DOXOLOGY Encore Retreat, Springfield, IL
TEXT: LUKE 12:13-21
YOUR LIFE CONSISTS IN THE RICHNESS OF GOD SHOWERED UPON YOU THROUGH THE POVERTY OF CHRIST!
Rev. Kenneth Wieting

To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ gathered at the Chiara Center; Grace to you and peace from God our Father (see Col 1:2).  “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.”


Dear Hearers of the Word; Jesus was setting His mind on things above – not on the vanities of this passing life!  He had just taught a crowd of thousands that God heard all the secret things they ever said (Lk. 12:2, 3).  He taught them not to fear those who had power to kill the body but the one who had authority to cast into hell (v.5).  He taught that the one denying Him before men would be denied before the angels of God (v.9).

DOXOLOGY Encore Retreat, Springfield, IL
TEXT: LUKE 12:13-21
YOUR LIFE CONSISTS IN THE RICHNESS OF GOD SHOWERED UPON YOU THROUGH THE POVERTY OF CHRIST!
Rev. Kenneth Wieting

To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ gathered at the Chiara Center; Grace to you and peace from God our Father (see Col 1:2).  “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.”


Dear Hearers of the Word; Jesus was setting His mind on things above – not on the vanities of this passing life!  He had just taught a crowd of thousands that God heard all the secret things they ever said (Lk. 12:2, 3).  He taught them not to fear those who had power to kill the body but the one who had authority to cast into hell (v.5).  He taught that the one denying Him before men would be denied before the angels of God (v.9).


Right then, straight on the heels of Jesus’ words about things in heaven above and below in hell, a man in the crowd voiced an incredible request.  “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”  If the Father died without a written will, the older brother must agree to a division of the property.  No doubt this is the younger brother who wanted his fair share of the family stuff right now.  Seems reasonable!  Yet Jesus’ response is swift and severe.  Showing strong displeasure Jesus roughly addresses the petitioner as “Man.”  “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?”  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.”  Then Jesus told the parable of the rich fool.


The man in the parable was not a fool because He was rich.  God had blessed him with riches.  Rather, he was a fool because he was not rich toward God.  He stood on God’s ground in the midst of God’s harvest brought forth by God’s sunshine, and said, my crops, my barns, my grain, my goods, and my soul (really meaning “myself” – both body and soul).  He was rich in caring for himself and saving for his future, but he wasn’t rich toward God.  Still God showered Him with more blessings – a bumper crop. 
 
“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.  The church father Ambrose, speaking on this text said that the rich man had plenty of storage space for his grain – in the mouths of the poor.  His student Augustine said that this man “did not realize that the bellies of the poor were much safer store rooms than his barns.”  But all the personal pronouns, the I(s) and my(s) of his own mouth didn’t allow room for the mouths or the bellies of the poor.  “I will say to my soul, soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry."  In other words, “let the good times roll”. 


He drew on a verse from Ecclesiastes (8:15) that man has no good thing under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful.  But he omitted the second half of the verse noting that it was the days of his life God had given him under the sun.  They weren’t really his goods and he really didn’t have any years left or even God’s gift of one more day for that matter.  God said, you fool!  This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?


All the stuff that consumed his thoughts – the mountain of goods and grain that he schemed to squirrel away – vanity of vanities!  Perhaps he died alone – with no surviving relatives.  His dialoging with himself would have indicated great isolation from family and village.  It has been said at this conference that no one is so alone as one alone with his sin.  A branch of that thought related to the idolatry of covetousness might be that no one is so alone as he who is alone with his money.  Increasing wealth sometimes moves people to withdraw from neighbors in isolation. 


If this man died alone, whatever the government didn’t get its hands on might well pass to some distant deadbeat relative.  Vanity of vanities!  Or maybe his estate planning was top notch for his wife and children and that is certainly not evil.  But notice what else he would have bequeathed to his survivors – a fatal attitude of accumulation flowing from a covetous heart – flowing from idolatry. 


Was the answer that he should have put God first?  No!  Putting God first is not the answer.  God isn’t first on a to-do list.  Rather as St. Paul wrote to the Colossians, Christ is your life!  Christ is all in all!  Jesus is not the means to an earthly end – more stuff – or comfortable living until the end comes.  He is the end!  He is our life – our all in all! 


The grain and the goods and the fields and the barns and the food and the drink this man enjoyed were all gifts from the hand of God.  So also, all that you have and hold for a brief time on this earth – your money – your home – your possessions – your Concordia Plans – and mine - all of it is God’s on loan to us.  Jesus’ condemning conclusion is comprehensive enough to reach to this house of worship this morning!   So is the one (anyone) who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.  This isn’t God’s hidden will – but clearly revealed.  The very weight of hell – the wrath of God hangs in the balance.

Are you being rich toward God?  That question cannot be answered by looking at anyone else or by comparing yourself with the average Missouri Synod or Wisconsin Synod giver.  Statistical sainthood is not really sainthood.  Comparative Christianity does not come from Christ.  That question cannot be answered because the annual dollar figure of your giving is in the thousands of dollars or tens of thousands of dollars.  That question can be answered only by looking at what God richly gives you through Christ who is all in all.


Are you being rich toward God?  If tonight was your dying time, are you content with your Gospel giving and merciful helping?  If we answer, “yes”, I think I’m rich toward God, we are reminded of the Pharisee who stood in the temple and thanked God that he tithed from all that he received.  From the time he was a teenager on up his giving to the church was statistically rich, 10% rich.  Yet he did not go down to his house right with God.  That intentional, bountiful giver was not rich toward God.


Are you being rich toward God?  Perhaps that question leads us to say – “no, not like I should be”.  I do worry about money and about barns big enough for my spouse and my children.  You see there are real needs and real reversals and we want to be responsible.  But the truth is we also fear one day not having enough because of the insecurity that lies within us.  We are tempted to trust our provision and our plans.  We sometimes covet more things and opportunities – envying what others are able to do and possess.  We often have shallow thankfulness.  We do not always give cheerfully and generously but sometimes with over-cautious reluctance and worry because – after all – we’re not rich! 


Then news from Haiti seeps in – a quarter of a million deaths in a day – amid such abject poverty!  A Lutheran Witness article may call our attention to 1001 orphans – one of which can be fed and clothed and housed and given opportunity to be taught the Scriptures and Small Catechism for $400 a year.  Then there are those door offerings – let’s see – one for Ghana Lutherans – who subsist on one meal a day and do not have the resources to buy enough bread and wine to have the Lord’s Supper – another for seminarians with expenses over $40,000 per year and oftentimes mountains of debt – then there are pastors in the field living below the poverty level with their families – then there are our members who have lost jobs and are struggling to hold on.  Maybe we’re not so poor after all and Jesus’ words stand immovable – So is the one (anyone) who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.


Vanity of vanities!  Does it not sometimes seem as if all is vanity in striving to be rich toward God?  Are we not sometimes tempted to turn about and give our hearts up to despair over such labors?  Does it not sometimes seem as if fulfilling God’s will to be rich toward Him is a striving after the wind, a hot withering, you’ll-never measure-up wind?


When the hot winds of hell blow your way over sins of omission here God grant that the cool breeze of Christ’s poverty waft over you from the cross.  You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich, yet for our sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich (II Cor. 8:9).


How poor did He become?  So poor that He depended on the hospitality of others as He traveled about proclaiming the Gospel and that Judas pilfered from the common money bag.  Yet here I am preaching to you with a salary from my congregation and remuneration from Doxology and mileage for my travels.  The wind from that poverty of Jesus seems to burn even hotter against my fearful, greedy heart.


How poor did Jesus become?  So poor that He had nowhere to lay his head.  Think of where you laid your head these last two nights and where you will lay it tonight.  The wind from Jesus poverty seems even hotter against our dull contentment with sheltered care – with our feasts that know no fasts.


No, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, there is only one depth of poverty which will avail for us.  How poor did Jesus become?  For our sake He made Him who knew no sin to be sin so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (II Cor. 5:21)  The Son of God impoverished Himself to such degree that He was not rich toward God – for sin never is that!  Becoming sin for us He was the greediest, most self-seeking, most covetous, most idolatrous sin bearer that ever lived.  He was loaded down with the sin of my heart – all of it and yours including our mismanagement of God’s gifts (past, present and future).  He bore our iniquities!  By His stripes we are healed.  Those stripes included the punishment of the damned in hell as our substitute.


The payment was total.  His sacrifice was rich beyond calculation!  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  That’s why – although a crucifix isn’t pretty, it is beautiful – the most beautiful sight in this passing world in which all is vanity!  When our debt was cancelled – nailed to the cross – the body of Jesus was laid (planted) in the garden tomb of another rich man – Nicodemus!  And what a bountiful crop that seed produced.  For unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bear much fruit (John 12:12). 


Up from the grave He arose!  It was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him (Acts 2:24).  And now you are part of the overflowing harvest!  You have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, unfading kept in heaven for you (I Peter 1:3, 4)  Your provision for the future will run out – and mine!  His provision for us will not!


You see, Jesus doesn’t love us because we are rich enough toward God.  Rather God loves us because Jesus is rich toward us.  Remember the rich fool’s false delight?  I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.  What he sought to give himself and could not is Christ’s true delight to give to you!  The same Greek word for relax is exactly the word Jesus used to proclaim what He comes to give you.  Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest (Mt. 11:28), that is, I will relax you and put you at ease before God forever and ever.  I will give you a good and a clean conscience. My blood cleanses you from all sin!  I will provide a joyful, banquet feast where you will eat, drink, and be merry without end.  That’s what Jesus worked for under the sun.  That’s what He covers you with in Holy Baptism.  That’s what He comes to serve us in the Divine Service.


You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God!  Now that is rich indeed!  Your giving is also hidden in the richness of Christ.  The thought in your heart – “I want to do better” – comes from the Holy Spirit for whom your body is His temple.  You are so rich and beautiful to God on the inside – infinitely more so than the beauty you see on the inside of this earthly temple.  And on the outside you are clothed with the righteousness of Christ. 


That frees us to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving – to receive our stuff as on loan to us – with the open hand of faith – not the death grip of coveting.  We are free for the new man to daily battle the old man – to seek God’s strength to give generously and cheerfully (with hilarity) for the Gospel and in mercy to our neighbor.  Can we do better?  Certainly!  Can we be richer toward God – Not in the least – for that is determined by the treasure Christ serves us – received in faith. 


The ancient Greeks had a slogan:  “Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.  Since your life is hidden with Christ in God, you can do the Greeks so much better; “Let us eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we live.”  Even when your heart stops beating here, even when you no longer have place or provision in the plans of this world – you live with Christ!


For, you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.


In His Name, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a