“Creator or Creation?”
Text: Luke 12:13-21
Sunday July 31st, 2022 – Pentecost 8
Trinity – Creston/Mount Ayr
Grace, mercy, and peace is yours from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Our text for this 8th Sunday after Pentecost is from Luke 12 that was just proclaimed.
Let Us Pray: Dearest Jesus, send your Holy Spirit to remind us that this world and its things are only temporary and eternity is forever. Enable us to use your gifts to your glory so that others may know you as their Savior and spend eternity in heaven. Amen.
Dear Fellow Redeemed in Christ:
The entry for the First Commandment in Martin Luther's Small Catechism reads as follows:
You shall have no other gods. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.
When we think of idolatry, we often think of worshiping statues or man made idols. The Bible has plenty of examples of people who worshipped these sorts of things and condemns them all.
These are all examples of something called coarse idolatry - the worship of creatures or inanimate objects such as golden calves, statues of Baal, and so forth. Most people in our modern western culture - even unbelievers - would say that coarse idolatry is foolish and irrational.
The kind of idolatry that is more likely to attack you and me is called refined idolatry - the worship of money, popularity, power, fame, security, possessions, hobbies and so forth.
For instance, when we put our job, our family or our recreation above God, we are committing refined idolatry.
When we allow TV to come between us and our Bible reading time, we are committing refined idolatry. When we forsake prayer and worship to pursue some other activity, no matter how worthwhile it may be, we are committing refined idolatry. We may not be bringing out bulls to sacrifice to a false god, but we are making the same deadly mistake - we are worshipping idols.
At its core, refined idolatry worships creation instead of the creator. It takes the good gifts that God gives us and makes them into gods in His place.
Refined idolatry is most powerful when it convinces us that this world is all there is.
With the mindset that the world is all there is, it forces us to place our trust in the things of this world and get the most out of it while we are here. Refined idolatry provides us with all kinds of mottoes:
Enjoy it while you can. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. You only go around once in life so grab with all the gusto you've got. Perhaps the most depressing motto of all is, "Whoever dies with the most toys wins."
Refined idolatry is tricky. Most of the time, people who commit refined idolatry don't think they are committing any kind of idolatry at all. Most people who worship popularity and fame would never say they worship these things.
Never the less, what else can it be when these things are more important than receiving God's gifts in Word and Sacrament?
We often don't realize we are even committing refined idolatry. We often forget that whatever has the top priority in our lives is, in fact, our “god”. As Martin Luther often said, "It is the trust and faith of the heart alone that make both God and an idol.
If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true one. Conversely, where your trust is false and wrong, there you do not have the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God.
Anything on which your heart relies and depends, I say, that is really your God."
The Propers for this day invite us to set aside refined idolatry and fix our minds on the things of heaven instead. The Introit says, "Why should I fear in times of trouble, those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches? Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life."
In the collect for this day we prayed, "Give us wisdom to recognize the treasures You have stored up for us in heaven." The Old Testament lesson from Ecclesiastes tells us of the emptiness of refined idolatry. It says, "All is vanity and a striving after wind."
The epistle tells us to "Set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." Finally, the Gospel relates the story of the Rich Fool who placed his confidence in the bumper crop stored in his barns instead of in the God who gave him those crops.
Perhaps the most common form of refined idolatry is the worship of money. Jesus often taught about wealth and the destruction it can bring when it is mishandled.
Jesus said, [Matthew 6:19-20] "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, [1 Timothy 6:10] "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs."
The parable of the Rich Fool is most severe because not only does the poor fellow never get to enjoy his earthly wealth, but he endured eternal punishment as well: "Fool! This night your soul is required of you."
The problem is not that the man was rich, but that the man was a rich fool.
Jesus had many disciples who were wealthy. The Magi from the east who came to worship Jesus the toddler had the means to offer Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Joseph of Arimethea who loaned his tomb to Jesus had the means to construct a tomb for himself in the honored real estate near Jerusalem.
Lydia, one of the early disciples in Philippi and Mary the mother of Mark the Gospel writer were wealthy patrons of the church. Wealth is not the problem. The problem is letting wealth become a substitute for God.
It is making wealth the source of our security and comfort. It is forgetting that wealth, like everything else, is a gift from God and not a god in its own right. The sin is not in the money, but in the attitude toward the money.
Jesus speaks this parable to all of us even if we are not wealthy. Jesus said, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."
Jesus warns us whether we are on welfare, middle income, or upper class, that the love of money can destroy our souls. This means that rich and poor alike can be fools about money.
The rich can be slaves to the money and other things they have. The poor can be slaves to the money and other things they want. People in all classes can see money and things as the salvation from their problems.
Our Old Testament reading for today comes from the book of Ecclesiastes. Most of Ecclesiastes is dedicated to describing the emptiness of life "under the sun," that is, a life lived as if this earth was all that there was.
In this book, Solomon carefully documents his experiments with every life style possible. He tried wine, women, and song. He tried hard work. He tried hard play. He tried travel. He tried education.
If you can think of a lifestyle, he tried it. In the end he concluded that if this life is all there is, then everything is vanity and a striving after the wind. Without God, there is no meaning to life.
With God there is meaning, there is worth, there is salvation, but the treasure of Heaven is not like the treasure of this earth. God revealed himself to us in His Son Jesus Christ and Jesus has his own economy.
Although He is the creator and owner of all things, He lived among us as a poor person. Although He has all authority in heaven and earth, He lived under the authority of the law.
Although He has all power, He made Himself helpless and submitted to the punishment we deserved as He suffered and died on the cross.
Although forgiveness, life, and salvation are worth more than we could ever pay, Jesus offers them to us as a free gift.
Although Jesus deserves our unending service, it is His desire to serve us. It is Jesus who makes us rich toward God.
Jesus closed the sad parable in today's Gospel with these words, "So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."
Here first of all is condemnation. If we spend our lives getting ahead so that receiving God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament has become a nuisance or a burden, the end is eternal damnation. But the reverse of these words is also true and gives us sweet hope.
When the Holy Spirit plants the gift of faith in us, we will see that the treasures of this earth are nothing and that God is the true treasure. WE will inherit everything God has to offer.
We will hear the blessed words of Jesus, [Matthew 25:34] "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.