Sermon on Luke 12:13-21
12th Sunday after Pentecost
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry–You’re Rich!
Text: Luke 12:13-21
He was living the Israelite dream! There was an in-ground pool in his back yard. All of his kitchen countertops were made out of real stone. He had Tommy Hilfiger robes and Gucci sandals in his closet. He had plenty of slaves that kept his house tidy and in order. There was a Mercedes Benz chariot sitting in his garage. The chariot had 100 horsepower—they were all in his stables nearby. All of this luxury sat on his massive estate which consisted of vast acres of beautiful land. He was living the Israelite dream!
Could things get any better? They did! The rich got richer. Unlike our freezing winter and dry summer here in Florida that killed all the crops, he had an amazing growing season. His land exploded with more crops than he knew what to do with. It was the best harvest he had seen in years. “What shall I do?” he thought, “I have no place to store my crops.” The light bulb went on. “I have some extra cash lying around. I’ve got time on my hands. This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.”
He had luxury already. Why not see if he can take his extravagance to a whole new level? He could build bigger and better barns. Then everyone could see just how successful he had become. Then he could stand back and say, “Wow, I really have made it.” Then he could comfortably retire and spend his time kicking up his feet, reading the Jerusalem Times, and sipping mimosas every day. Yes, this would be an excellent plan. This would be living the really good life. He could eat, drink, and be merry. He was living the Israelite dream!
For all accounts and purposes, you could say that this man was living what is often called the American Dream. It would appear that this man achieved what each and every one of us is hoping for. It wasn’t stupid luck that he was wealthy. This man didn’t win the lottery. He worked hard. He had a farm. He worked hard on the farm and stored up crops in barns. He didn’t seem to be squandering. He was saving up for the future—building a nest egg for retirement. Finally the hard work paid off and his land produced an extra good crop. He didn’t run to Vegas or Atlantic City. He was going to save up as much as he possibly could. And now, this hard-earned, self-made wealth was going to allow him to retire and relax. He would finally be able to enjoy life instead of laboring and toiling so hard every day.
Isn’t that the American Dream? Isn’t that your dream or my dream? Sure, we might fantasize about winning the lottery. But I would imagine most of us know that will probably never happen. So we have a different dream. We plan to work hard. Maybe we can put in 30-40 years of work. It might be difficult. It might not be fun at times. But we have a goal in mind. At the end of all that hard work, hopefully we’ve saved up enough. Hopefully we’ve paid off enough debt. Hopefully the hard work returns a little wealth. Then we can finally retire and perhaps enjoy life. Maybe we can finally Eat, Drink, and Be Merry.
Is that too much to ask? Was it too much for the man to store the crops of his abundant harvest? It is too much for us to want to acquire some wealth and enjoy this life? Is it wrong to Eat, Drink, and Be Merry?
That’s why verse 19 is such a shocker. Everything seems to be going well for the man. Life is great, grand, and glorious. But then God intervened. God thundered down from heaven, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.” All that hard work, all that careful planning, all that saving up, all that preparation for retirement—it was all for naught. Just like that, God took his life away.
It’s not a true story. It was a parable. A parable is an earthly story that has a heavenly meaning. A parable is a sort of object lesson. It is a story that we can relate to which reinforces a spiritual truth. Jesus told this parable for a specific reason, to make a specific point.
There was an argument that had been taking place. It was a good, old-fashioned family feud! Daddy dearest had died and the battle over the will ensued. Maybe you’ve witnessed, or been a part of, something like this before. Apparently the disagreement was so sharp and the fight so heated that they needed a mediator to solve the dispute. So they approached Jesus. “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Think of all the things these brothers could have approached Jesus and asked: “Jesus, teach us more about the Scriptures.” “Jesus, tell us how we can be saved.” “Jesus, teach us how we can have a better and stronger faith and trust in you.” They could have asked Jesus any number of wonderful spiritual questions. But instead they asked him to solve a fight over who gets more money.
That’s why Jesus replied to them and to the crowd, “Watch out! Be on guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” To highlight that point, Jesus then told the parable about the man who stored up his crops.
You see, the man in the story is just like the brothers. Is it wrong to have money? No! Is it wrong to settle a disagreement about inheritance? No! But those brothers took it too far. They were greedy. They cared more about their possessions in this life than about what would happen to them after this life.
The man in the story is the same. Is it wrong to work hard? No! Is it wrong to earn money, even a lot of money? No! Is it wrong to save money and plan for retirement? No! Is it wrong to Eat, Drink, and Be Merry? No! But this man also took it too far. He could have built one additional barn to match his existing barns. But instead he took the lavish and luxurious route of wasting his current barns by tearing them down and building all new and better barns on top of them. He could have used some of his overabundant crops to feed the poor and needy. He could have offered a special offering to the Lord in thanks for the blessings he had received. He could have devoted his retirement time to serving others or studying the Word of God instead of kicking back and eating, drinking, and being merry.
Just like the real life brothers Jesus had met, the man in the parable Jesus told loved this world and this life too much. He cared more about earthly things and earthly treasures than spiritual and heavenly things. He had become earthly rich but he was spiritually poor. He was essentially an unbeliever. So in the parable God took the foolish man’s life. Then Jesus responded: “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
It is a very dramatic and pointed warning that Jesus gives to us! This parable relates so well to us today! Is there anything wrong with working hard? No! Is it wrong for us to earn money, even a lot of money? No! Is it wrong to save money and plan for retirement? No! Is it wrong to Eat, Drink, and Be Merry? No!
But far too often we also take it too far. How many of us aren’t like other Americans? We are buried in debt. We overextend ourselves. We buy all sorts of things that we don’t really need. As Americans, we have completely changed the word “need.” We think we “need” 3, 4, or 5 bedrooms. We “need” to have updated countertops, bathrooms, or paint schemes. We “need” more powerful tools or faster computers. We “need” to have relaxing vacations. We “need” Doritos or Lays instead of Walmart brand. We “need” stainless steel instead of regular appliance. We “need” cell phones, high speed internet, and high definition TV. We “need” multiple vehicles and we “need” motorcycles and we live in Florida so we “need” boats. We “need” to save money for retirement because we “need” to enjoy life. We “need” to Eat, Drink, and Be Merry.
To almost every American Jesus would say, “You fool . . . a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possession.” Indeed, especially we Americans walk the very fine line of want vs. need. And as we struggle to do so many earthly things—work, save, retire, enjoy—the one thing that almost always suffers is our relationship with God. We are too busy working to come to church or to a Bible study. We are too busy having fun or hanging out with our families to read our Bibles at home. We “need” so many things in life that we hardly have any money left over to give back to the Lord in thanks for what he has done. All we want to do is Eat, Drink, and Be Merry. But though we may be rich by worldly standards (especially when compared to other third world countries), we actually make ourselves spiritually poor.
Thus, the parable today is a warning from Jesus. That man didn’t just lose all his crops. He didn’t just lose all his money. He didn’t just lose his life. That man lost his soul because he was so greedy. And Jesus says, “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
What a contrast we see in the one who was telling this story! Jesus is the exact opposite. Jesus didn’t have to work hard, plan hard, or save hard. Jesus already was rich! Jesus is God. Jesus made all things. He holds all things in his hands. He has the power to give and the power to take away. Everything in this universe belongs to him. You can’t be any more rich than that.
Yet though he was rich, for our sake he became poor. Jesus exchanged the glories of heaven for a manger in Bethlehem. He set aside all authority over heaven and earth to become a humble servant. He hid his power as God over all so that he might be subjected to the local powers of the Jews and the Romans. He left the ease and enjoyment of heaven for the pain and suffering of the cross.
Jesus could have easily left us to die and rot in hell for all of our greed and all of our sins. Jesus could have easily ended his mission on this earth and said, “Enough! Enough of this worldly life! I’m going to claim my try glory as God!” Jesus could have easily zapped his persecutors with a bolt of lightning and forced all to bow down to him so that he might receive his due honor as God.
Jesus could have done any of those things. But he didn’t. Instead, he came to this world to live a humble life—not to be served but to serve. He subjected himself to his Father’s will and obeyed all of his commands—with no greed and no sin along the way. Then he gave up his life for us. No earthly possession, no worldly treasure was more important to him. We were most important to him. So he gave his life on the cross as a ransom and payment for our sins. He died to erase all of our guilt and worldly thinking.
Do you want to be rich? Do you want to live the good life? Do you want the incredible toil and labor of this life to be done with? Do you want to just Eat, Drink, and Be Merry? You can! You can, because you are rich! You have the forgiveness of sins. You have a new life in Christ. You have the free gift of eternal life in heaven. What matter is work or labor or toil or money or possessions or retirement or living the good life? You already do live the good life! You already can Eat, Drink, and Be Merry. You already are rich! You have Jesus. You have Jerusalem the golden. And that’s all you need!
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Posted on August 8, 2010, in Church, Sermons and tagged Church, Greed, Heaven, Heaven & Hell, Luke, Luke 12, Parable, Riches, Sermons, Stewardship, Worldliness. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.