November 10, 2019
Conversations with Jesus – Luke 12
Are you a good listener or do you get easily distracted? Who says they’re a good listener? Think back to when you were in school-would you attentively listen to the teacher-or were you staring out the window-daydreaming of recess and when class was dismissed? Or what about work seminars? Do you attentively listen to those and really try to grasp the subject matter? Or do you stare at the clock and count down the minutes until the speaker is done and you can go to lunch? It probably depends on what it’s about-whether the seminar contains crucial information you need to know for your job-or whether you have to just be there and endure it as a job requirement. Now the content is important-but it’s the speaker who makes all the difference.
Just think for a moment about your favorite teacher in school. Who was it? Why was that teacher your favorite? Chances are that teacher in one way or another captured your attention. Hopefully we can all think of at least one teacher we’ve had in school who took some dry subject matter and made it interesting. For example, in my freshman year of college, I took two semesters of calculus-and the professor for the 1st semester was terrible-but in 2nd semester-for Calculus 2-I had Professor Eric-and he was a big fan of the Green Bay Packers, he loved cheese and was an excellent calculus teacher. He talked about the Packers and cheese a lot in class-but he also captured our attention and made calculus, of all things, an enjoyable and interesting subject that we really liked studying. It was my favorite class that semester. Now to contrast that-I’m sure we can all think of good subject matter that quickly put us to sleep because of a dull and boring teacher. That same freshman year of college, I also took History of Medieval Literature. And I was so excited about that class. I envisioned books about battles and sword fights and storming the castle-the Knights of the Round Table. And on the first day of class the professor even wore a medieval shirt. I was thinking-this has got to be good, the guy is really getting into the part! Were we ever in for a disappointment. Professor Glenn was so boring and just rambled on about the minutia of medieval life-the best part was his cool shirt. Our minds wandered-we dreaded that class. So Professor Glenn took good subject matter and made it dull, Professor Eric took dull subject matter and made it great. But what do you do when there’s great subject matter and a great teacher? Then you really listen-you’re gripped, you’re soaking it up, your mind is engaged. And that’s exactly what happens when Jesus is teaching.
Open your Bibles to Luke 12 as we continue our series Conversations with Jesus. Now last week we examined chapter 15 which fit so well with communion-but this week we’re backing up a few chapters to highlight a topic that we’ll build on for next week. But look at what happens when Jesus starts teaching-v. 1a. Jesus is basically forced to start teaching with his small group of disciples because so many people-not just 1 thousand but many thousands of people -are packing in to hear Him-they’re trampling one another. You think some wild concert or festival is dangerous-apparently going to hear Jesus is dangerous! Luke is capturing the excitement as people are coming in droves. But can you blame them? Here’s the Son of God speaking-wouldn’t you want to hear Him? And without stadiums and microphones and sound systems, you had to pack in as close as possible. But Jesus is bringing it home-as He always does. He’s taking about hypocrisy and gossip-v. 3-ouch! Be careful what you say. Then He’s talking about the comfort of trusting God-v. 6-7. He’s talking about confessing your testimony before others-v. 8; then He’s talking about relying on the Holy Spirit-v. 11-12. So Jesus is preaching on some really important topics. He’s talking about salvation and forgiveness and the power of the Holy Spirit-critical truths upon which our eternal destinies are based. So you can picture this crowd zeroed in on what Jesus is saying, trampling each other for a better seat. Nobody’s falling asleep or getting bored or letting their minds wander-except one. There’s always one. But I want you to really picture what Luke is describing here because it’s remarkable. All of a sudden, right in the midst of Jesus’ sermon where He’s making all these great points-somebody interrupts Him-v. 13.
Talk about boldness! Talk about coming out of left field! This is incredible. Do you see any place in Jesus’ sermon where He’s addressed property rights or inheritance issues? No. Has Jesus talked about having good relationships with your family or how to deal graciously with people in this sermon? No. Has He even discussed money in this sermon? No at all-but here’s some guy randomly yelling out in the middle of Jesus’ message-Hey Teacher, teacher-I’ve got a brother who’s really stingy with money. Tell him to share more! Not even relevant, not on topic; it’s not even a good questions. It has nothing to do with anybody but himself. Hey Jesus-shouldn’t I get half that money? You’ve got to talk some sense into my brother and straighten him out! I bet everybody’s hoping Jesus will straighten this guy out! But this would be like someone shouting out in the middle of the sermon here at church-Hey, can you tell my brother to share. He keeps hogging all the good candy for himself. Can you tell my boss to give me a raise-I deserve better pay! People would wonder what’s up with that-go figure it out yourself! Here in Luke they would have wondered –What? You interrupted Jesus for this? Were you even listening to what He’s saying? I’m sure this is why Luke included it because it was so out of the blue and random-tell my brother to share. And yet we know this is when Jesus handles things brilliantly. Look at His response-v. 14. The modern day equivalent is Jesus saying-Dude, what’s up with that question? That’s for you to deal with. It’s not my problem. He’s clearly saying to him-I’m not a lawyer or magistrate-that’s why courts exist-go there. Jesus wasn’t interested in debating the fine points of the law with this guy or determining how much inheritance he should get.
But think about it-here’s this huge crowd of people-many thousands-as Luke said-all listening to Jesus speak about the gospel and salvation-and yet here’s some guy only worried about himself, making sure he doesn’t get ripped off on his inheritance. He has such a me-centered perspective on things. So let us be reminded once again that the Lord doesn’t exist to bow to our demands. He’s not there to answer every whim or wish or instantly solve all our problems. Maybe none of us would be so bold as to interrupt a sermon, but don’t we often approach God in a similar fashion-Lord, you have to do this for me right now. You’ve got to do something about those people in my life-straighten them out. You have to solve these problems I’m facing and fix them right away! We often expect the Lord to jump because we said so-but that’s not how He works. He’s not obligated to answer our requests in the exact moment or way we’re demanding. Jesus doesn’t actually address this guy’s question. There’s no further interaction He has with him-but He does take the time to expose His thinking and use it as a teaching opportunity-v. 14. And then notice what Jesus does-He turns back to the huge crowd-v. 15. If you have the NIV it captures Jesus’ words even more forcefully-Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed. Jesus isn’t being nice to this guy. He isn’t talking softly or comforting-Thanks for the question buddy, let me encourage you to not worry about money so much. Jesus is saying to the crowd-Don’t be like this guy! The whole time I talked about the gospel-and this guy has money and materialism on the brain! He’s holding him up as an example-Watch out so that greed doesn’t consume you like it does to him. Here’s Jesus Himself right in front of him preaching-does it get any better than that? We talked about good, engaging teachers-people are trampling over each other to hear Jesus-and yet this guy’s worried about his inheritance. But greed is a sneaky little sin!
Go back to Jesus’ words. He said-Watch out; Take care; be on your guard. He’s giving a warning because greed and covetousness is sneaky. Does Jesus say watch out so you don’t lie. No-because when you’re lying you know it and are hoping your lie is believed! But greed is far more sly. Even though we all know the world is full of greed and materialism, hardly anybody ever thinks it’s true of them. In a Bible study or small group-have you ever heard anyone confess that they were too greedy and loved money too much? I haven’t. I’ve heard people confess anger issues, bitterness, addictions, lust, dishonesty-but not greed. I’ve never heard anyone say-I just love money-and I spend way too much on myself. I’m so greedy-me, me, me. I need to cut back. No one says that because greed always tries to hide itself. Greed loves to justify itself-I don’t live as good as my neighbor does. That guy’s greedy-let me tell you. I don’t have nearly the stuff he does or spend as much money as him. Or maybe we compare ourselves to other family members we think are a lot more greedy and materialistic. But we quickly rationalize any thoughts of greed in our own lives because we think it’s a problem for the person who has a lot of money-a sin of the rich. They’ve got lots of money-of course they’re greedy. But Jesus isn’t warning the crowd about having too much. He’s warning them about covetousness-which is wanting too much. Big difference. Greed isn’t just a love of money, it’s the continual worry about money, always being stressed about finances, never being content, constantly longing for more.
So this morning I want us to see 3 lies and a truth (sounds like the party game). Lie#1: Greed doesn’t affect me. Do you say that to yourself? Are you convinced it’s not a problem in your life-that it’s an issue for others? Or does greed actually lurk in your heart-maybe even quietly? That’s what Jesus is telling each of us to examine-v. 15. Jesus is saying that a person’s life isn’t measured, it isn’t evaluated or judged based on how much wealth a person accumulates. At least, that’s not how God measures someone’s life-even though the world might. How many times have you heard the phrase-He’s been really successful in life, He did well for himself-lots of success. And what’s that describing? That the person had lots of successful friendships in life or success in being someone of great character and serving the Lord? Obviously not. When we use that phrase-someone was successful in life-we always use it in reference to wealth and money. We label someone as successful if they’ve achieved prosperity, riches and a great career. We define people by what they own and consume. In our world there’s the haves and the have nots. And if you’re a have not then too bad. Or we’ll say someone’s made it in life-and we all know what that means. It’s not that they made it spiritually and lived a life of integrity. Made it means they made it financially. Our world does exactly what Jesus is saying shouldn’t be the case-v. 15b. And we would say it does. So Lie#2: A successful life is based on abundance.
That word in the verse is so important-because that’s what we’re talking about. We want the excess, the extra, the more, the biggie bag, the above and beyond, the abundance! I like what one commentator said-Hughes, 479. But isn’t that what greed is-wanting to amass the superfluous? I can’t forget one time watching that show on HGTV about the houses lottery winners bought. And there was an older couple in northern California who won the lottery, their kids were grown and moved out-and they bought this gigantic house for just the two of them. They were at a huge dining room table at either end. The two of them were in this big theater room. So many outdoor decks. They would get lost in that house and never see each other again. It was so much house-and they bought it because they could. They had truly amassed the superfluous for themselves. And on a smaller scale that’s what we do too. We don’t just want a house-we want a big house. Not just a car-but an awesome car. Not just a shirt or sweater-but one with the right brand labeled on it. But Jesus wants us to see through that. To look beyond the superfluous and abundance-and evaluate our life the way God does. Now He isn’t saying that an abundance is bad. You might have an abundance and that’s great-thank the Lord for it. What’s bad is measuring your life -your worth, your success, even your goals-on having an abundance. Jesus is telling us to watch out, be on guard-to rethink the way the world measures a successful life. He wants us to ask the follow-up question to what He’s just said. When we read v. 15-He wants us to then ask-What does one’s life consist of? How would you answer that? It’s the key question of this passage. What does a person’s life consist of? How is a successful life measured? What really matters?
So Jesus tells a parable to explain it-v. 16. There’s the abundance! This guy has the land, the farm, the business-and it’s doing great! The harvest was extremely fruitful, profits are soaring, sales are way up for the year. In fact, it was such a good year that the man has a problem-v. 17. Because of the huge surplus he’s not sure what to do. How is he going to store this abundance of crops? He’s got corn and potatoes coming out his ears! What would you do with all the extra? Glance down at Jesus’ words in-v. 33a. There’s a possibility-distribute the extra food to the poor. Bless those who don’t have an abundance. But that isn’t his response. Take a look at what he does-v. 18. I’ll just keep it all for myself-it’s my grain, my goods-as he says. Time for some bigger warehouses. So you can imagine he gets on the phone with a construction company and a demolition service. I need to get rid of my old barns-and I need some plans drawn up for new barns. Because what’s the goal he’s chasing after-v. 19. Ahh! This is the moment. He’s thinking to himself-all my hard work over the years has finally paid off. All I’ve done to grow the business and build up the farm. Now I can put my feet up, retire early and enjoy life. Time for the rest and relaxation I deserve. This is the moment almost every one of us is chasing after. When you finally sell off the business, cash in on your investments, start drawing your pension and retire. Isn’t this the American dream? To work hard and then enjoy the fruits of your labor? Of course it is-but let me pause here-because we know that Jesus is describing this guy in a negative light. We know the parable is going to teach us something-but doesn’t his response sound logical? Isn’t it wise and prudent thinking to build bigger barns? Squirrels store up nuts for winter-shouldn’t this guy store up his crops? He’s worked hard to have good production and profits-time to reap his reward. He’s not being lazy or cutting corners or making other people do it all. He’s a hard working individual who just wants the comfort and rest he’s earned.
In a lot of ways, this parable doesn’t strike us as all that bad because it describes what most of us would do. It captures the thinking that permeates our society. This guy’s goal is nearly identical to ours. As I said-this is the moment we’re all waiting for too. What do people say-One day I’ll finally make enough money to buy that house I’ve always dreamed of and life will be good. I’ll live somewhere warm, I’ll get to golf everyday, go fishing without a care in the world. I’ll spend my days along the beach or out in the country with some peace and quiet. Won’t life be great when I can finally put my feet up and relax-ahh-eat, drink and be merry. We’re all saying what this guy is saying-it’s the same goal we all have, the same dream we’re all longing for. But Jesus’ parables are like the Trojan horse-we think they’re safe until suddenly the trapdoor opens and out rush the soldiers. Well the trapdoor opens for this guy at-v. 20. I hear Mr T’s voice-I pity the fool! But God is saying to this guy you couldn’t have been more mistaken about what matters in life. It’s all over for him. God is saying-Tonight your life ends-so what does all your hard work amount to now? What happens to your big barns of grain and all your money and all your possessions? Your plans to eat, drink and be merry are inconveniently interrupted by the end of the your life. His great goal of saving up enough to comfortably retire stops here-it goes no further. The grave wins-because this is the story of a dying man, a man leaving this world-and leaving behind everything he’s worked for. Look at what Solomon says in Ecc 2:18-19. It’s quite ironic-and absolutely brilliant of Jesus to tell this parable because the outcome of this man’s abundance will most likely go right back to what started this whole conversation off-v. 13. We’re inheriting a big barn with lots of grain! Our dad had huge profits and we need to divide it up evenly! But this guy can’t take any of his stuff with him-it just becomes the inheritance of somebody else-v. 20. That’s the question. It certainly isn’t his stuff anymore-not at all. Underline that phrase in your Bible-because it’s what we all have to remember. The NIV says-Who will get what you have prepared for yourself? That’s the reality of life. So Lie#3: I own all my stuff.
We think we do-but we don’t. There is nothing you own. There isn’t a single possession you have that you’ll take with you to the other side. You can be buried in your favorite suit, or your favorite dress or your favorite pair of jeans-but they’re not going with you into eternity. Everything in your house, everything you’ve purchased, the boxes of junk in your basement, the food in your refrigerator, the money in your bank account-is all on loan from God. This world is like a huge library-and all the books are due back when you die. So notice the error of the man’s thinking. Look back at his words in vv. 17-18-my crops, my barns, my grain, my goods, my soul-5 times he said my. And the ironic thing is that he doesn’t even own his own soul. What did God say-This night your soul is required of you. I want that back too-it’s mine. So the question for you and me isn’t-What will I do with all my stuff? How will I spend all my money? The question is-How will I be a good steward with what God’s given me in this relatively short life?
How will you stand before God on the day your soul is required of you? Will you stand as someone who’s put God first and therefore come to see your possessions as a gift from Him to be used for His glory? Or will you be someone who sold out your life for possessions, making an earthly abundance your main focus? How does your view of possessions change when you realize Lie#3. Are you someone who takes and keeps for yourself-or can you trust that if God gave you what you have now-He’ll surely give you what you need for the future? That’s what the birds know-they live on God’s provision-v. 24. That was a big part of the man’s error. He didn’t trust in God to provide-he all thought it depended on him-which is why he hoarded his surplus for himself and build bigger barns. Money and possessions were a way he could gain control and feel secure-that he was in the driver’s seat of his life. And yet he couldn’t have been more wrong.
Greed goes deep in the human heart. A love of money is often just the symptom-a surface idol-that satisfies a much more foundational impulse. Like this man in the parable-some people want money as a way to control their life and their world. Maybe they don’t spend much and live modestly-but they keep it all safely tucked away in savings or investments so they can feel secure. It’s a confidence placed in money instead of God. Maybe that’s you. Or others want money for access to social circles and popularity. I have what you have-so now I can be a part of the inner circle, part of the elite. And these people spend lots of money on themselves because they desire the approval of others above all else. They believe they’ll gain that approval through money and by having what all their rich friends have-and they miss the joy of finding their real approval in God. Maybe that’s you. Or other people want money because it gives them power over others. They can give and people will indebted to them, will owe them-money is a way to wield power and buy people off. Maybe that’s you. Trying to give in order to keep people close-instead of simply building authentic relationships. And finally there’s people who want money simply because they want comfort. Their goal is a comfortable house, with a comfortable couch, a giant tv and some comfortable slippers. Money is their way to obtain the idols of pleasure and comfort. And maybe that’s you. But do you see how deep greed goes? It’s replacing a trust in God who will satisfy you for a trust in money and possessions you’re hoping will satisfy you. Now you may or may not love money-you may or may not call yourself greedy-but App-Do I use money as a means of getting control or power or approval or comfort? Search your heart-that’s what the guy in this parable was after-control of his life-and money and possessions didn’t bring it. All the control and security he thought he had vanished the moment he died-and God called him a fool. Society might have called him the best businessman around, the best investor for building such big barns to protect his crops and secure his fortune. But God saw through the lies and spoke the truth-You who thought you have everything-now have stand in eternity with nothing. All you saved up was left behind. And that’s how Jesus ends the parable-v. 20-21. Isn’t it ironic that the successful businessman is a called a fool-but he invested his entire life in that which doesn’t last. He thought possessions would give him what he wanted-was he ever wrong.
Because what is gained when we’re rich towards God? Look at what Jesus says in v. 32-34. Don’t set your heart on a treasure or inheritance that slips away-set your heart on the thing that doesn’t. And that’s our inheritance in Christ-the eternal kingdom of God. Truth: My inheritance in Christ will never fail or fade. Randy Alcorn, 14. But that’s what this guy did in the parable. Inf fact, what kicked this whole discussion off-Jesus-make sure I get my fair share of the inheritance! His earthly inheritance-that was his sole focus. And yet what inheritance does Jesus truly promise us? As He says here-the kingdom. Or look at 1 Pet 1:3-4. Those 3 descriptions are staggering-but that’s the inheritance promised us in Jesus-it’s not big barns of crops left to whoever comes after us, it’s an unfolding existence that never ends. Imperishable-I think of food that perishes. The gallon of milk that expires-or the coffee creamer-it pours out chunky. Or who has found an old mildly piece of fruit or some vegetables at the bottom of your refrigerator drawer that you can’t identify? Or whop picks off the moldy spots on a piece of bread. But our eternal inheritance, our future never perishes-ever. Undefiled-another great word. It makes me think of graffiti. You see some nice looking building, or train car that once was shiny and new and now it’s all defiled because of crazy spray paint and graffiti. But nothing can harm or destroy our destiny. No one can take what is beautiful and new that God has in store for us and defile it. And then Unfading-maybe my favorite and most poignant word in the list. Because how quickly does a beautiful sunset fade? There you are admiring it-and before you know it it’s gone. Or what about a beautiful day? You’re outside enjoying it so much-maybe you’re at the beach or having a campfire-and before you know it the day has faded, or summer has faded-and it’s back to school, back to work. Everything fades in this life-and it all fades so quickly-and it’s so sad. Our lives, our health, our hair-it fades away. One day our lives will fade-as Jesus has made clear in this parable. And yet our inheritance in Him doesn’t fade at all. What does it say-kept in heaven for you so that when this life ends and you arrive into the Lord’s presence you begin to experience that living reality that He’s prepared for you. The other reflection question to ponder simply asks-Do I think far more about my earthly stuff than my heavenly inheritance? What’s your treasure? Better question-where’s your treasure? Be wise and become rich towards God-or one day be called a fool by God because you invested in the wrong place. I love that hymn we sang-Be Thou My Vision: Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise; Thou my inheritance, now and always; Thou and Thou only be first in my heart-and how does it end-High King of Heaven, my treasure Thou art. Our inheritance in Christ is nothing less than Christ Himself. Do you know Him?