e have all seen the offensive bumper sticker, The one who dies with the most toys wins. Or, the yuppie version, The one who dies with the best toys wins. Well, in our text we hear Jesus version, The one who dies with the most toys is a fool, and he dies and leaves them all."
John Ruskin tells the story of a gold digger who was transporting his fortune by boat. The boat began to sink so the man strapped as much of his gold as he could around his waist and began to swim to shore. He sank like a rock. Ruskin asked the essential question; As he was drowning, did the man have the gold, or did the gold have him?
Gold is in itself not an intrinsically evil thing--- It is our all consuming, burning, love for it that makes it evil. We sometimes love it more than life: And usually it costs our life.
Notice that in Jesus story, The land of a rich man produced abundantly. A farmer reading this story would know that the land produced not so much as a result of the diligence and hard work of the farmer, but because God had supplied the rain and the sunshine and the rich dirt. The rich man had been made rich as a direct result of Gods blessings that had been literally showered upon him from above. One of the greatest temptations is unmerited wealth. Here again, it is not intrinsically evil, but it can easily be squandered. Lottery winners and the idle rich seldom seem to find fulfillment.
Jesus even went so far as to refer to the rich man in our story as, You fool! Jesus never called anybody else a fool; thus, emphasizing the malignant nature of valuing mammon more than God. We too play out the role of the fool whenever we forget what is vitally important. Thieves can only steal our possessions, but the love of money can steal our hope of eternal life.
Marilyn and I love to go to estate sales. We have gotten some great bargains over the years as we tramped through piles of possessions. But there is always an accompanying sadness too for we know that we are playing the role of Jesus story as recipients of the question, Whose will these things be? We ask ourselves, How much is enough? At what point do we join in the evil of storing up too many treasures? Maybe, if we are concerned and asking the right question, that means we are not guilty--- I hope so. At least in our hearts we can not be accused of hoarding. Admittedly, every Christian in the western world must struggle with prosperity in the face of some who have too little. This is an age old problem to which missionologists and evangelists have no easy answers.
John Wesley struggled with these same issues. His childhood rearing was by necessity frugality, as the son of a very poor parish pastor. He was taught the Christian virtues of hard work and saving and penny pinching. Here is his sometimes misquoted statement:
Gain all you can, without hurting either yourself or your neighbor, in soul or body, by applying thereto with unintermitted diligence, and with all the understanding which God has given you. Save all you can, by cutting off every expense which serves to indulge foolish desire, to gratify either the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life. Waste nothing, living or dying, on sin or folly, whether for yourself or your children. And then, Give all you can, or in other words give all you have to God. (Sermons II, Outler,ed; 1985, 278-279).
My friend Bert Lance use to misquote Wesley as saying, Make all you can, keep all you can and save all you can. He was a banker and can somehow be excused.
There will come a time in each of our lives when the only wealth that will matter will be in Gods heavenly bank. We will not be counting our money on our deathbeds, except in relation to the hope that we might rightly have of leaving our families some inheritance; rather, we will be found hurriedly making sure that we have some inheritance in Our Fathers House. As Jesus said, to be ...rich toward God. is our ultimate goal.
How do we attain this worthy goal of being prepared for this next life? Can we buy in? Can we save up? Can we take out a second mortgage? No! As with an inheritance from a rich relative, it is freely bestowed and is unmerited. In fact it can not be bought with any amount of mammon.
And who can have this heavenly bank account? Is it an exclusive club? No! The Christian faith says that, Whoever believes in him... has eternal life. (see Jn. 3:16). The meaning is very clear. We are pilgrims traversing through these present shadowlands on our way toward our permanent home in the sky called heaven. Those who will be included are those who made prior reservations by faith at his travel agency.
The best news of all is that we can know on this side of the river, whether or not we will cross over into Canan. We know because we have believed in Jesus, we have received his unmerited gift of grace. However, even better than the best news is that we have a foretaste of Glory in our hearts. We can know it as a reality in our lives because he has taken up habitation in our souls. And because we have this assurance we can march through life unafraid.
We each have this opportunity and I hope and pray that this is your experience. If not, it can be as you accept him as Savior, today.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor