Sermon for March 27, 2022

Worried Wisdom or Just Jesus?

SCRIPTURE: Luke 12:16-21

  1. Study Notes: Inductive point:  Jesus reasons against worldly accepted and celebrated wisdom.  The Temples and synagogues where not sharing with the poor when people gave their tithes and offerings.  The Temple and synagogues were the focus, and the injustices of the poor were being overlooked.  This story is about the storing up and building bigger and better instead of taking care of the needs around them.

A. Jesus is speaking to his disciples directly but loud enough for the crowds to hear as well.  Jesus warns all that can hear the beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.  Now leaven, commonly yeast, causes dough to rise but here Jesus is taking about the Pharisees pervasive influence.  This area of scripture uses the idea of hypocrisy and judgement.  Then, Jesus touches on the idea of worrying about following Jesus and what they are to say when asked if they are His follower.  After Luke 12:21, Jesus goes into the idea to not be anxious or do not worry.  This seems to have a direct connection with the idea of the influence of money and not sharing personal wealth, that is in the portion in which we are bringing forward today in Luke 12:16-21 in the parable.  The Gospel of Matthew calls this a god, mammon (Matthew 6:24).  The portion of Luke 12:16-21 has the idea of “inheritance”.   So, my observation is this: being that this section of scripture is surrounded by teaching about worry, should we then see the story in between is also about worry?  This parable is also in the Gospel of Thomas, so it must be significant early teachings from Jesus that struck a chord with His audience.[1]  Not the pursuit of wealth but the pursuit of Jesus.

John Nolland. Luke 9:21-18:34, Volume 35B. Luke. Dallas, Tex: Zondervan Academic. 1993.

B. Luke 12:1 to 13:9 is one single statement. Jesus is talking about the injustice practiced by human wisdom.

1. One of the company. —Rather,“one out of the multitude” (R.V.). Perhaps the mention of magistrates and powers suggested to him Christ’s acting as a judge.[2]

2. Divide the inheritance-See Deuteronomy 21:15-17:

Deuteronomy 21:15–17 (NIV): 15 If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love, 16 when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love. 17 He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father’s strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him.

3. A judge or a divider. —The one may mean an ordinary judge, the other an arbitrator specially chosen to

    decide conflicting claims. There is no doubt an allusion to Exodus 2:14.[3]

Exodus 2:14 (NIV): 14 The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”

4. Keep yourselves from all covetousness.  The meaning is, that abundance is not a necessary condition of existence: a man lives on what he possesses; all that is needed is a mere sufficiency”[4]

5. Multiplication of his wealth, and selfish enjoyment of it, take up all his thoughts. Notice “my fruits” also in Luke 12:18 “my barns,” “my fruits,” “my goods,” and in Luke 12:19 “my soul”; as though this last were a possession of which he was equally sure.

6.  The gathering together of his wealth, and his schemes for hoarding it (Luk_12:17), he would now make his wealth the basis of rest and enjoyment. He was wise in worldly wisdom and in management of his property (Luk_12:18).

7. That night he would lose everything, but the important part was his foolish soul.  He could not take his wealth with him. 

Ecclesiastes 2:19 (NIV): 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.

8. For himself only. Rich toward God. Elsewhere described as “laying up treasures in heaven,” by almsgiving and benevolence. “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord” (Pro_19:17).

II. Sermon Outline:

A. Big Question: Are Jesus’ followers fighting against the injustice of the poor?

INTRODUCTION: As we read this portion of Scripture, Jesus gets to a point where he is speaking to his disciples, yet loud enough for everyone else to hear.  This brought up a memory in my mind when I read this.  When my oldest son Wyatt was 9 years old, he decided that he wanted to play flag football when a flyer came home from his school.  I believe he did this as he knew his old man both; one, played football in high school and two, loves to watch college and professional football.  So, we signed him up and, in the process, I was asked to be a head coach of one of the teams.  We were the grey team, and I got a wide variety of new players.  The other teams had coaches who also coached the area tackle football teams and used the YMCA flag football program to discover new players.  I was given my son and a wide variety of goofballs!  After several weeks of practice which I drew up a playbook of only 12 offensive plays and only 2 styles of defense, we played our first game.  It was against the team that had won the championship the year before, the black team, which had a lot of returning players.  As we received the ball first, I called the very first offensive play.  As they lined up, the wide receiver closest to me, looks at me and speaks in a very loud voice, “It’s running it to the right, right Coach!”  Let’s just say my play sheet hit the ground in utter disbelief! 

Not think of our story today.  I want to suggest that we think of three different people who were there that heard the whole thing.  We have Jesus’ disciples, including the women followers.  We have random followers that liked seeing miracles and being fed.  Then we have the Pharisees.  They all heard what Jesus had to say.  How do you think they responded?  Jesus in this passage is acting as a judge or an arbitrator and his words are slicing through the minds and hearts of those who hear his words.  I would argue that, since Jesus is acting as a judge, there must be something that he is pointing out.  As I look at this passage of Scripture, I would argue that is Jesus is judge, there must be some sort of injustice.  What is that injustice?  The theme must deal with money or possessions.  What if Jesus is pointing out the injustice of the poor and the need to take care of them?  Are Jesus’ followers fighting against the injustice of the poor?

Luke 12:16–21 (NIV): 16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

First Option or Attempt: The first people this is directed to the disciples, all of them.

      Explain the Option or Attempt:  It appears that all the disciples had left their jobs to follow Jesus.  We Know Peter, James, and John left their father’s fishing business, Levi left being a tax collector.  And it appears that they were given money along the way as Judas Iscariot was the treasurer according to John 12:6. (He did like to dip into it for his own good according to what is recorded).  When it comes to feeding the hungry, money was the first thing to come to his disciple minds.  In Matthew 15:33, his disciples claimed they couldn’t purchase enough bread to feed a large crowd of people, 4,000 mean and an unnumbered number of women and children.  Luckily, they had 7 loaves and a few small fish.  Earlier his disciples saw him feed 5,000 men and more women and children with a little boy’s lunch in Matthew 14:13-21.  He would ask his disciples to do it and they always answered “how?”  Yet, when Jesus shows them and there is food left over, they don’t get that it is Jesus that tells them to just do it!  Maybe it is not about what you have or the money you think you must have to fulfill a need, maybe charity goes beyond counting the cost.  If there are hungry, share.  When it comes to counting the cost in Luke 14:25-33, it deems that his disciples must be willing to sacrifice their desires and strive for the plan of God.  Leaving all to follow Christ.  Money and means seem to get in the way of what God desires.  His disciples struggled with this.

      Describe how it works:  Faith is that if Jesus says to feed the hungry, then feed the hungry.

      Apply:  When the Roman government was in control of the land, they had taxes to pay too.  Not only that, any commerce, agriculture, and processed materials, Rome had first choice.  After that, those with the means took next.  The idea of supply and demand are in place and what the people are left with that have not the means are the scraps.  Jesus takes the scraps, and they are all satisfied.  There is something deeps about that, isn’t there.  They always worried how, but Jesus says HELP anyway.  Today, we are not that far away from the same type of injustice that Jesus tried to help his disciples to recognize.  As the author of Ecclesiastes states in 1:9, there is truly nothing new under the sun, if it has been done before, it will be done again.  So much so, that it must be a pattern of this world.  Jesus warns us to not to adhere to this pattern but break the chains of injustice. 

Second Option or Attempt: there were local Jews, Galileans, Zealots, Samaritans, and Roman citizens in the crowd.

      Explain the Option or Attempt:  Within the crowd there are a ton of cultural stigmas.  The Judean “Jews” did not like the Samaritan, the Zealots did not like Rome, and the list could go on.  Jesus tries to dissolve those barriers multiple times.  The story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 delves into the idea that if you see someone suffering, take care of them.  To those who are offended and ready to fight, Jesus says to turn the other cheek, and if someone wants your coat, give them your cloak as well.  Of if someone sues you for your shirt, give up your coat as well in Matthew 5.  The dissolving of these lines and the things we fight about, in the end, can be both fruitless and meaningless in the big picture.  To refuse care is an injustice.  Rome, or more accurately, the Caesar, controlled the economy and the currency of all of them.  Might as well share the wealth.

      Describe how it works:  Does it not come down to the saying, can’t we all just get along.  When we are upset or take a stance against someone, often we will refuse to help them, even when they need it. 

      Apply:  They were naturally worried about a lot of things.  Look at today, financial problems are one of the top reasons why people separate and divorce.  Money causes a lot of stress and worry.  This is not the first time Jesus told them not to worry about money.  In Matthew 6, Jesus tells them to look at the sparrows and the flowers and how wonderfully adorned that they are.  Jesus says not to worry about what to eat or what to wear, as your Father in heaven knows we need those things.  If we represent Jesus, those needs become our focus and those need to be with as little strings attached as possible.  Do good for that sake of good.  These people overheard what Jesus said. 

There are many people that are looking at their bottom lines right now.  There are churches that are making uncomfortable changes, well, hopefully so.  Sometimes we get so focused on maintaining that we don’t recognize that tithes and offerings are mainly brick and mortar and staff.  When that happens, the less outreach towards the community is sought or encouraged.  When we give to God to the storehouse, it is meant for that blessing to help the people struggling in our communities too.

Third Option or Attempt Then there was the Pharisee’s.

      Explain the Option or Attempt:  They had beautiful purple robes; the Temple was a center of commerce of money exchanging.  They provided sacrifices.  They ate well as the people gave their Temple tax.  They whitewashed the tombs and the Temple sparkled like a diamond from a distance.  However, outside their walls, in their eyes, were the unclean.  There was sick.  There were hungry.  There were lepers.  There were invalids.  There were widows.  There were orphans.  Just down the corridor from them was Herod’s Temple and beyond that would be those who were in prison.  They, as priests, had the means to take care of these people, but their views about those people and how they wanted to remain ceremonially clean, led them not to help.  Plus, it didn’t hurt for them to keep Rome happy so that they could live a comfortable life.

      Describe how it works:  Mark 3:4, Jesus asks what is lawful to do on the Sabbath and then tells everyone that if there is an opportunity to do good on the Sabbath, do that over the “other” requirements.

      Apply:  The Pharisee’s overheard this conversation.  Now, it is not the first time that Jesus brought this to their attention.  The Pharisee’s were worried about the Temple and their ceremonial purity.  However, their views cause more pain to people who they deemed unclean.

Self-righteous attitudes cloud the proper position of holiness.  Holiness is the presence of God’s Holy Spirit that influences the change necessary to be holy.  Our attempts at holiness are like filthy rags.  We need God’s Helper to make us holy.  So, holiness is all God and our submission to Him.  Therefore, when God says to love our neighbor, even our enemy, then we must love past all the dirt and ugliness.  We do this because of all the ugliness that God helped walk us through.  We did not make ourselves holy, we needed help.  God lovingly and patiently walked us through it. 

We have a bad habit condemning more than rescuing and being the hands and feet of God.  Ask any waiter or waitress and they will tell you that the rudest and less-generous people that that ever encounter are the ones that walk into their establishment after the sacred hour of noon on Sunday.  I find that exceedingly sad.  Have we not changed in 2000 years of Christianity?  Are we simply following the pattern of the priests and Pharisees?  We think we are the ones that must separate the sheep from the goats, but that is not our responsibility, it’s God’s!  He is the only unbiased judge who knows the condition of the heart of every soul that he has ever made.  We judge but the end of an equation.  We don’t spend much time calculating all the variables that cause the results.  Therefore, we lack compassion, grace, and mercy, just like those who overheard Jesus speaking that day.

Conclusion:  We see three groups of people that had wisdom that caused them to be concerned and worried about the wrong things.  Jesus says not to worry about the money to be successful and comfortable in this world.  You can’t take it with you anyway, and if you do accumulate wealth, you leave it to fools.  The idea is since Jesus or (God) is the right judge, we should then listen to the way he would like things done instead of using our human reasoning as an excuse to allow injustice to happen.  Since God is just, our actions should be just if we follow him.  Jesus is the Way after all, isn’t he?  Do we have worried wealth that we are protecting or we following a just Jesus?

[1] John Nolland. Luke 9:21-18:34, Volume 35B. Luke. Dallas, Tex: Zondervan Academic. 1993. Pp. 684.

[2] Preacher’s Homiletical. Luke 12:13. eSword.

[3] IBID. Luke 12:14. eSword.

[4] Fuller, J M. The Student’s Commentary on the Holy Bible : Founded on the Speaker’s Commentary / New Testament. London: J. Murray. 1884

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