Open House Talk - Luke 12 v 13-21 – The Rich Fool
This evening we’re looking at Jesus and the rich fool which is great because I love talking about Jesus and also I find myself being rich and foolish so I hope God can speak to us all through this passage this evening. What are you here studying for, when you get a job, what are you driving at? What do you really hope for in life?
I think a lot of us will say, a comfortable life, a happy family, and the more honest of us will say, I’d like a really nice house, a really good job and a fast car. And while these are legitimate aims and hopes, but we’ve all seen the Alpha adverts ask, is there more to life than this? And this is the challenge Jesus puts to the man in this passage, the challenge to look at what we put first in our life.
Passage – Luke 12:13-21
Now this is all a bit heavy, I’m sorry, we don’t like to talk about death. I think this passage comes a bit close to the bone for many of us. We love to hear about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, bringing life and freedom, this demands that we look at our values everyday. But we’re not going to apologise for it, it’s in the Bible which we believe and I think there are some really important things we can draw out of this.
If you’re here this evening and you’re not a Christian or perhaps you’re not sure, allow yourself to be challenged by the question, was Jesus the Son of God, as he claimed to be, and if not, should we care about what he says about money and material stuff.
If you’re here tonight and you are a Christian I’d love us to look at what we do between being saved as it were and the end of our life here. What does a ‘Christian’ life consist in?
So if we look to the passage now, we start with this guy that comes to Jesus and clearly he’s not looking for a judge or an arbitrator, he’s looking for Jesus to rubber stamp his claim on some financial dispute. Jesus sees this and warns him, as he would warn us, to beware of covetousness.
Life does not consist in the abundance of things.
Most philosophies will tell you that pursuing material things out of greed is a distortion. Jack Higgins is forever quoted is Christian talks as having said in an newspaper interview, the thing he wishes he’d known when he was younger is that when you get to the top, there’s nothing there. I found this in my gap year, in a way that perhaps its hard to see from the closed system of school, the people around me were climbing ladder of success only to find it was leaning on the wrong wall, or running the rat race only to find that they’d become a rat. There is no rest in materialism, there is no finish line, there is no ultimate apartment, ultimate car to buy. So in this way, pursuing the abundance of things seems exhausting and unsatisfying.
Our greed, our wanting the latest gadget and the newest fashion is not without victims. Jesus came to proclaim good news to the poor. He commanded us to clothe the poor, but it seems today the poor are clothing us. Sweatshops are well documented, I’d encourage you all to check out Stop the Traffik, which campaigns against the slave trade where today 600,000 people are traded across international borders every year, there are just so many human tragedies happening. Add to this the impact we are having on the natural world by our insatiable desire for fast food, fast products and all that. Materialism contains within itself no limiting factor, where as the environment we live in is strictly limited. Materialism contains within itself no limiting factor, where as the environment we live in is strictly limited.
So pursuing happiness through the abundance of things, finding our identity in material things seems flawed and damaging.
Rich towards God - Living in his Kingdom.
Here it would be easy to say giving your money is being rich towards God, yes and no. God really doesn’t need your money; he can create something out of nothing. What he is interested in is restored relationship with you, and every other man woman and child who’s walking around Oundle today. This is why Jesus came, to show us God, this is why Jesus died to bring us to God and that is what life consists in and it is in giving our selves to God that we are rich towards him.
So where did this farmer go wrong? We must be good stewards of all that God has given us but it not in the building of the barns so much as his attitude of my crops… my barns… my grain... This approach is not making a statement of faith in God, it’s a statement of faith in ourselves. Jesus spoke of the sparrows fed, and the lilies clothed to illustrate that God knows what we need and that he will provide.
So our attitude of faith with regard to money issues is a passive witness, key to my discovering Jesus in the way I now him now was seeing the generosity of Christians I’ve know. But we are also rich to God in the more obvious and active way, when we give our money and our time to the work of his gospel. This is an eternal investment, we don’t know much about heaven but we do know that there will be people there. They then are the something you can take with you when you die which makes them a fairly good investment.
When I was here, I don’t think I really grasped this, the whole kingdom thing seemed a little ephemeral, academic, and teaching like this, made me feel assaulted as if by like those charity people in the street
Be disciplined, Know what comes in and goes out, Avoid the culture of credit, Stop grazing, Be open handed, but responsible – not about rules for giving, but about a freedom to give. This is how we shine in the darkness, this is how we are salt in the world. When we live the sort of radically Christ-dependent lives that Pete Grieg describes in his poem, the Vision, where he paints a picture of a generation, and advertising cannot mould them, and Hollywood cannot hold them.
Break the power of money – give it away
All of this advice is nice but what does it all really mean, we all know that money has power over people, that we should give to charity and that being greedy is bad. But the problem is that however good we are at giving to charity there are still two human longings, to find a security in our identity and to find a guarantee of our future, money tries so hard to give us these things but it is my belief that these can only be found in Jesus that that this is what life consists in.
How has Jesus made this possible?
The Bible says we were created to be in relationship with God, and through sin we have fallen from that. I’ve heard this message so many times, as you have I’m that it has lost some of its meaning. Sin is our selfishness, sin is this building barns and trying to make it all on own without God, our self-reliance, our rejection of God, our choosing to find pleasure elsewhere, it is our greed, it is the vicious cycle of hurt, insecurity, hurt that keeps us hiding behind our masks of the material things we own. This hurt digs away at us and we try to fill the hole with all the escapist pleasures of the world. The Christian contention is that the love of Jesus is the only thing that can fill that hole, and that by his death on the cross he broke into this cycle of greed and hurt and needing to make our selves, and wiped the slate clean.
Jesus offers us an alternative to happiness in the abundance of things, he offers us real joy. He offers us two things that we are looking for, secure identity and a guaranteed future.
We can be secure in our identity, because we know that we are completely loved, he loves us because of what we are, he sees through the mask of barns and possessions. We know this because of his life and because of his death for us.
We can be sure of our guaranteed future because he rose again, proving that he was the son of god and making himself uniquely qualified to make that claim "I have come that you might have life and have it to the full"
I want to live in a way that when people pull back the covers on my life, when they ask the most personal questions, when they look down my bank statement, that they would find someone sold out for Jesus. Do ask yourselves this question, was Jesus the Son of God, I think it is the most important question you will ever ask.
That’s it really, I’ll just close us in prayer, I’m here to chat about anything, if you want to ask about Nottingham, Jesus or anything. I’ve also got this booklet from Tearfund I looked at while writing this talk, I’ve only got one copy but they’re free so I’m sure you can get a copy from their website.
Practical and Conclusion
John Wesley. Founder of the Methodist church.
£30 per month, found that he could live on £28, so gave £2 away
The following year, he saw his income double, but kept his expenses the same so gave away £32, in the third year, his income rose to £90 and so he gave away £62. He rarely let his expenses rise above £30, when he died in 1791, aged 87, all he left were the coins in his pockets and drawers. Most of the £30,000 he had earnt in his life had been given away - £19,800,000 in today’s money.
Again, if you’re here tonight and you’re not sure what to think about Jesus, I would say look, as I did, at the state of the world. Right now we’re filling a spiritual gap in our lives with an abundance of things, and there are victims to this materialism, a child dies every three seconds from extreme poverty – as the t-shirt my sister gave me says - and they just don’t have to. In Jesus I have found the saviour to this very real problem, the more I know Jesus, the less I rely on my money, my fashion, the clubs I go to, the music I listen to, to tell me who I am and to give me value and this frees me, I’d love you to come and meet Jesus, and to ask the question earnestly, was he the Son of God?