Luke 12:13-21 (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14 & 2:18-23)
Perspective! Looking ahead! Seeing down the road. As a young driver I was taught to look further down the road than just in front of the car. One of my jobs as a farm hand was to do field work such as cultivating, etc. That, too, required looking further down the field so as to keep as straight a path as possible.
One of our challenges in life is to look far enough down the road that we can see where we are heading and what obstacles we might encounter. Looking down the road also helps us to consider consequences for our actions.
The rich man in our second story this morning is called a “fool” because he failed to look far enough down the road. He saw his physical well being, but completely forgot about his spiritual well being. He forgot his soul. He forgot his mortality.
He was planning ahead in one sense. His retirement and financial well being were well taken care of. He had it “made in the shade.”
The first unnamed person in our Gospel account was also narrow sighted. He wanted Jesus to tell his brother to be fair—share the family inheritance. That sounds like a “fair” request. The family inheritance should be shared, right? Jesus, however, was more concerned about the shadowy issue of greed and discontentment. “Guard against greed—for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
The word “vanity” from our Ecclesiastes reading can literally be translated as “mist, or vapor” or “mere breath.” Think of standing out in the cold on a winter day and watching your breath as you exhale. How long does it last? That is longer than our lives in comparison to eternity.
We spend so much of our time focused on things that do not last. We invest our entire lives on things that disappear like a vapor. The preacher in Ecclesiastes calls it vanity. It is useless, vain, wasted effort to give our lives to what does not last.
Yet, money and taking care of our wellbeing is important, isn’t it? All of us are concerned about how far the money will go, how will we afford medical costs, health care, all the “what if’s” in life. Jesus is telling us to be balanced. Take care of things physically, yes! But don’t neglect your soul—don’t forget about God’s kingdom and spiritual values!
A part of this unnamed man’s (Nemo—no man, every man, all of us…) problem is he is self focused. He only sees himself and only talks to himself.
His farm, his labor, his crops have all done well. Where’s the gratitude? He obviously considered himself a self-made man, and felt no need for thanksgiving or gratitude to God. No one is completely self-made or independent. We all need God. We all need each other. Not to see that or acknowledge it is foolishness.
This man also had no thought of sharing with those less fortunate. What was Scruge’s phrase for the hapless, helpless poor in Dicken’s Christmas Carol? “Decrease the surplus population!” God gives us plenty so that we can share our bounty with others. That is a very common theme in Scripture.
This man is mindless of how mortal and temporary he is. He is not conscious about the eternal value of his soul. There is more to life than “eat, drink and be merry.” You cannot take it with you. There are no U-Hauls or storage units in heaven.
The preacher in Ecclesiastes echoes our concern for this hapless fellow who is shallow and narrow minded.
We work so hard to acquire so much, and to what end? Who will profit from it? Will they take care of my “stuff?” Will they waste it?
Who knows whether they will be side or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 2:19)
The problem with consumerism is that we are the ones that end up being consumed. Do we possess our possessions, or do they possess us?
Materialism, the pursuit of happiness? God never promised us the American dream—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. God does help us discover purpose in meaning in life by how we live and by how we care for and invest in others—how we give ourselves away.
Money and wealth are no guarantee of happiness. Money and possessions become fodder for fights and arguments about who gets what when inheritance comes around.
Money cannot buy peace. Money cannot guarantee health. Money cannot buy love. Money cannot buy forgiveness or help in our relationship with God. Only Jesus, and faith in Him can do that! Money is a resource we use to provide for ourselves and our families. Money is a tool we use to care for and bless the world in which we live.
“Take care!” Jesus says, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
People who live for themselves are lonely and unfulfilled. God made us so that we are the happiest when we love and care past ourselves. True joy comes from finding fulfillment and purpose in tangible acts of love and care for others.
A seasoned pastor once said, “I have heard many different regrets expressed by people nearing the end of life, but there is one regret I have never heard expressed. I have never heard anyone say, ‘I wish I hadn’t given so much away. I wish I had kept more for myself!’” Death has a way of clarifying what really matters.
We do not belong to ourselves. We belong to God. All we have is a gift from God and is on loan to us. There is peace and joy in recognizing this truth. At the end of this chapter Jesus says, “Do not be afraid little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)
In Jesus’ name. Amen.