Summary: Jesus warns against greed.
It’s such a blessing to live in a first world country. No one here had to walk to a well upon waking to fetch water for the morning bath and breakfast. No one had to gather sticks to make a fire for their eggs and bacon. Nor did anyone have to chase the Thanksgiving turkey through the bush. You just had to drive to the nearest supermarket to get one. And there won’t be any shortage of desserts at your Thanksgiving meal. Sugar is plentiful in first world nations. But so are diseases associated with a diet of too much sugar and a life of little exercise. Are the blessings of living in a first world country actually a curse? They can be. Although we have gathered to thank God for all of his blessings on this Thanksgiving weekend, we’ll want to listen carefully to Jesus as he warns us against letting those blessings become a curse. No, Jesus isn’t going to lecture us on our sugar intake; he’s going to caution against the sin of greed.
The setting of our text from the Gospel of Luke is this: a crowd of many thousands had gathered to listen to Jesus teach (Luke 12:1). When there was a pause in the lesson, a man suddenly yelled: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me” (Luke 12:13). What would you think if the next time I paused in the sermon to gather my thoughts, Jesse suddenly yelled out: “Pastor, tell Shannon to give me the $10 bucks he owes me!” In my 14 years of serving you no one has ever interrupted a sermon or a Bible study to ask me to settle a family dispute. What was so important to the man in our text that he should interrupt Jesus while he was in the middle of teaching a crowd that would have filled a small stadium? Money. This man felt certain that his brother was cheating him out of the family inheritance and he wanted Jesus to do something about it.
Jesus replied: “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you? Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:14, 15). This man wanted Jesus to judge his brother. Instead Jesus judged him and pointed out a heart that was motivated by greed. How many family disputes would cease if we took an honest look at how we contribute to the problem? Sure, it’s aggravating when we seem to be the only ones who do any work around the house. But why are we aggravated by this? Because we think that others should serve us. We forget that Jesus said the greatest in the kingdom of God are those who serve – just as Jesus selflessly served us with his whole life.
But the sin that the Holy Spirit wants us to consider this morning is not laziness; it’s greed and covetousness. But so what if I’m not happy with my perfectly good but slightly out of style tennis shoes? So what if I secretly yearn to be a millionaire because I want a fancier house and car? There must be worse sins? If Jesus had seen it that way, he would not have gone on to tell a parable about the danger of greed. The parable went like this. There was a farmer who was blessed with an abundant crop. He wondered what to do with it because his barns weren’t big enough to hold the wealth. He thought it over and decided that he would build bigger barns. After that he was certain he could retire to a life of ease. But that very night God said that his life would be demanded of him and he wouldn’t get to enjoy all those blessings he was storing up for himself.
Note how this farmer doesn’t seem to be a bad chap. He hadn’t gotten rich through an illegal marijuana grow-op or by ripping off his customers. He worked hard and was no doubt respected in the community. Nor was he careless with the blessings God had given to him. He wasn’t going to leave the grain out in the field where the birds could get at it. He was going to store it away like any prudent man would. And then he was going to enjoy retirement. Was he going to travel the world and party it up? No. He was going to stay close to home and eat, drink, and be merry. That doesn’t sound very different from how we look forward to a long weekend like this when we can cook a special meal and savor it with friends. This guy in the parable wasn’t a crass unbeliever. He never cursed God, he just forgot about him. But that’s just as bad, as God made clear by calling him a fool.