Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sermon for 11/26/14: Harvest Festival/Day of National Thanksgiving




Fools for Wealth

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

As we look around the world, we can find many examples of people who misunderstand what the Bible has to teach about the blessings of material wealth. At one end of the spectrum, we find a clergyman who drives a Rolls Royce. He teaches that God blesses the true believer with the material prosperity of this world. He wants his followers to understand that his fancy car and other wealth is an indication of God's blessing, and his hearers can be similarly blessed if only they have true faith. At the other end of the spectrum, we find those who take a vow of poverty. There are many who believe that anything more than the bare necessities of this life is evil. They teach that only those who choose poverty are truly blessed. They are certain that this is a right understanding of the Bible's teachings about the material wealth of this world.

It should be obvious that these two teachings are exact opposites. They are mutually exclusive. They simply cannot both be right. In fact, our experience in life leads us to suspect that two such extreme positions are probably both wrong. But one doesn’t have to have an extreme position to be wrong about wealth. Our text is commonly called the story of the rich fool. Why is this man a fool? He built a barn to hold his harvest. Can that be bad? The one who saves for a rainy day is not necessarily a fool. But when one focuses on that wealth and is not rich toward God, then certainly he is a fool. The man in the story left God out of the picture. He allowed his wealth to become his god.

Paul writes, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils." Many people misquote this and say that money is the root of evil. But money is not evil of itself. Our love of money is the problem. This error is very attractive, though, because it shifts the blame from us to money. If it is money itself that is evil, then we can say we are the innocent victims of evil wealth. We may even be so foolish as to blame the One who blesses us with all we have. But the Bible will not let us get away with that sort of thinking. Jesus Himself said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Although the results of sin happen in the world around us, the sin happens within us. We can't blame money. We can only blame ourselves.

Jesus tells us that the cure for our dilemma is to be rich toward God. But how can sinners do this? If we are to be rich toward God, it must come from outside of us. This is where the power of God's Word comes into play, for His Word gives us those riches. The riches of God are nothing other than the forgiveness, life, and salvation that Jesus earned for us with His perfect life, death, and resurrection—riches we inherit in the waters of Holy Baptism, riches we receive in the Word of Absolution and the Word preached, a rich feast of the body and blood of Jesus.

Christians have more reasons to give thanks than any other people on the planet. We have a Savior. We have eternal life. We have peace with God. In fact, Christians are the only ones who can properly give thanks. Only Christians know the One who blesses us. It’s not because of any special merit or worthiness on our part, but because of the Father's grace for the sake of His Son Jesus Christ. So don't be a fool. Enjoy all the riches of God. Enjoy both earthly riches and heavenly treasure. This is all a free gift from our dear Father in Heaven who loves us and sent His Son to save us. Thanks be to God for this priceless treasure. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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