The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 25, 2019
Your Life Is On Loan!
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’” But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
True life story: The young man was just twenty-nine years old. He was married and had three children. All three children were under five years of age. He was an attorney in Illinois. One day he woke up with a headache. As the day went on, it got more painful. Then he had difficulty seeing. Then he had difficulty walking. Then he went to the doctor. After running some tests the doctor said, “You have a brain tumor that will require special surgery right away. If you survive the surgery, then there could be a critical time of recovering for about a year. If you survive that, then each year after that you can be more assured of a full recovery.” The young man made it through the surgery. He made it through that first year. Then he had this interview. A reporter asked him, “Have you learned anything through this?” The man replied, “Your life is on loan.”
We don’t often look at our life from that perspective, do we? We get up in the morning and go about our daily activities as though nothing will ever change. We plan vacations and careers. We establish goals and dreams. The younger we are the more likely we are to think that we have many many years left in our journey here on this earth. Not necessarily so!
Both the account of this young lawyer from Illinois and the sermon text that we have before us today remind us of a very powerful truth. That truth, my friends, is this: Your Life Is On Loan! When we stop to realize that our life is simply “on loan” that presents us with two options. We can live our life with the goal of storing up things for ourselves. Or, we can live our life with the goal of becoming rich toward God.
The incident which precipitated our text for today is one that is sadly all too common. Look at the opening verse of our text. Luke writes, “Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’” To this very day it is amazing how often the death of a family member has the potential of unleashing a frantic scramble for their earthly possessions. I have seen the hurt, the anger and the long-term repercussions that are left in the wake of someone’s death as people fight over their estate.
Jesus’ response to this man’s request reveals to us the main truth that we want to remember today: Your life is on loan! To help us understand how important it is to realize this truth our dear Lord and Savior gives to us the Parable of the Rich Fool. This parable is certainly not difficult to understand, is it? A man who had already been blessed with a great deal of wealth was faced with a “problem” that many people would love to have— his farm, his “business,” was having an exceptionally productive year! A modern-day parallel might include someone who receives a really nice bonus at work, someone whose stock portfolio has done rather well over the course of the years, or someone who has indeed received a sizable inheritance from a friend or a relative.
Now for the record, my friends, there is absolutely nothing “wrong” with being wealthy. For the record, there was absolutely nothing “wrong” with this man planning for the future by building bigger barns. What was “wrong” was that this man thought that his wealth was the result of his own hard work. It never occurred to him that it was the good Lord who had blessed him with this wealth. (See James 1:17) It never occurred to him that it was the good Lord who caused the sun to shine and the rains to fall so that his fields could “produce a good crop.” (See Mathew 5:45) It never occurred to him to use his wealth to help others. The only thing that occurred to him was to store up even more things for himself! We hear him say in our text, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’”
Do we have to battle against this kind of greed, my friends? We most certainly do! If for some reason the good Lord has us living from paycheck to paycheck, if for some reason the good Lord has not blessed us with as many material possessions as those around us our old sinful nature can easily cause that green-eyed monster called greed or envy to raise its ugly head in our heart and in our life. If on the other hand the good Lord has indeed blessed us with material wealth, if on the other hand the good Lord has indeed blessed us with much more than our “daily bread,” we need to be extremely careful that we don’t adopt the attitude of the rich fool here in our text— “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” As the children of God we would be far better off remembering what the apostle Paul says to Timothy, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (I Timothy 6:17-19).
Paul’s advice to Timothy ties in nicely with the words of our Savior here in our text, “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” We can squander and waste our entire life storing up things for ourselves, or we can enlarge and enhance our life by striving to be “rich toward God.” Which goal are we to have as the saved children of God? That’s obviously a rhetorical question, isn’t it?
How might we describe the life of a Christian whose goal is to be “rich toward God”? Here is where our text for today dovetails nicely with our sermon text from last Sunday. When we spend every single day of our life walking with Jesus we will indeed be “rich toward God.” When we strive by God’s grace to stay focused on the cross— the forgiveness and the peace, the confidence and the strength which only this cross (Pointing to the cross) can bring to us— we will indeed be “rich toward God.” When we consider God’s Word and God’s Sacraments the most precious possessions we have been given we will indeed be “rich toward God.” When our relationship with our Lord is more important to us than going out and “having fun” with our friends or going out and enjoying the “pleasures” this world offers to us then we will indeed be “rich toward God.” When we strive by God’s strength to live our life in such a way that everyone is able to see that we consider our greatest treasure to be the treasure that is stored up waiting for us in heaven then we will indeed be “rich toward God.”
Here is where I need to ask you to spend some time this week examining your own heart and your own life, my friends. Is your goal in life to simply store up things for yourself? Or, is your goal in life to be rich toward God? Do the outward actions of your life accurately reflect your goal in life? Or, do we say one thing while we are here in church, but we do something totally different the rest of the week? Not only do we all need to ask ourselves these difficult questions, but today is a very good day to start asking these difficult questions. Why is today a good day to start asking such questions? Because today, my friends, Jesus Himself comes to us here in His holy Word and He reminds us: Your Life Is On Loan! Look at what He says in verse 20 of our text, “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’”
True life story: None of us knows how long it will be before the Lord demands our life from us. People have been sitting in their office quietly doing their work when suddenly a jetliner comes crashing through the wall. People have been on their way home or on their way to a baseball game when suddenly a bridge they have crossed hundreds of times unexpectedly collapses in an earthquake. People have gone to the doctor for a regular routine physical when suddenly they are told that they have an illness or a disease for which medical science can do little or nothing to cure them.
Our life is indeed “on loan” from God, my friends. One day— we don’t know exactly when but one day— God will indeed demand our life back and we will required to stand before His judgment throne to give an account of how we used the time that God gave to us here on this earth. (See Matthew 12:36; Matthew 25:14-30; Romans 14:12) Does that reality need to frighten us? Not at all! When the focus of our life is the cross of Calvary’s hill (Pointing to the cross), when the goal of our life is to be “rich toward God” then no matter how much or how little time we have left here on this earth we will indeed be ready when the good Lord comes to us and says, “It’s time to come Home.”
My prayer then this morning, my friends, is that each and every one of us will indeed live our life in a way that enables us to look into a mirror and say: Remember— your life is on loan!
To God be the glory!