The Rich fool

Sermon Date: 
1 Aug 2010
Bible Base: 
Luke 12:13-21; Col 3:1-12

David Jeans

Tee shirts; shorts; one pair of long trousers for eating out. Swimming stuff.
Sunglasses, suncream, hat.
Books – who dunnits; Bible; theology books
Maps; tourist guides; binoculars for star-gazing; stargazing books
Isn’t packing for holidays FUN!!!! We are off on Thursday to southern France so we have to pack this week – great!
What has that got to do with our readings this morning? I hope you will see!
This particular episode in Jesus life isn’t just put at random into Luke 12. It is there because it happened as Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem for the last time.
Lk 9:51 As the time approached for him for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
Jesus is not just on his way to Jerusalem – he is on his way to Jerusalem for the final conflict with his enemies, to tackle the forces of this world and to defeat them. So just before our reading, he has been warning his disciples that they too face conflict with the world. Look at vv 11 and 12.
So in that light hear the interruption from the crowd:-
Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me
You what? I’m on my way to die for the sins of the world; I’ve just been telling my disciples that they face arrest and persecution because of me; and you want me to sort out your money problems?
Now don’t get me wrong here; I do think that God is concerned about everything in our lives, and we can bring comparatively trivial things to him in prayer.
BUT – he has bigger fish to fry. And part of those bigger concerns are for us and others to discover true life and true salvation. And true life is not to be found in money and possessions.
Jesus says:- Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not exist in the abundance of his possessions.
And he tells the parable of the rich fool. The man had had a good crop but had nowhere to store it all; so he builds bigger barns. He says to himself ‘ You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’
Now it may be something to do with my age, but as I heard this parable again I couldn’t help thinking about retirement. ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ Isn’t that the retirement dream that we are sold and that we so easily buy into? Now again, don’t get me wrong. It’s obviously wise to prepare for our retirement so that we are not a burden to others, and can celebrate being in this wonderful creation that God wants us richly to enjoy. After all, the command to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden’. Actually the Hebrew is much stronger than that – you will eat freely from any tree in the garden – you will enjoy yourselves. It’s an order!
But what the rich fool had forgotten is what comes after ‘eat, drink and be merry’ – which is? ‘For tomorrow we die’.
And in the parable the rich fool is told he will die the day after making these plans – and God says ‘then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
It reminds me of the story of the funeral of a very rich man. After the burial, a curious bystander sidles up to the vicar and says ‘How much did he leave?’. To which the vicar’s response is ‘everything’.
Jesus finishes the parable by saying ‘This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God’.
So what does it mean to be rich towards God? In a way, we looked at one answer to that two weeks ago in the parable of the Good Samaritan. How do I inherit eternal life? What is eternal life about? Loving God and loving neighbour – being freed from the idolatry of self-centredness to be centred instead upon God and upon others. Enjoying life is not wrong – God commands us to do it! But we are to enjoy life receiving it as a gift from God, and we are to enjoy life in a way that enriches the lives of others rather than depriving them. A great writer on mission called David Bosch wrote this about evangelism:-
Evangelism ...means enlisting people for the reign of God, liberating them from themselves, their sins, and their entanglements, so that they will be free for God and neighbour ...To win people for Jesus is to win their allegiance to God’s priorities.[1]
The reading from Colossians 3 also helps us here. First of all it reminds us that because of the work of Christ we have already been transferred from death to the new life of eternity. ‘You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God’. What a wonderful verse – ‘You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God’. If you have put your trust in Jesus Christ you are a new creation – God  is transferring you into his team, you are becoming part of the life of eternity and you are secure in that new life because of him. ‘You died and your life is hidden with Christ in God’.
Therefore, says Paul, set your hearts and minds of things above, not on earthly things. We go on holiday on Thursday to southern France. This week we will be sorting out the things that we will be taking with us. We won’t be taking lots of jumpers because we won’t need them. We will be taking lots of shorts and teeshirts because we will need them. At least we hope that is what we will need.
But there is no uncertainty about what we will need for the life of eternity. We know what we will need for the life of eternity. Love of God and love of neighbour. Remember 1 Corinthians 13 – all the rest passes away but love remains.
What both Jesus and Paul are saying to us is sort out your priorities. Pack the right things. And the right things are the ones that connect with God’s priorities. But there are also wrong things to pack. Things which might harm others on the journey – explosives, compressed gases, flammable liquids, radioactive materials. And also things which won’t be allowed into your destination because they will contaminate it or cause it harm. Obviously drugs or firearms. In New Zealand thed big thing is biosecurity. New Zealand is a unique environment because of its isolation from the rest of the world. Before humans came there were no mammals other than bats. Lots of the bird species were flightless or nested on the ground. One of the saddest stories is of a lighthouse keeper on an island in the Cook Strait who was a keen birdwatcher and discovered a unique species of bird on the island. But his pet cat killed them and they became extinct. Much plant life in NZ is threatened by the arrival of non-native plants and particularly non-native insect pests or diseases. The sniffer dogs at Auckland airport are looking for food. If you have brought in walking boots they will check that they have no soil.  We might think that the small amount of contamination we bring in won’t make a difference. But the New Zealanders know better from bitter experience. 
God does not want us to contaminate the life of eternity, to bring in things which will cause harm to others. So Paul tells us what not to pack, what contamination to get rid of  – sexual immorality and greed – which he describes us idolatry, worshipping something other than God himself, and perhaps relying on something other than God himself. We are not to pack anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language – because they have no place in the life of eternity. Looking further in Colossians 3, we are to pack compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness of others – in other words, all the things that belong to love.
So what about retirement? ‘Take it easy, eat, drink and be merry’?   Well, retirement is not the final destination, so don’t just pack for retirement! Retirement, just like the rest of life, is about loving God and loving neighbour. Retirement, like the rest of life, is about sharing God’s priorities and continuing to work for the Kingdom of God. It is about being a blessing to others rather than being harmful to others. In retirement or indeed before retirement make space for time with God; make space for prayer for others. (Clevedon mission). And find ways in retirement for serving others. That is building up riches towards God. That is packing things you can take with you!
So this morning – are you packed? Or do you need to re-pack? Have you cleaned your walking boots?

[1] David Bosch Transforming Mission(Orbis 1991) p 418