11th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 13C) + July 31, 2016
Text: Luke 12:13-21
Lawsuits – what are they over? Money! Everyone in the world is so worried about making sure there’s enough for them that they will scratch and step on each other.
But what’s at heart in these fights over money? This one was over an inheritance, something that a person didn’t even earn, but was given. There’s a clue: They are fighting over something that is really a free gift.
So, let’s compare two worldviews:
- We live in a closed universe. Everything that ever has been and ever will be is right here in front of us. The future of the earth and everyone on it is up to us in a complex form of survival of the fittest. Who gets to use what resource is a matter of human arrangement. Some people rise to the top where they get the privilege of controlling a greater share than the next person. But ultimately, we are each on our own to make sure we get a piece of the fixed pie for ourselves and our family.
- We live as creatures of a God who creates by His Word. “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.” (Small Catechism, Creed, Article I)
In this worldview, we don’t provide for ourselves, but we are provided for by a God who loves and cares about all His creatures. “The eyes of all look to you [O Lord], and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desires of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:15-16)
So what was the worldview of the rich man in the parable? Certainly he had a lot of stuff, but that wasn’t the problem. He reveals his worldview when he says, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” In his closed universe, he’s on top of the heap. And then he dies, and where does he go? Well if the universe really is closed and godless, then he just ceases to exist. Unfortunately for his belief, the heavens and earth are ruled by a God who not only provides, but to whom all people must give account.
What’s the worldview we get taught most of the time? Save the earth! Limited resources! We’ll be out of safe drinking water by the year 2030! Oh, but before you perish, do everything you can to live the “good life” and the “American dream.” Raise the minimum wage, break the glass ceilings, all so that by our own abilities we can rise to the top. Scratching and scrambling over one another, just so we can get a greater share before we die and must leave it to another.
But in your Baptism, you were baptized into a different worldview—one where God became your Father. He is the giver of all good things both temporal and eternal. The world and universe continue not by accident but by His upholding (Heb. 1:3). The people on the earth survive not by how fit they are but by Him opening His hand to provide for them. Life itself is not an accident, but a gift from our Creator. Every breath, every morsel of food, every member of your family, every safe arrival in a car trip, every morning you wake up—these are all gift from God, given in love.
Yet our hearts are inclined to love these gifts and forget the giver, as the Rich Fool did. All of us so often spiritually look a gift horse in the mouth, are not satisfied with what He’s given and demand more. Knowing this evil full well, God gave the greatest gift of all when He gave His Son’s life to reopen eternal life to us. These are the true riches, because the value of redemption and resurrection surpasses that of gold or silver. These riches outlast even death itself, so that when everything crumbles for both rich and impoverished in this life, those who receive the gift of faith will receive the crown of eternal life.
So back to the original prompt, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” You’ve got the wrong gifts and the wrong father in your heart. Repent and believe in the Lord who speaks to you today, that God might be your Father and the inheritance you receive would be one of eternal riches. Amen.