The Message (MSG)
Israel Played at Religion with Toy Gods
I called out, ‘My son!’—called him out of Egypt.
But when others called him,
he ran off and left me.
He worshiped the popular sex gods,
he played at religion with toy gods.
Still, I stuck with him. I led Ephraim.
I rescued him from human bondage,
But he never acknowledged my help,
never admitted that I was the one pulling his wagon,
That I lifted him, like a baby, to my cheek,
that I bent down to feed him.
Now he wants to go back to Egypt or go over to Assyria--
anything but return to me!
That’s why his cities are unsafe—the murder rate skyrockets
and every plan to improve things falls to pieces.
My people are hell-bent on leaving me.
They pray to god Baal for help.
He doesn’t lift a finger to help them.
But how can I give up on you, Ephraim?
How can I turn you loose, Israel?
How can I leave you to be ruined like Admah,
devastated like luckless Zeboim?
I can’t bear to even think such thoughts.
My insides churn in protest.
And so I’m not going to act on my anger.
I’m not going to destroy Ephraim.
And why? Because I am God and not a human.
I’m The Holy One and I’m here—in your very midst.
The Message (MSG)
The Story of the Greedy Farmer13 Someone out of the crowd said, “Teacher, order my brother to give me a fair share of the family inheritance.”
14 He replied, “Mister, what makes you think it’s any of my business to be a judge or mediator for you?”
15 Speaking to the people, he went on, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.”
16-19 Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’
20 “Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’
21 “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.”
Sermon : WHO WANTS TO BE A FOOL?
Crowds amble along following Jesus, trying to catch his every last word. Today’s crowd consisted of peasant farmers, the unemployed and poor of society; there were no rich- no pharisees nor tax collectors, just plain folk.
Suddenly a voice cries out from the crowd, “Rabbi, Rabbi, I need your advice—I want my brother to give me half of our inheritance!” All the crowd booed the young man—he should know the regulations—The oldest son gets all or 2/3 while the remaining 1/3 of the inheritance is divided amongst the remaining sons. Jesus is asked to referee and he refuses; after all, who can judge which greed is right?
It’s interesting how this dispute; haggling over furniture, dishes, silverware, house, land and savings account left by the deceased; is still all too familiar today.
Rather than act as a judge, Jesus replies, “ Be careful, against all kinds of GREED, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” He avoids the trap of JUDGING the situation by telling them a parable. Why a parable? Maybe it Jesus’ way of having us judge ourselves.
Once there was a rich man A RICH MAN whose LAND produced an abundant harvest. —now, this was the attention getter—with no rich people in the crowd they loved it when Jesus picked on the rich. What will I do with all this grain—MY barns are too small— he decides to tear them down and build bigger barns large enough to store all MY land has produced.
We can hear him talking to himself, “Now I have enough for MY future—now I can eat-drink-and be merry!
YET God speaks up, ‘YOU FOOL’ says God, “All this stored possessions mean nothing for tonight you will die!” and “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward GOD.”
How should we interpret this parable? Does it concern being rich or of having too many possessions or even saving for the future. I don’t think so, Jesus never says anything negative concerning riches, possessions or saving for the future.
This man was not bad, there is no mention of graft or theft, nor is there any mistreatment of workers or criminal act. So what is Jesus getting at?
God only knows we all must strive for some wealth to buy the possessions we need to live and to enjoy life. God knows wise people will plan for their future security.
During our holidays, I read a novel about the lives of the wealthy a question was asked “Why is she so lonely and unhappy? She has a rich husband and all the possessions a woman could want..what’s missing? It gave me food for thought for today’s message.
It seems to me this parable is all about having THE RIGHT ATTITUDE towards how we spend our money—our possessions—being right with God.
The story tells of a rich man who had three major faults. He was SELF-CENTERED, He was lacking in GENEROUSITY and he was overly CONCERNED about his FUTURE. Jesus calls him “A FOOL!”
***In the parable the rich man is so SELF-CENTERED- he lives completely for himself- he talks to himself-he plans to himself and he congratulates himself.
He does not even recognize the LAND provided his bountiful harvest, it just didn’t happen. God had a hand in it by providing the fertile soil, the sun and rain that made him wealthy. Things he can’t provide but he credits to his good fortune and right living.
What about the faithful labourers? Who worked out in the scorching sun planting the seeds, the back breaking weeding getting rid of competition and insure an abundant crop.
He never thanks them or God but gives all the credit to himself
He never saw beyond himself, there is no other parable so full of I, ME, MY and MINE.
This begs the question “Does this attitude sometimes creep into our lives?”
*** The rich fellow lacks GENEROSITY towards others. He does not recognize he is part of a community whose welfare depends on helping each other. Why did he not send some of his excess grain to the community food-bank? Why not share some excess grain with the workers or rent some barn space from his neighbours which would give them financial assistance.
The rich fool was SELFISH. When this man had an abundance of food it never enters his mind to give any of it to the needy.
His attitude was the very reverse of Christianity. Instead of denying himself-- he kept it all for himself---instead of finding his happiness in giving, he tried to find it by keeping it.
John Wesley founder of the Methodist Church had a rule of life “to save all he could and to give all he could.” When he was at Oxford he had an income of 30 pounds a year-- he lived on 28 and gave 2 pounds away. When his income increased to 60, 90, and 120 pounds a year, he still lived on 28 pounds and gave the balance away.
Do we sometimes find ourselves hoarding rather than sharing with those in need?
*** We also discover this man thinks only of his own future.- My Possessions are my security-or so he thought.
Notice how having much right away leads to getting more land, more barns-- The Romans had a proverb that said, “money was like sea water, the more you drink, the thirstier you become.”
As long as our attitude is that of the rich fool, our desire will always be to get more. The scripture says “he talked to himself --marveling at how much more he has for the coming year--with all MY abundance I can eat, drink and be merry.” But we all notice he left out for “tomorrow we die!”
While on vacation last week, I went into the drugstore, in Tupperlake, to buy some toothpaste while Sharon went next door to get some groceries. When I got to the cashier there was a women, I guess her age, at least 85, with a fist full of Power-Ball tickets being checked for a winner ticket. I could see Sharon waiting impatiently outside but I had to wait. After about 4-5 minutes we got into a conversation, she told me she spend $15 a week buying tickets—it was her pleasure. I ask her what would she do with all the millions of $$$ if she won. The cashier, just a few years younger say “ I have enough now, it would only complicate my life so I would give most of it away.” The 85 year old ticket buyer piped up, “after taxes it would only be 150 million, and I would keep it all to myself making sure I had a secure future.”
Can this happen to us? Does God want us to depend on loto and Casino winnings to secure our future?
God said, “You fool--what self-centered thinking!” Not your money nor possessions made you a fool, but your attitude towards life. This is what happens to those who store up treasures on earth, but are not RICH TOWARDS GOD.
*** We often have difficulty relating Jesus’ stories to our live in today’s society, it’s not so obvious as to how we can apply it to ourselves.— we with our nice homes-one or two vehicles—vacations down south—we all have many possessions that make life easier, so what is Jesus saying to you through this parable?
Jesus realized that the crowd listening to him would never have abundant wealth or buy a house or new donkey or wagon. He knew how JEALOUS they were of the rich—He knew it could lead anxiety-- so he proclaimed BEING RICH TOWARD GOD would give them a far better life than all the riches.
Could Jesus be telling us not to be JEALOUS,- or to use a milder word ENVIOUS, of other peoples’ possessions? It happens to me sometimes and probably to some of you --we find ourselves envying someone or some possession they have—someone who has more money, better car or tractor, or maybe it’s people with more talent playing an instrument or singing, the list goes on-- we must be careful it does not become an obsession which can lead to anxiety and depression.
Anxiety fills the modern western world. Look at the grim look on people driving to work—facing the traffic—maybe looking for work. The life of young mothers today-get infant up and dressed--get breakfast-drop off at day care—face slow traffic on the Mercier bridge. Finish work and repeat the process all over again.
We all know anxiety can be a killer. The medical profession is discovering that stress and worry can cause disease or contribute to it—it can also hinder treatment of health issues.
People are tired and wonder what it all means? We set goals for ourselves and worry if we will meet them—meet them success-make new ones. If we fail to meet them—we feel failure—is this the way to live
In the parable as in much of history people have faced the same anxiety. The difference though, is the level which anxiety strikes . Jesus knows the life we created, His warnings and commands go straight to the root with a message “to include God in our plans and daily lives.”
***Once more we see the contrast between the rich man’s perception and God’s is quite stark.
-The rich man thinks he has it made or years to come.
-God judges him A FOOL, because his very life will be demanded that night.
Here is the fate of one who thought only about himself and was NOT RICH TOWARDS GOD.
BEING RICH TOWARD GOD “What does it mean? I’ve listed some of the things I think are important-you may want to add to the list;
-sharing one’s resources for the benefit of those in need.
-listening to Jesus’ words and following his teachings.
-Trusting that God will provide for the needs of life.
- spending money wisely.
I used action verbs in my description--sharing--listening-following—trusting and spending. We are not called to sit back on our laurels but use our gifts to advance God’s agenda with care and compassion.
This text offers a healthy inventory for assessing our readiness to be RICH TOWARDS GOD.” It’s a good start to question our own relationship towards money.
-When it comes to money and possessions what values do you carry forward from your childhood?
- Have worries and financial pressure eroded your trust in God’s grace ?
- Does being committed to GOD WAYS provide you abiding joy?
The parable offers a time to talk about the congregation’s investment in missions, questions like:
-Why and for what does our congregation toil and save?
-What were the money values of our founding generation?
-Is giving driven by mission, or is our mission limited by our giving?
Amazingly this short parable of How a rich man became A FOOL in God sight carries on into our lives today. WHO WANTS TO BE A FOOL? NOBODY! So we should all pay attention to Jesus’ message.
Don’t be anxious about life. Trust God-use all the resources you’ve have and live a happy life—no chasing moonbeams—no fretting over what you can’t afford. Don’t let wealth and possessions or anxiety get in your way of enjoying the life God has given. AMEN