Sermon Text: Luke 12:13-21
Pastor Steven Hillmer
Grace and peace are yours from Jesus your Lord and Savior, Amen.
“So, what are you plans?” It’s not uncommon for a new pastor to be asked such a question. In fact, when I first ordained and installed in 2002, the pastor in his sermon asked me that very question, “Tomorrow’s Monday, what are you going to do?” I’ll admit, I didn’t quite have an answer. This past week, since last Sunday’s installation, there have been any number of planning or orientation meetings as both Pastor Bigelow and I get acquainted with all the aspects of Ministry at St. Matthew’s.
Planning certainly is important; we all do it to one degree or another, filling out a DayTimer or entering things on a Google calendar. As one who just spent 11 years in Home Missions, creating annual ministry plans and giving monthly reports was part of the norm. Planning is a good thing; there’s a lot of truth to that age old saying, “Those who fail to plan – plan to fail.”
So, do you have a plan – not just what you’re going to do for the Labor Day Weekend, but a long-range plan, one that looks out not just 10, but one that considers where you will spend eternity? Do you have a Life-Plan and along with that goals to that support that plan?
Our God has a Life Plan – a plan for your eternal life in Heaven. In our text this morning from Luke, we find Jesus in the midst of teaching the people about God’s plan – and specifically to be alert for the devil’s plan who wants to distract our hearts with all things temporal. He wants us to focus only on the here and now. He wants us to believe that happiness, peace, joy, rest come from temporal, earthly things, from accumulating money, wealth and possessions. He leads us into PLAN A – Build Bigger Barns – and hope for the best. This morning Jesus helps us see PLAN B – Trust in the Lord and find real contentment, for in him alone will we find lasting rest.
- Plan A – Build Bigger Barns and Hope for the best?
Jesus was doing a great job teaching, but there was one fellow in particular who wasn’t getting the point. He asked Jesus to be the judge or arbitrator between him and his brother. Tell my brother to divide up the family inheritance according to the Law of Moses. This man’s plans and goals were only about the here and now; and his greed-filled heart wasn’t helping. He had fallen prey to the devil’s doubly sneaky trap that if he just has enough money, wealth, possessions – then his life will be set.
As Jesus so often did, he used a story, a parable, about a man who had a short-term life plan. He was already very well to do, meaning that he had all he needed andmuch more. It’s then that God causes his crops to produce even more abundantly. (This does not to support the idea that the rich always seem to get richer – it’s actually the opposite.) He’s at a crossroads, a major decision must be made. What am I to do with this bumper crop? Shall I glorify God? Shall I show love and compassion to my neighbors who may not have enough? Can I serve others with these awesome blessings which I clearly don’t need… OR…should I serve myself?
His Life Plan becomes quite clear – his plan is to serve himself. He tears down perfectly good barns to build bigger ones – all for the single purpose of serving himself. But there’s a much more serious fatal flaw in his greed-filled heart: He views these blessings as assets. He thinks they should only serve his wishes and desires. He has no concept that God has entrusted him with these over-and-above blessings so that he might serve his neighbor and glorify God. He truly believes that he has arrived, that he can retire early, that he no longer has to work or do anything other than take life easy. Jesus has 2 words for him and his plan – YOU FOOL!
The folly of his Life-Plan becomes instantly clear. That bountiful harvest and those bigger barns do nothing for him as his very life is demanded of him and he stands before the Judge of All empty and void of faith, love, hope, trust in the One true God. Because his short-sighted goals only encompassed one desire – to glorify himself – he will spend the rest of eternity in hell.
What a life lesson to learn, and to learn it now. I know I’ve been caught in short term planning mode – thinking that finances and stuff are going to give me a sense of contentment; that they will allow me to take life easy. So we work real hard to acquire… whatever it is. Yet, here’s the irony: on the one hand we raise our hearts and voices praying the Lord’s Prayer – asking the Lord to give us our Daily Bread… and then we stare into the fridge or pantry and sigh, “There’s nothing to eat.” Or we look into the closet, lamenting, “I’ve got nothing to wear.” Perhaps it happens when the stock market drops or unforeseen expenses arise… worry and fear fill our hearts – all because we might not have enough!?
The bigger-barn syndrome strikes again; just as it has generation after generation. In reading a few of our Lutheran theological forefathers from 500 years ago, we hear them say things like: “Total bankruptcy is the end of the covetous man… before God he is a fool.”(Besser, quoted by Stoeckhardt) Luther echoes this truth saying, “He that lives without God will never enjoy a single penny.”From the 1920’s Lutheran Pastor Paul Kretzmann commenting on this Luke text says, “This man, like most rich men, made the mistake of considering the additional wealth an asset, whereas it was a liability.Every dollar that God blesses a person with beyond the actual needs of life for himself and his family is not an asset in God’s sight, but a liability.”(p. 335) God has and always will provide for our daily needs. Everything above and beyond that is a gift to be used for God’s glory. Yet too often we follow PLAN A as we Build Bigger Barns and fruitlessly hope for the best? For this the Judge of all would be most right in declaring to you and to me – You Fool! For this our lives should be demanded of us this very instant for too often we turn the gifts into our gods; forgetting who alone supplies lasting rest.
- Plan B – Trust Only in the Lord and find Lasting Rest
What is so astounding is the that the One who had it all, the One to whom all things belongs and from whom all things come – gave it all up – willingly – selflessly – freely – lovingly! Jesus exchanged a heavenly crown for a splintered cross. He exchanged his holy life for sinful souls to win for us an eternal inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade. Some have called Him a fool for doing all that for the likes of you and me – but that was his Life’s Plan: “The Son of Man came to save sinners – to rescue such fools like you and me from the eternal flames of hell.”
To unbelievers, this whole eternal Life Plan and perspective is just pure foolishness. But to you and to me, to those whom the Holy Spirit has opened eyes, ears, hearts – God has given us the 20-20 vision of faith that recognizes and rejoices in God’s Plan B. We know that because of Jesus, God’s anger against all my sin – my coveting, my greed, my worry, my foolishness – is gone! Because of Jesus, should my life be demanded of me this very night, the Heavenly Father will say to me, to you, “Well done good and faithful servant… take the inheritance I’ve prepared for you from before the beginning of time. Come and share your master’s happiness!” Instead of putting our trust in things, God simply calls us to put our trust in Jesus who has completed God’s plan of salvation. In Jesus we find our Rest.
What a great life plan! Put your trust in Jesus who has kept all His Promises and will always keep His promises. Put your trust in Jesus who has and always will provide you with daily bread, food, clothing, shelter… Put your trust in Jesus who, because he loves you, does from time to time bring forward bumper crops and special gifts. And when he does, continue in that plan of trusting in Him alone, using His gifts in accord with his Eternal Plan, for his glory and for the good of your neighbor – especially those who are still deceived by Satan’s PLAN A, who are still searching for peace in material things, only to come up empty and void. Share with them God’s PLAN B. Let them know they can always trust in Jesus. Help them to see that life does not consist in the abundance of physical possessions but in the spiritual treasures and gifts that are ours by faith!
May God continue to shape our minds so that we see the rest that is ours through faith. May he continue to fashion our hearts that we truly treasure our Daily Bread – the things we need – so that we see that everything above and beyond that is yet another one of those “good and perfect gifts coming down from above, from the Father who does not change like the shifting shadows.” May God grow in us that spiritual discernment, alert for that temptation to build bigger barns for ourselves… alert for ways to always give God the glory. Amen.