Sermon for 4 August 2019 Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
“Faith in Christ is Rich toward God”
Grace, mercy and peace, from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our text this morning is today’s Gospel lesson, especially these words of Jesus: “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.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen.
Introduction: Everybody knows who Laura Bush and Barbara Bush are, but do you remember Dorothy Bush? She was the mother of President George Herbert Walker Bush and the grandmother of his son, President George W. Bush. Dorothy Walker Bush had lived a life of privilege and her family in Greenwich, Connecticut was very well-off… so Dorothy impressed on her children the importance of helping others. She taught her children that, since they were privileged to be wealthy enough not to have to spend their time working for a living, they were therefore obligated to devote their lives to public service, to helping others. Wow! (I guess not everyone in the “Top One Percent” is evil!)
In fact, wealth can actually serve to further the Kingdom of God. The Bible has many examples of faithful, wealthy servants of God. Abraham was extremely wealthy. So were Solomon and King David. They were all heroes of the faith who used their wealth toward God-pleasing ends.
Jesus does not teach us in today’s Gospel lesson (or anywhere else) that worldly wealth or earthly riches are evil in and of themselves. It’s the idolatry of wealth that is evil, trusting in created things more than we trust in our Creator. The man who asked Jesus to get him the inheritance had a selfish desire for worldly wealth, but was not rich toward God. Being God the Son, Jesus could see what was in the man’s heart, so he warned him about covetousness. Jesus warns all of his followers of the danger of turning His blessing of wealth into an idol.
The rich idolize wealth by trusting in it more than they trust in God. The man in the crowd who would have Jesus be some sort of “Executor” of his father’s estate gave himself away when he interrupted our Lord while he was teaching. The man was obviously more interested in worldly wealth than eternal life.
He also seems to have forgotten that there are two kingdoms, Church and State. They are distinctly different in the authority given to each, but they are both gifts to us from God. The authority God gives to the Church is to teach the Word and administer the Sacraments. Civil powers, like imposing penalties for breaking the law and (as we see in this case) dividing the inheritance – those civil powers are given to the secular kingdom, to the State. They each need to stay in their own lane, but, again, both Church and State are gifts from God. Luther teaches us in the Large Catechism that Church and State should both be honored as “the highest gifts of God on earth.” In a nutshell, we are blessed with justice through the State, while the Church brings us mercy. Both are gifts from God.
It’s not just the rich who can spoil God’s gifts by idolizing them. (The poor don’t get off the hook here!) The poor can turn worldly gifts from God into idols, too. They can trust in the lottery more than they trust in God. They often resent their poverty and don’t trust in God to provide all they need. They envy the rich and even steal from them – at least, from the top 1%.
As far as being jealous of those who have more money than you goes:
The real secret to contentment is not getting what you want, but wanting what you get, being grateful to God for what you do have.
You see, God gives us contentment by giving us new hearts that are thrilled and grateful to Him for what He has given us freely. God has given us hearts that don’t envy, but do trust in Him. We saw it again this morning, when God washed Theodore’s soul clean and gave him a new heart of faith that trusts in his Savior.
It’s a gift from God for all of us. There is no such thing as a “self-made man.” Oh, hard work usually does pay off, while laziness and foolishness usually have their just reward, too… But, every breath you take is a gift from God. Every beat of your heart is a free gift from God. For your wealth to do you any good, you have to be alive to enjoy it! When you’re dead, someone else gets it. “All is vanity,” says the preacher.
Life is not from wealth, but from God. The man demanding that Jesus get him his inheritance was asking for half of an inheritance on earth. Christ gave him a whole inheritance in heaven. What do we care about earthly wealth, when we already have eternal heavenly riches? Christ already won for us “many mansions” when He gave his whole inheritance for us. Jesus gave on the cross even His last breath and His lifeblood, trading His rightful inheritance for the inheritance we had earned for ourselves. Jesus bore “our griefs and carried our sorrows.”
He was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
“All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Even with all these rich promises of eternal wealth from God, Faith still fell for it. Faith Lutheran Church fell into the trap of trusting in worldly wealth. I’m talking about this beautiful building. Many of us must confess that our focus became fixed on the real estate, instead of the Church in its purest sense, which is the Communion of Saints, the Holy Christian Church. We were walking in fear that, if we lost the building, we would lose the Church. Thank God we repented! Thank God we are back on track. He created in us clean hearts that sing His praises for blessing us three years ago with this church building. It is such an improvement over the tiny place we had before, so we are very grateful. We “eat, drink, and be merry.”
(You know, it’s not a sin to do that, to eat, drink, and be merry – as long as we keep our priorities straight and celebrate (in moderation) the right things, like little Theodore becoming a saved believer this morning through Holy Baptism, and like jumping in the pool in two weeks to celebrate all our new members. We rejoice and give thanks to God!)
One of the reasons we celebrated this real estate so much that we lost our focus for a while is because the last place was so small and not nearly as refined and classy. What we didn’t appreciate enough is that even that modest Boundary Street location was rich toward God.
Remember, a Church of God is only as valuable as the Word of God taught and believed within it.
Thank God we are back on track, using this beautiful location wisely. As God’s good stewards, we are using God’s earthly gift to further His heavenly Kingdom, by telling everyone what He has done. In giving us Himself, Christ (who is your life) gives you all the wealth of heaven.
And… We don’t have to wait until we die to enjoy the gift! This faith in Christ makes us all rich toward God, starting now and extending into eternity.
“Have no fear, little flock, for your Father had chosen to give you the kingdom.” In Christ, the Father has provided you 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. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Have no fear, little flock.
The peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.