Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
Surrounded by a crowd, Jesus had just finished a litany of warnings and encouragements, initially directed to his disciples but surely heard by others, when a man piped up: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jewish law dictated that the eldest son received twice a younger son’s portion when their father died, but there were often disputes that were taken to rabbis to be settled. We don’t know this man’s whole story, but his demand that Jesus intervene was selfish and materialistic. Jesus warned him, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
And then Jesus told a story about a rich man who profited from a good crop, too large for his barns to contain, and decided to tear down the old structures to build larger ones. Once he had stored all his bounty he could sit back and take it easy for the rest of his life. But God told the rich man, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded of you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Spoiler alert: not the rich man.) Jesus said to the crowd, “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
Jesus didn’t say it was wrong to own things: what he warned about was allowing things to own us. His very next words in Luke assure us that God our Father knows we need clothing and food, and just as he clothes the flowers and feeds the ravens, he provides for us, so we don’t need to worry about those things or our lives in general. We can be generous with our time and our material goods because we can trust God to meet our needs. To some of us he provides more so that he can, through us, provide for those who have less, if only we can resist the urge to store up all of it for ourselves, for “someday.” When we die, all of our material goods will go to others, so why not share now out of our abundance?
“Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free; tis a gift to come down where we ought to be.” Perhaps you’re familiar with Joseph Brackett’s nineteenth century Shaker hymn. A simple life might look different to different people, but at its core is contentment. To live simply is to be content with what we have, not striving for more, more, more. The rich man in the parable placed his trust in himself and his wealth. If we can place our trust in Jesus, not in our bank accounts, our careers, our homes, our cars, and our stock portfolios, we can be free to enjoy whatever Jesus gives us. Simplicity and the freedom it offers are truly gifts from God our creator, who knows us intimately and knows what we need. Another gift is the awareness of our place: we are not God. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that. We need to “come down where we ought to be” and acknowledge that we are not in control as much as we think we are; rather, God is sovereign over all. Everything is in his hands and in his care.
“Our life is frittered away by detail,” wrote Thoreau. “Simplify, simplify.” Whether we are distracted by material goods and accumulating them, work (or overwork), media and social media, or any other thing, we would do well to heed the words of Jesus: “who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” Recognize that many of the things that promise to make our lives easier merely cost us more money to acquire and more time to maintain. When we are overcome by constant striving and overwhelmed by all the details that fritter away our complicated lives, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” How would Jesus like us to spend our money and time? Spoiler alert: for the best return, simply invest in relationships, especially our relationship with our Lord.
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday morning at 9:30 for worship and stay for Discovery Hour (all ages). Children’s church and nursery care provided.