THE GOSPEL OF LUKE

THE JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
Luke 9:51-19:48

The Disciple And Anxiety over Riches
Luke 12:1-59

. INTRODUCTION

With chapter 12 we are still dealing with the last year of Jesus' ministry while on earth. During that time He focuses on training the disciples so that they will be ready to take on His mantle after He has ascended into heaven. One of the major areas He deals with in chapter 12 is that of the disciple and anxiety over riches. Stress/anxiety/worry, etc., are wreaking havoc in today's society. Strokes and heart attacks are on the rise as people become more and more stressed out over family, work, finances, etc. One of the latest fads is Cortislim, an all-natural product (what isn't natural?) that attacks those chemicals which make you fat whenever you encounter stress. This product though only deals with the symptoms of stress--fat and not with the problem itself--anxiety/stress. In Luke 12 Jesus deals in a major way with this topic.

Although a variety of factors can cause stress (and fat), Jesus here focuses on anxiety AND finances. More marriages are torn apart because of conflict over finances. The couple does not bring in enough income to pay for the bills that are mounting. The couple experienced a pretty good lifestyle while living at home with their parents, and they expect (that is, demand) the same kind of lifestyle at the beginning of their marriage. This expectation or even entitlement will lead the couple into charging up huge amounts on a variety of credit cards. The day comes though when the bills come in and the couple discovers that they don't have enough income to cover the bills. Or maybe they don't outspend their income, yet the dad is working way too much in order to save enough money for this new home, new clothes, new car, etc. Jesus' response to this situation is realistic and makes for healthy, happy lifestyle.


THE PARABLE OF THE PRODUCTIVE MAN (12:13-21)

A certain man who has received an inheritance along with his brother approaches Jesus and asks Him to force his brother to right the wrong the brother has done him. Apparently the brother is in the wrong because Jesus does not correct the man about this. Jesus though does correct the man who asks Him to be an arbiter over this matter. First, Jesus informs him that since He has not been appointed aribiter (there are courts for this matter), He will not get involved. Second, though, Jesus detects that the man has a problem with greed. Greed and not his brother's unrighteous deed is the man's real problem.

Jesus then gives a parable to illustrate the danger of greed. A man reaps a harvest beyond anything he had reaped before. Up to this point he has had a barn which was sufficient to store all the wheat he had reaped. Now the barn is not big enough. What is his response? Why, build a bigger barn! In fact he has now reaped so much that he is going to be able to retire, sit back, kick up his feet, and enjoy the good life for the rest of his life. He has finally achieved permanent financial security. All his financial worries are over. There's a touch of dark humor in what he says and what the Lord says in reply: "Soul, ......."; Jesus replies: "Soul, ......." The man dies that very night, leaving all he has to others left behind.

What was the error in what the man did? For Luke God had given this man an abundance of harvest for a purpose, and that purpose was not financial security. Why did God give him such a great harvest, for an early, lucrative retirement? No. God supplies us with all we need. With this much abundance the proper response would have been for the man to give the excess to the poor. The man is basically misusing all that God has entrusted to him. He's no longer living a meaningful life; he's just taking up space. So why should God let him continue to live on earth?

Too often we think that if our income increases, then we need to increase our expenses. Most of us try to spend every dime we make. Not so with one great Christian. He made a decent salary which took care of all his living expenses. Eventually his salary increased while his living expenses did not. Now he could have bought a bigger home; then his living expenses would have increased. But he did not. Instead he kept his living expenses the same even though his salary did increase. What did he do with the extra income? He gave it to the Lord, through the church and other ministries. By the time he was through, he was living only on a small percentage of his salary and giving away the larger percentage of his salary to the Lord. That man was John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, which for 200 years was one of the most dynamic of the Christian denominations. C.S. Lewis by the end of his life gave away 2/3 of his annual income to the poor.

Charity for the poor is becoming a major theme throughout the Gospel of Luke. Why is giving to the poor so important for the Christian? Because it is the only appropriate way for us to acknowledge the truth that we are poor (at least spiritually) and that Christ the rich Man has given of His riches to aid us. Paul writes: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich" (2 Cor. 8:9). Benevolence is not just a good deed on the part of a Christian; it should be a major element in our Christian lives.


TEACHINGS ON ANXIETY (12:22-32)

The Essence of Life. First, Christ asks us to deal with the essence of life. When it is all said and done, is life nothing more than clothes, sleek new cars, the best furniture, the nicest houses? Houses are nothing more than mortar, brick, and paint. Furniture is nothing more than carved wood. Sleek new cars can get a scratch on them quicker than any other vehicle out in the parking lot. Rather life is relationships, relationships with God and with those loved ones He brings into our lives. I love movies, but they're not anywhere as near fulfilling as time spent with my wife and kids. We have wonderful Ford family vacations in plush surroundings, but the best parts of the vacations are eating together and playing games with each other.

Recently Nathan gave one of the best perspectives on homes. Nancy and I are doing pretty good financially. We could afford to move to a bigger home. Nathan has several friends who live in very nice houses (and I don't mean to take anything away from these other homes). I asked him if he would like for us to move to a larger house. He said, "No, Dad. To me this house feels like a home." That's what you're wanting, a home, not a palace. Most of us need to remember that our children don't want bigger houses; they want us parents.

You are going to be so sadly mistaken if you think that "things" make people happy. Howard Hughes, one of the wealthiest men in the world, died one of the saddest. Some of the most beautiful homes in the world are living hell for those who live there. On the other hand, where relationships are valued, people are tasting heaven. My mom told me that one of the happiest times in her and my dad's marriage was right after they got married. They lived in a little apartment without a lot of heat in the winter. My dad would have to jump up in the middle of the night and kick the stove to make sure it was still giving out heat. They would laugh over their circumstances because they were so much in love with each other.


No Need To Worry. Why? Because our heavenly Father cares for us and will provide us with the necessities of life. Jesus points to nature to prove that God not only loves us but cares for us. If God feeds the ravens who don't work for any of their food, how much more will He feed us who are His sons and daughters? What kind of Father would He be if He neglected to feed His children? He would be turned into CPS. In the same way God clothes the lilies of the field with a glory that surpasses even the glory of Solomon. If He clothes the fields with lilies, how much more so will He as our Father clothe His sons and daughters? Finally, God cares even for the grass which is mowed down and burned up. If God cares for mere grass, how much more so will He as our Father care for us His children?

(Notice how important it is for us to think of God as our Father if we are going to be able to deal with anxiety. We always need to remember that as Jesus taught us in the Lord's Prayer, we are to approach God as our heavenly FATHER.)


The Futility of Worry. Jesus asks us if all our worrying can add a cubit to our life span. This is a rhetorical question, the answer being "No!" All the worrying in the world cannot add another moment to your life. I had one relative who every Fall feared that she would not live to see another Fall. She lived almost to the age of 100. The ironic thing about worrying is that it can actually reduce the amount of time you live since worry/anxiety can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Well, if your worrying is ineffective, why then worry? It does not make sense to worry over something when you are powerless over it. Don't worry over those things you do have power over; instead do something about them!


I Thought We Were God's Children. Another reason we are not to worry is that pagans worry. They need to worry because the God of the universe is not their Father. They are easy prey for all the uncertainties of life, while we are not. We have an all-powerful Father who filters everything that comes into our lives through His power, love, and wisdom. If I, on the other hand, worry, then I am living like pagans. This means first that I really dishonor my heavenly Father. I am basically broadcasting to the world that my Father is either incapable or willing to take care of me. If I would feel horrible if my 2 children thought that about me, then how much more so is God wounded when we think those things about Him? It means second that I am living like the pagans. The saying goes: if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then it is probably a duck. Well, if I walk like a pagan and talk like a pagan, then I am probably a pagan. We need to live consistently with who we are, that is, sons and daughters of a loving heavenly all-powerful Father.


Our Focus in Life. That focus should not be on accumulating "things." In philosophy there is a principle called the hedonistic paradox, that is, the principle that if you seek for happiness, you will not find it. Happiness finds you, not vice versa. Accumulating all the possessions in the world in order to attain happiness is futile. It won't work. What will work? Seeking first the kingdom of God. That means first that I seek to make Jesus King over my life and second that I seek to bring others beneath the lordship of Jesus Christ. This does not mean I neglect my work and my family, etc. It means I put everything in proper perspective: Jesus first, family second, work third, Texas Longhorns or deerhunting fourth (or whatever team or activity you want to insert here), etc.


TEACHINGS ON MONEY (12:33-34)

Jesus now focuses on the second element in the parable of the prosperous farmer, that of money, especially greed. One thing we said about the man was that he should have taken his excess money and given it to the poor. Jesus here explicitly states that this is exactly what this man should have done. He had plenty of money. It was just that he should have taken the excess crops and given them to the poor. (We stated earlier why giving to the poor is so important; it is the divinely-sanctioned way we acknowledge that we who are poor spiritually have been helped by the rich Man Jesus.) Jesus teaches us that giving to the poor is one of the ways that we store up for ourselves treasure in heaven, and not on earth.

Notice that Jesus states that whenever we give to the poor, our money belts won't wear out. In other words, God is going to bless us with money. The reason many of us don't have money is that God can't trust us with it. We spend it all on ourselves--or OUR homes, or OUR children, or OUR pet projects, etc. Simply because you are not spending your money technically on yourself, doesn't mean that you aren't spending it on yourself. You're just finding a creative way to spend it on yourself without looking selfish. When we use money the way God intends for us to use it, then He can entrust us with more money. Once when my granddad was walking the streets of Corsicana in the 20's, my grandmother saw him give $10 to somebody in need. She said: "Dell, we can't afford to do that." His reply? "You can't outgive God." He was living out that principle. In fact throughout the depression he and my grandmother would make the family rounds and distribute food to a lot of my extended family who would have gone hungry if it had not been for them. My grandmother and granddad did not retire wealthy; however, they never went without.

Jesus then pronounces the axiom: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Our wallets are so important to us that the way we spend our money does indicate where our hearts really are. Milton so rightly stated last week that giving is not a matter of finances but a matter of the heart. How many of us are so willing to shower our children with all sorts of goodies? Many times we are so unwise in how we shower them with these good things; yet at least our hearts are right in what we are doing, although our brains are not. When a person is niggardly in his giving to the church, it is not because he can't afford to give. It's that his heart is not there. Very few of us men ever worried about how much money we spent on our wives while we were dating them. Our future wives had our hearts to such an extent that time and money were not even factors. Many of us though need to fall in love with Jesus again.

It is wonderful how God does bless the tithe. Many claim that there are no material blessings attached with the tithe. Those who make those claims are actually trying to balance out the hyper claims of the Robert Tiltons of this world. Time after time though God has pulled people's finances out of the hole when they turned their finances over to the Lord--all 100% of it, and gave 10% of it to the Lord's church. God does not promise to make us wealthy financially if we tithe; however, when we let Him be Lord over our finances, we can rest assured that God is going to provide for us in this area. He is going to give us the money He wants us to have for the things He wants in our lives. The problem is that He may not give us the money for the things we want, but He will give us the money for the things He wants us to have and to experience. Do we really want anything else? Most of us get into the deepest trouble because we are unhappy with what God does give us and try to bring into our lives those other things He does not want for us.

It is true that the way we spend our money indicates where our hearts are. Jesus though is going beyond this in v. 34. He literally means that if you want to change your heart, change the way you spend your money. If your heart is not the Lord's, write out that check and give it to Him.