Pastor Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church – Dyer, Indiana
01. August 2010
“Two Kinds of Riches”
In the Holy Name of Jesus. Amen.
Dear friends, it brings me great joy to serve you as your pastor. I have been in training for our Lord’s Holy Office for five years now. Many asked me in the last week leading up to my ordination and installation if I was nervous. Certainly, there was a little bit of nervousness but the better word to describe my feelings was anxiety. I was and continue to be anxious not for the ordination service, as spectacular as it was… but instead to be about our Lord’s work of preaching and giving to you his gift of the holy sacraments. I waited anxiously during my five years of seminary education to learn who would call me to be their pastor. I waited to learn who would welcome me as their called servant of Christ. Now that I have been given this sacred duty and noble task, I am relieved and comforted knowing that God has called me to you, his saints, and you have received me and my family with a willing and generous spirit. May God bless the ministry of Grace Lutheran Church of Dyer with comfort of His forgiving word and grant to us the life and salvation that Jesus’s sacrificial death purchased for us. Amen.
The text for our meditation is the Gospel just read, especially these words: “So is the fool who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God.” Dear Christians, there are two kinds of wealth given to us by God. Both come freely without any merit or worthiness in us. The first are the gifts of all that we need for this body and life. The second is the wealth of his heavenly grace which forgives our sin, keeps us in the faith, and promises to us eternal life on the last day.
The gifts of this body and life are food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, good weather, and the like. These “First Article” gifts all come from God as creator of heaven and earth. For example, He gives to us employment so that we may work to support ourselves and our family. This is a good gift for without it our children would starve, our homes fall into disarray, and our bodies into neglect and decay without medical care.
Yet, employment for many can become something more than gift of God. For many, work can become an obsession… an obsession of time… an obsession for notoriety in the eyes of those around us… an obsession to gain wealth. An obsession is nothing else than an idol. An idol is anything in which we put our trust, other than God. When we are consumed with work, our children are neglected, our spouses become distant, and many eventually end in divorce. God does not desire to see families destroyed. So, God commands us to not commit adultery. When our job becomes an obsession at the expense of spouse and children, we have committed adultery. Our job has become our mistress. God has commanded us to turn back from our evil ways. Repent. Do not make your work an idol but instead work diligently but trust in God to provide.
Yet, from the Gospel text, Jesus is even more concerned with another sin, namely the sin of greed (or coveting). In the whole of the Gospel according to St. Luke, the Holy Spirit has recorded four stories about wealth, greed, and charity. In Luke 6:30, Jesus says in his sermon on the plain, “Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.” In Luke 11:39ff, Jesus pronounces woes on the Pharisees for their greed in tithing but not giving to those in need. They are called unmarked graves and haters of God. In Luke 16:9-12, Jesus instructs the disciples to beware of riches and how they can lead to unrighteousness. He says, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
There are two kinds of wealth given to us by God. The first kind is good but can lead to sin, namely coveting. The second kind is good and brings forgiveness, life, and salvation.
We should be clear. Jesus is not about wealth distribution. Jesus is not a socialist. Some people will receive more from their heavenly father and others less. This is within God’s wisdom and good judgment. A good life does not equal an abundance of possessions, despite what the false prophets on the television tell you. God has not promised you big homes, fancy cars, or padded bank accounts… nor was Jesus incarnate of the virgin Mary to divide our spoils and judge over earthly inheritance.
The parable within the text teaches this truth. The rich man already had everything he needed in abundance. God had already granted him material goods in abundance. In the Father’s wisdom, he gave the already rich man an abundant crop. He received so much that he had to tear down his old barns and build newer ones. But these good gifts of God became a curse for the rich man. Instead of sharing his abundance with those in need, he says that he will “eat, drink, and be merry.” God certainly wants us to rejoice in the food and drink he has given us. But part of this rejoicing is knowing that they are all gifts of God for our good AND for the good of our neighbor. What should he have done? Rather than share with the neighbor, this rich fool kept it to himself.
Notice the pronouns, they are singular and personal. Everything for the rich fool is “mine.” He did not live as a Christian. One of the Christian virtues is charity. Where greed dwells, charity cannot abide. From earliest days of the church, Christians have always upheld charity and generosity as noble virtues. Consider the account of St. Luke in Acts 2:42ff:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Christian worship). And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles (namely coming to faith). And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need (charity). And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Unlike those first Christians who shared with all in their need and with each other for the service of the Gospel, the rich fool kept everything to himself. He denied that all he had is a gift of our heavenly Father. This rich man is a fool not just because he hoarded his goods but because he let these goods substitute for God. He thought these goods would give him life and life abundantly. How much more wrong could he be! Every man will die. We ought not sit about and say, “relax, eat, drink, and be merry.” These earthly things will not last and are but fleeting.
Just ask someone nearing the end of their life. Try as they may, they can’t take it with them. And if you try, God will call you “fool!” Forget the 401k, the CODs, the savings, or the money under the mattress. None of it will do you any good in the long run. You have prepared much only to have to leave it behind like the rich fool. It is said, “You can’t take it with you.”
When this rich man died, God called him a fool. Why? Because he was more concerned about this present life of sin and death than for the life the come. On the last day, these things cannot go with us. As Jesus said, “Whose will the be?” Certainly not ours. But we should be concerned about death. We should be concerned about amassing that second kind of wealth. At death, all this life will be vanity if we die without faith. We ought be storehouses for the Lord’s grace, preserving us in faith for the resurrection. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:32, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’”
Nestled within this heavy Word of Law, is a great Gospel promise. God has promised great and abundant gifts. He has promised us a different kind of wealth. He has promised us gifts which make us rich towards God. The T.V. prosperity preachers have it all wrong. God has promised an abundance of His Word. He has promised us absolution of our sins. He has promised the richness of the sacraments. These great gifts are abundant in your lives. By his Word preached and his very body and blood, the Father sent His son Jesus to you, who now richly dwells in your by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The genius of Our Lord’s gifts is that they don’t have to be earned. You don’t have to work hard to gain them. You don’t have to neglect your spouse or children to become rich. You don’t have to hurt your neighbor in our to get ahead in the riches of God. You don’t have to covet them. God has promised to you and has superabundantly given you all the gifts of his grace. In his storehouses are enough forgiveness for the sins of the whole world. His shed blood and broken body can never be exhausted. His saving waters become too dirty to wash away our sin. His well of salvation never dries up. We need not hoard these gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation to ourselves. We can share them freely and never become poor. We don’t have to covet those churches around us, with their big buildings, expensive productions, or multitude of members. God has blessed them and he has blessed us as he promised. His saving work of dying for the sins of the whole world will never run out and will never cease to received by you, here in this place as long as two or three gather in the name of Jesus to have His Word enter your ears and placed in your mouth.
Praise be to God that his great and wonderful gifts have been given to us. God gives us all we need for this body and life. Here in his sanctuary and by his Gospel, God gives to us all the forgiveness we need and could want for this life and the life to come. We need not worry about what today may bring because we know what is already ours in Christ Jesus. In the Holy name of Jesus. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.