that there is a better way when your treasures are in heaven instead of on Earth. His teach comes down to three things: Be rich toward God, Seek God’s Kingdom, and store up treasures in heaven. Then you will be set for life.
32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.