“In What Does Your Life Consist?” (Luke 12:13-21; Colossians 3:1-11)

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
August 4, 2019

“In What Does Your Life Consist?” (Luke 12:13-21; Colossians 3:1-11)

In the Holy Gospel for today, Jesus says these words: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Well, if your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions, then what does your life consist in? That’s what we’re going to explore this morning: “In What Does Your Life Consist?”

“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” What prompted Jesus to say this? It was a request from someone in the crowd: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” I’m guessing many if not most of us here this morning have heard of cases in which families were quarreling over the inheritance. Maybe you’ve experienced that in your own family; I know I have. It is a not uncommon occurrence for siblings and cousins to have a falling out over who gets what in an inheritance. Everybody thinks he or she is entitled to more. Fights over inheritance have a way of bringing out the green-eyed monster of greed and envy in so many.

“Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But Jesus is not going to be drawn into an internal family dispute over settling who gets what. Jesus has bigger fish to fry than that. So he replies: “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” That’s not why Jesus came. But he uses the occasion to make a point about a bigger question. That’s why he says, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

“Be on guard against all covetousness.” That’s not a word we use too much today, is it? “Covetousness.” What is covetousness? In this context, it is an inordinate desire for stuff, for things, for possessions, for money. Covetousness is greed and avarice. It is an unhealthy longing for more, more, more. You’re never satisfied. You’re never content. The bank balance is never enough. There’s always something new on your shopping list. Covetousness is an insatiable greediness. It is consumerism gone wild. Covetousness is the opposite of contentment. You’ve got to stockpile more stuff. You’ve got to accumulate and acquire. You don’t trust God to take care of you. You forget that everything you have is a gift from God. You forget that everything you own could be taken from you in an instant, in a disaster or in death. And so you make mammon–the seeking after wealth–your god. And that is idolatry.

Do you have that green-eyed monster of covetousness lurking inside you? I think we all do, to one extent or another. We live in a very materialistic society. We are the richest people in the history of the world, yet we are never satisfied. We Christians let the values of the world creep into our hearts and shape our thinking.

Covetousness is a form of idolatry. Notice that St. Paul says that very thing in our reading from Colossians. He equates covetousness with idolatry and considers it just as bad as other, more blatant sins. He writes: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.”

On account of covetousness, among other sins, the wrath of God is coming! So this is a very serious matter. Life and death hang in the balance. What are you going to do when death comes calling for you? Will your possessions save you then? I think not. This is why Jesus warns us that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And to drive home the point he tells the Parable of the Rich Fool.

You know the story. A rich man is getting richer, but he fails to acknowledge God as the source of his riches. In fact, Jesus even says, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully.” Notice, the land produces the wealth, meaning, God is the one who is blessing the rich man. It’s not the man’s own doing. But the guy doesn’t think about that. Instead, he deliberates within himself about what he’s going to do with all he’s got. It’s more than he could possibly need or use. Of course, he could use his wealth to be a channel of blessing to help those less fortunate than he. But no, instead he decides he’ll just have to build bigger barns to store all his stuff. Then he can relax, sit back, and eat, drink, and be merry.

But before the rich man can do that, God has a word for him. And that word is “Fool!”: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” A lot of good all your stuff will do you when the Grim Reaper comes calling tonight.

And so it is for any of us. Death could be right around the corner for you or me or our loved ones at any moment. Rich, poor, young, old, healthy or sick, it doesn’t matter. Death is the great equalizer. There’s no getting around it. Last I checked, the death rate is still 100%, one per person. All your savings, all your stuff, all your pursuit of pleasure and possessions won’t do you a bit of good in that hour. Or in the age to come, which will last for an eternity.

Now of course there is always the disclaimer: It’s OK to save up money for the future. That can just be wise stewardship. It’s not necessarily a lack of trust in God. I’ve just taken Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course for the second time. And there’s a lot of good advice in there about smart money management and investing for the future. But Dave makes a point of emphasizing that one of the purposes for which you build wealth is so that you can give it away to help others. You’re not just hoarding for yourself in a selfish way.

So it’s OK to save. And it’s OK to eat, drink, and be merry–as long as it’s not excessive, and you receive the eating and drinking and merry-making as a gift from God. Even Ecclesiastes acknowledges as much: “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” The problem is when we disconnect God from the gifts that he gives. So make sure that you do not turn the gift into your god. God gives joy and pleasure, but do not then make joy and pleasure into your god.

Jesus says that like the rich fool, “so is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” The question then becomes: OK, Jesus, so how does one become “rich toward God”? I know I don’t got it in me. For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing. On my own, I got nothing. As Luther had written on a piece of paper in his pocket on the day he died, “We all are beggars; this is true.

How do we become rich toward God? St. Paul tells us in a verse from 2 Corinthians: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Friends, this is how you become rich before God: through what Christ has done for you!

This is how you will escape on the night when your soul is required of you: through Christ, who he is and what he has done. Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, came down from heaven, left behind the riches of his glory, and he became poor for your sake, for your salvation. He went to the cross, for you. He shed his precious blood, for you. His sacrifice is the atonement for your sin. Christ took all your debt of sin into himself, and he paid the price for it. Now his righteousness gets credited to your account, and that is everything you will ever need–more than enough–on that night when your soul is required of you, and on the day of judgment when you and I will stand before God.

“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Jesus’ words bring us back to our original question: In what does your life consist? If not in stuff, if not in possessions, if not in pleasure, then what?

Your life consists in Christ and in the abundance of his grace. Paul writes in Colossians: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Dear friends, Christ is your life, your true life. You have life–new life, eternal life–only in him. “I am the way and the truth and the life,” Jesus says. “I am the resurrection and the life.” “I have come that you may have life, and have it in abundance.” For now, though, “your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Your life may not look like much right now. But it is “hidden with Christ in God.” Our Lord Jesus Christ has conquered death and has risen from the dead and is seated triumphant in heaven. Your life is hidden with him. The final outcome will be revealed on the last day. On that day when Christ returns, everything will become evident. You will be raised from the dead, and you will appear with him in glory. Those are the true riches that are yours in Christ. That is the real inheritance you will receive, and no one can take it away from you.

In what does your life consist? It does not consist in money or possessions. Your life consists in Christ and in the abundance of his grace.

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Published in: on August 3, 2019 at 9:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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