Rich Toward God

Your heart goes where your treasure is. And above all else, God wants your heart. He knows there’s a battle going on for your heart.

 

October 14-15, 2017

Pastor Joe Wittwer

Jesus on Money

Rich toward God

Luke 12:13-21

Introduction and offering

We just finished a 3 week series on work, and I said that there are subjects that I circle back to regularly because they are so important to everyone: sex, relationships, marriage and family, forgiveness, work, and…money.  Money is important to everyone.  How many of you need money?  I rest my case.  We all need money. 

  • You need money to spend to meet current needs. 
  • You need money to save to meet future needs.
  • You need to money to give to meet others’ needs.

Everyone needs money, and almost everyone would like more of it.  How many of you would like more of it?  I’d like more money!  If your hand is not up, the offering is coming soon and you can afford to be generous!

I want you to know that money is not only important to you; it’s important to God.  This may surprise you: Jesus talked more about money than he did about faith or prayer—a lot more!  Jesus knew how important money is.  He knew that money is a heart issue.

Matthew 6:19–21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Your heart goes where your treasure is.  And above all else, God wants your heart.  He knows that there is a battle going on for your heart. 

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

There is a battle going on for your heart.  You can’t serve two masters—you can’t serve both God and money, and God knows that for many of us, his greatest rival for our hearts is money.  God wants your heart.  That’s why Jesus talked about money so much.

This summer we worked our way through the first six chapters of the gospel of Luke.  Luke’s version of the Jesus story has more in it about money and things, wealth and poverty than any of the other gospels.  In the next four weeks, we’re going to look at four passages from Luke where Jesus teaches about money.  Three of them are unique to Luke—not found in the other gospels.  We’ll see what Jesus has to say about money…and our hearts.  It’s Jesus on money.  Please open your Bibles to:

Luke 12:13–21

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.”

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.”

We’re going to look at four things from this passage.

Offering here:

1. A warning about greed.

“Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.”

A man asks Jesus, “Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”  Here’s a very real problem.  Has anybody here ever been in a family feud over an inheritance?  I know family members who haven’t spoken to each other in years because of a dispute over the inheritance.  This man feels he is not getting his fair share, and appeals to Jesus to be a judge or arbiter.  Jesus refuses that role in part because He discerns the real issue here isn’t about money, but about the heart.  The man doesn’t need an arbiter, he needs a change of heart.

Jesus refuses to be drawn into the man’s fight with his brother, but addresses the heart issue: his greed.  “Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.”

Watch out!  Careful!  Danger!  There’s something dangerous here!

ILL: At the end of August, I went backpacking with some buddies on the Beaten Path, a trail in the Beartooth Mountains just north of Yellowstone National Park.  It’s unspeakably beautiful (3 slides): soaring vertical rock and mountains, lakes and waterfalls everywhere.  It’s beautiful…and it’s bear country.  You have to pack in a bear canister for food storage.  Most hikers carry bear spray (pepper spray); some wear bear bells.  Of course the joke is: Do you know how you can tell grizzly bear poop?  It smells like pepper and is full of bells.  If you hike in this area, you are “bear aware.”  You are on your guard.  We did some bush whacking—some off trail hiking—and we were especially “on guard”; we didn’t want to startle a bear. 

We all know to be on guard for bears—but what about greed?  What’s so dangerous about greed?

Webster defines greed: a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed.

The New Testament was written in Greek, and the Greek word that is translated “greed” is pleonexia.  It is a compound of the words pleon meaning “more” and echo meaning “to have”.  Greed is an unbridled desire to have more.  “More!  More!”  Greed is never satisfied.  Greed can never say, “This is enough.”  More!  More! 

More money. 

More stuff.  One day I’m going to do a talk called “Stuffocation.”  You can get so much stuff that it suffocates you.  You don’t have to be a hoarder to stuffocate.  You just get more stuff until your life consists of constant stuff-management.  You’re always busy cleaning, organizing, maintaining and managing your stuff. You’re stuffocating!  More stuff.   

More food.  Oh, now I’m just meddling. 

More clothes.  More toys.  More, more, more! 

So what’s wrong with wanting more?  Well, nothing, if you need more.  Sometimes we need more—and it’s ok to want it.  Did you notice that greed is an excessive desire for more than we need? A legitimate desire for more can run away from us and become greed, that excessive desire for more.  Paul wrote:

Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

Greed is idolatry.  How so?  Greed seeks more and more in a vain effort to satisfy us, to give us security or identity or meaning—all things that only God can give.  Greed replaces God at the top of our values pyramid.  Greed makes money, or things, or sex—whatever it is that you excessively desire—into your god (little g).  And idolatry, whatever the idol is, will never satisfy you.  Idolatry only distorts and ruins whatever you idolize, and crushes you in the process. 

This is why Jesus was so down on greed.  It’s not because He doesn’t want you have what you need—He does!  He wants the very best for you.  He’s down on greed because He knows it will keep you from what is best for you.  It will keep you from Him.

So…beware of all kinds of greed.  Where have you been greedy?  Wanting more?  Never satisfied?  What besides Jesus have you desired to make you happy?  It’s time to repent.

A warning about greed, then…

2. The truth about life.

“Life doesn’t consist in an abundance of possessions.”

Here’s the truth about life: life isn’t about what you own.  It’s not about how much money you have, or the stuff you can buy.  Nothing you own can ever give you the life you long for.  I think we all know this, but…

Have you ever thought, “If I just had this, I’d be happy?”  I’ve done it so many times!

ILL: I remember when I first learned to downhill ski—what a blast!  I loved it.  I rented skis my first few trips, but then I wanted my own stuff.  So I shopped and waited for a sale (I was a poor youth pastor), and finally found a great deal.  I was so sure that once I had those skis, I’d be happy.  And I was…for a while.  Then newer, faster, better models came out.  And I started shopping again.

Can anyone here identify?  I can tell the same story about cars, cameras, stereos, golf clubs, motorcycles, computers, phones…it’s a long list. 

I have finally gotten to a point where I know that new stuff won’t make me happy—only Jesus will give me the life I long for.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t get new stuff—sometimes it’s just time for an update!  I’m just saying that nothing you can buy will ever satisfy your thirst for real life.  And real life—abundant life, life to the full, the Jesus-life is what we’re all really longing for.   Jesus said:

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Life to the full—that’s what you really want—that life is not about what you own.

Dr. Jim Edwards, professor at Whitworth, in his excellent commentary on Luke, points out the differences in the 3 Greek words for “life.”

      • Bios referred to quantitative life, i.e., how long one lived, how many goods one acquired.
      • Psyche referred to qualitative life, i.e., to the values and relationships that constitute personhood.
      • Zoe referred to quintessential life, i.e., to the abundant life offered to us in the call to follow Jesus. 

Bios could be measured by one’s possessions, but Luke doesn’t use that word; he uses zoe, the word that describes God’s life and the abundant life we are offered in Jesus.  Zoe is the word for life in John 10:10, and here in Luke 12. This life is a gift from God; it is found in a relationship with Jesus.  It is relational rather than material.  That’s why Jesus said your life—your God-life, your life to the full—doesn’t consist of what you own.  It’s about who owns you!  Paul picks up this idea in:

1 Timothy 6:17–19 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Enjoy what you have!  Enjoy it!  But don’t think it is your life. 

18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

There is a life that truly life—the God-life, life to the full—that has nothing to do with what you own.  In fact, Paul says that life is more about what you give away than what you keep, more about what you do for others than what you lay up for yourself. 

Here’s the truth about life: it’s not about what you have, but about Who has you.  Jesus is One who can satisfy your thirst for life.  When you have Jesus, you can enjoy what you own without being owned by it. 

Then we get to the story…

3. Why the rich man was a fool.

The story begins, “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.”  What’s the subject of that sentence?  The ground.  The ground yielded a big harvest.  Jesus is emphasizing that the man’s wealth was a gift.  It came from the ground, and ultimately from God.  This man was blessed.  But there is not a hint of gratitude or humility. 

Instead, he is completely full of himself.  In fact, look at all the first person pronouns:

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.” ’

I, me, my, mine…This man couldn’t see beyond himself.  He was completely short-sighted. 

He was short-sighted and couldn’t see God who had blessed him with all he had.  I know some of you are thinking, “But he worked hard for that harvest.”  Yes, he probably did.  I don’t want to take any credit away from him, or from anyone who works hard.  By all means, work hard!  Better yet, work smart!  But you also need to remember that there is more involved than just you and your work.  God gave you your life and your abilities. God gave you the ground to work, seeds to plant, water to make things grow.  All that you have can be traced back to God and His goodness.  This man was a fool because he forgot God.  There is no evidence of any gratitude toward God. 

He was short-sighted and couldn’t see beyond this life.  He lived like this life was all there is.  If that’s true, if this life is all there is, then by all means, get all you can for yourself.  If this life is all there is, you only live once; be your own selfish pig.  But if there’s more, if there is another life beyond this one, you’d be foolish to ignore that.  This man was a fool because he couldn’t see beyond this life.  He stored up goods for himself for many years to come—but he didn’t have many years to come.  That night, he died and stood before God. 

ILL: A young man was telling an older man his plans.  “I will get an education and begin my business.”

“And then?” asked the older man.

“I will work my business and make a lot of money.”

“And then?”

“I suppose that I will retire and enjoy the fruits of my labor.”

“And then?”

“Well, I guess that someday I will die.”

“And then?”

Are you ready to answer that last question?  He was short-sighted and couldn’t see God or see beyond this life.  And…

He was short-sighted and couldn’t see beyond his own needs to those of others.  The one thing that never seemed to enter his mind was to give away any of his wealth.  It was all about him—no one else.  He stored up more and more for himself with no thought of sharing any of it with others.  This is exactly the opposite of our attitude as followers of Jesus.  Jesus calls us to generosity, to give our lives away for others.  Here’s the remarkable thing: you find your life when you give it away. 

Matthew 10:39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

The life you’re looking for—life to the full—doesn’t consist of piling up more money and things.  The life you’re looking for is found when you give yourself away for Jesus’ sake.  The joy is in the giving, not the getting.  This man was a fool because he was selfish and didn’t think of sharing with others.

Why was the rich man a fool?  Not because he was rich!  He was foolish because he was short-sighted; he couldn’t see beyond himself.  But he wasn’t foolish because he was rich.  I hope that you succeed.  I hope that your ground yields an abundant harvest.  I hope that your business thrives.  I hope that you make lots of money and your barns are full.  And, I think that God wants that for you as well.  Be blessed! 

And then I hope that you’ll get beyond yourself.  I hope you’ll live for Jesus, that you’ll give your life and stuff away for the glory of God and the good of others.  Which leads us to the final point…

4. The moral of the story: be rich toward God.

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

This raises two questions.  Is it wrong to store up or save?  And how can I be rich toward God?

First: Is it wrong to store up, to save?  There is a tension in the Bible between storing and not storing, saving and not saving.  This passage makes it clear that just storing up things for yourself, with no thought for God or others, is not a good thing.  Do you agree?  We read Matthew 6 earlier where Jesus said,

Matthew 6:19–21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

So there is a certainly a warning about storing up for yourself treasures on earth. 

On the other hand, there are many verses that talk about the prudence of saving for the future.

Proverbs 6:6–8 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! 7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, 8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.

Learn from ant: save for the future.  Or:

Proverbs 13:22 A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.

Be a good person and store up something for your kids and grandkids.  Or how about God’s promise to Israel if they would tithe—give Him the first 10% of their income?

Malachi 3:10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

God promises to bless the generous—you won’t have room to store His blessing!  How cool is that!  But instead of building more and bigger barns like the rich fool, maybe you could give some away for God’s purposes. 

You say, “That’s all Old Testament.”  Ok, here’s one from the New:

2 Corinthians 9:10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.

In chapters 8-9, Paul is instructing the Corinthians on their offering for the poor.  He encourages them to be generous and uses the metaphor of seed.  The more seed you sow, the bigger the harvest.  Then this promise: God will increase your store of seed.  Be generous and God will give you more—He will increase your store, your savings.  And then you can be more generous again.

Is it wrong to store up, to save?  No—in fact, it’s prudent; it’s wise.  But it is wrong to store up only for yourself, with no thought of God or others.  It’s wrong to be selfish.  That’s what made the rich man foolish.  Store up for future needs, store up for God, store up for others, store up so you can be generous.  Just don’t store up only for yourself.  I hope that you’ll be wise savers and generous givers. 

The rich fool stored up only for himself and was not rich toward God.    How can we be rich toward God?  I’ll give you two ways.

First, I want to have a rich relationship with God.  Jesus has made it possible for us to really know God in a personal way.  Let me illustrate it for you with something that happened when Jesus died. 

ILL: In the Jewish Temple, the Holy of Holies, the place of God’s presence was curtained off with a thick heavy curtain.  No one could enter except the High Priest, and he could only enter one day a year, on the Day of Atonement, with a sacrifice for the people’s sins.  But when Jesus died, that curtain was ripped from the top to bottom—indicating that God Himself tore it open.  The death of Jesus opened the way into God’s presence.  We were no longer outsiders, kept at a distance because of our sin.  Jesus paid for our sin in full and now as deeply loved, fully forgiven and completely accepted children of God, we could walk right into God’s presence and know Him. 

Our sin separated us from God.  Jesus has forgiven our sin and reconciled us to God.  You can know Him!  You can have a rich relationship with God through Jesus.  And this is the true riches of life.  I hope you’ll share that good news with someone this week!

Second, and this comes from the context of the story, I can be rich toward God by being generous. 

Matthew 6:20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…

How do you store up treasure in heaven?  Certainly it’s by loving God and building a rich relationship with Him.  But it is also by being generous with your money and stuff.  Look at these verses.  Jesus told His followers:

Luke 12:33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

How do you store up treasure in heaven?  By giving to the poor.  By being generous with others.  In Luke 18, Jesus told the rich young ruler the same thing:

Luke 18:22 “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

How could he store up treasure in heaven?  By giving to the poor.  By being generous with others.  Paul repeats Jesus’ words; he tells the rich:

1 Timothy 6:18–19 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

In this way they will lay up treasure for the coming age—in what way?  Be generous and willing to share. 

I’m praying that God will bless you like this rich fool—that you’ll have all you need and much more.  And I’m praying that unlike this rich fool, you’ll be wildly generous and rich toward God!

By | 2017-10-19T11:47:38+00:00 October 15th, 2017|Jesus On Money|Comments Off on Rich Toward God