Summary: A short talk on priorities. What are we investing in? What is the biggest issue facing the UK?
I heard on the news this morning that the Pensions Black Hole for the top 100 companies in the UK has shrunk to half of what it was a year ago. Good news it seems. The Deficit is now ‘only’ £51 Billion! The companies concerned have contributed £17.5 Billion in the last year and the stock market – that ‘good old guaranteed investment’ has risen over the last 12 months making things far less bad than they were. Employees, companies, government, ordinary people are concerned about what they will have to live on after retirement and so we invest in houses, pensions, savings and bank accounts. Quite rightly, because there is nothing wrong with investment; but it seems that on average, as people and societies get materially richer, we get poorer and poorer towards God. In the parable, to the man whose primary purpose in life was planning for retirement, God said: “You fool” (12:20).
1“You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God” (12: 20-21).
There is no suggestion at all that the man in the parable was investing for his family or dependants. It was all about himself: His life, his money, his barns, and his future. He had built bigger and bigger barns, invested in larger and more extravagant investments with the sole purpose of one day being able to sit back, take life easy, eat, drink and be merry (12:19).
One day, one day, one day, all of this hard work and investing will pay off. Retirement will be full of rest, food, drink and parties – or so he thought; but in the parable his life ends before he can ‘enjoy’ any of it. He invested for himself, died, and left this world empty handed. He was ‘rich’, but not rich towards God.
What are you investing in? If I’ve got £25 a month to invest shall I give it to Barclays or shall I sponsor a child in Kenya? Later in Luke 12 Jesus says, “Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it …but seek [God’s] kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (12:29-31).
This temporary earthly life is not all that there is! “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions”, said Jesus (12:15). On another occasion he said “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven …for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20-21).
Just this week David Cameron and Nick Clegg have reiterated their belief that the structural deficit is the biggest issue facing our nation. I disagree! Yes, we’ve got to stop spending beyond our means because storing up debt is not a Kingdom priority, but I don’t think it is the biggest issue we face.
I believe that our attitude towards God and towards our neighbour is the biggest issue we face; and it is time for repentance. It is time for true repentance that leads to changed behaviour in line with God’s priorities – ministering to the poor, widows, orphans, the sick, the needy, the broken hearted.
And I am not calling upon them out there to repent, because repentance must always, always, always begin with the house of God. “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). Yes, in the Old Testament that was the call to God’s people because they needed rain, and there was an outbreak of a plague; but rain also symbolises God’s blessing. God’s blessing does not fall when God’s church is stubborn, wicked, and selfish.
We’re called to invest in the things of God, his work, his ministry.