The Addiction We All Fight – May 15 sermon

James 4:13-16
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

Luke 12:13-21
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

Once again, a parable most of us know and we love to read, then we love to judge others that we see around us. Once again, Jesus is taking the rich down a notch and oh how often most “common” men and women love that. We might praise God that Jesus didn’t say “once there was a middle class man” or “once there was a poor man.” Jesus, praise God you aren’t speaking to me, I’m not rich. (By the way the concept of middle class never really appeared until the industrial revolution so that one was out.)

Webster defines rich as “Having an abundance of material possessions; possessed of a large amount of property; well supplied with land, goods, or money; wealthy; opulent; affluent; – opposed to poor.” What Webster does not discuss is that rich is really an extremely relative word. I am rich in Rwanda. If I give a piece of gum or candy out to a child in Rwanda, they become rich in that they now possess an abundance and large amount as compared to others.

Everyone that is here today is rich relatively speaking. So since you are rich, Jesus speaks to you today. Today is not a day to sit there and judge others, or say to yourself “I hope so and so is listening.” This parable speaks to every single one of us about the disease that each and every one of us possess, greed, a desire to have more and often to keep what we have. The only question we have every day is “have I got it in check in my heart.” Now I am sure that Jesus said it was a “rich” man in the parable for two reasons. First, it gets your attention but secondly I will admit that “rich” people have an increased risk of exhibiting the disease in their life.

We ALL have the disease. Here is often how the disease begins to germinate. Most of us think we are not rich. Most of you would say to me, “I am not rich but I deserved everything that I have got.” Now I ask you today, do you not want more worldly possessions?
A study revealed that no matter what the income level is of an American, they believe that if they only made 20% more per year, they would have it made, they would be successful. The person, making 25k felt they would be happy with 30K, the 50k household would be happy with 60k and so on. It crossed all economic scales. It’s kind of like I got a 2 bedroom house and 2 barns, I sure wish I had a 3 bedroom house and 3 barns. And once I get that I would sure like to look for that 4 bedroom house with an attached 4 barns.

It’s a disease that we all have and it may not be houses. It may be clothes, who would really need to buy any clothes at all for a year? Electric gadgets? I went in to save money on my cell bill once and couldn’t pass up getting a smart phone because everyone else seems to have one and it would help me on the job and…..it would only increase my monthly bills by $15/month. We often eat out when have food we could cook at home. In the 60’s when I was a kid we were one of the few people that went out on Friday night to eat, that was special. Necessary, no.

We all too often say that we earned it and we deserve it. It’s those Rwandans problem if they have to use the outhouse for a bathroom and kerosene lamps for light. We earned it. I did, you did. Remember those good old days in your marriage in the small house? Working every day on the job. I earned the money to get that first microwave, cell phone, second TV. Folks, the distance between comfortable and coveting may not be that great.

The more we get and have, the more likely we have the disease of coveting. We all have it in our heart and it comes out when we forget that everything we have is from God. Jesus forces us to make a decision about what kind of life do we want. Do we want a life dependant on things of this world or a life with no guarantee of any of the world’s goods but close to God?

Jesus said, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.” Greed is our 21st century word, the KJV word was covetousness and the greek is pleonexia and it means “the lust to have more than one’s fair share, a grasping for more that is never satisfied or wanting more of what you already have enough of.” It is about greed, selfishness and I – myself, not God. In your heart today, where do you stand because you see since Adam and Eve wanted to know what God knew, mankind has proven time and again we are greedy or we covet because we focus on ourselves.

1. When Our Hearts Are Focused On Ourselves We Do Not Give God The Credit For Things He Has Done. (v. 16)
Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly.” I think that it is important to note that this parable does not condemn this man for being rich and it appears that he made it honestly. The rich man of this parable was a farmer but he represents all human beings who are seduced by “all kinds of greed.” As this farmer looked at his amazing harvest he did not see the hand of God, he saw only his own effort. Yet he is a perfect example of greed because he has much and he expects to get more.

2. When Our Hearts Are Focused On Ourselves We Make Plans But Leave God Out. (vv. 17-18)
And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.
There was nothing wrong with his desire to build more barns, it was both wise and prudent. The problem lays in the fact that there is no thought of sharing. In the original Greek the personal pronoun “my” occurs four times and “I” eight times. Even in the English we see the pronoun “I” five times and “my” four times. Notice how he says my crops, my barns, my goods. He is confused between ownership and stewardship. It is not ours to own it is ours on loan.

3. When Our Hearts Are Focused On Ourselves We Consider Spending Our Resources Only On Ourselves. (v. 19)
“And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”
In this verse although he addresses himself as “soul” it is the physical life that he is really concerned about. This man thought that when he put his plan into place that he would he would have it made for years to come. But all of this is based on the fact that this man expected to control the fate of future crops. He envisioned the future as continually expanding and under his control. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Our James scripture today spoke of this attitude. The Bible does not discourage us from looking to the future with great expectation. However as we make our plans, whether in business, in relationship or in our personal lives, we are to do so from the perspective that ultimately God is in charge. In other words, we need to plan with humility.

I wonder what this says about our American concept of retirement. I am not against retirement, I want to retire one day. But perhaps God would have us to look at it differently; perhaps to see it as a time when we have income and greater time on our hands than ever before to do things for the kingdom of God.

4. When Our Hearts Are Focused On Ourselves We Store Our Treasure In The Wrong Places. (v. 20)
But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ A fool in biblical language was not a description of mental ability but of spiritual discernment. According to Scripture a fool is a man who leaves God out of any consideration. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.”

This man is a fool not because he has said this but because he has lived his life as if God did not exist. He is a fool in that he did not recognize that his material blessings came from God, nor did he recognize any obligation to God in the use of his possessions. Fools leave God out of their lives. Sir Fred Catherwood wrote “Greed is “the logical result of the belief that there is no life after death. We grab what we can while we can however we can and then hold on to it hard.”

To be a fool is to have missed the point of life. The remarkable thing is that this person that God calls a fool, we would very often call a success. Jesus says, “this very night your soul will be demanded of you.” The Greek verb translated required or demanded (apiteo) literally means “to demand back or require back” conveying the idea of life as a loan that must be repaid to God upon demand.

He goes on in the second half of verse twenty to say, “And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” Since you cannot take it with you, there is no need to wear ourselves out accumulating it. Everything you have will one day be left behind. It is yours now to use or to abuse, but one day it will be taken from you and you will stand before the Lord and give an account of how you used it. It would do well to remember the words of missionary Jim Elliot at this point, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

5. When Our Hearts Are Focused On Ourselves We Will Find Ourselves In Conflict With God’s Plan For Our Lives. (v. 21)
” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
Riches have one major weakness, they have no purchasing power after death. The “rich towards God” are those who use what God has given them for others. There are numerous examples in Scripture. People such as the centurion who build a synagogue for the people to worship in (Luke 7) and the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus where Jesus often found rest (LUKE 10) were rich toward God. The way we become rich towards God is to invest in His church, His kingdom and in the lives of His people. But don’t misunderstand me; it is not that the church needs your resources in order to survive, but that generosity will add a richness to your life that you would otherwise miss.

Conclusion
We began this study by noting that daily we are pulled in many different directions and are left wondering “What is really important in life?” The answer is found here in verse 21, life in spite of all its complexities can be reduced to the very simple decision “Are you going to live life for yourself or will you live a life rich toward God? “

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