Bible Reading Luke 12:13-21

Message Having been brought up an only child I didn’t experience sibling rivalries, which are a part of growing up for many. What starts as physical aggression often becomes verbal. Some experts say that the peak age for verbal disagreements is the early teens. These disagreements may persist into adult life. One of the most longstanding and unresolved family tensions was between John and William Kellogg. John was a doctor in the USA who invented the breakfast cereal we know as cornflakes. Seeing a great business opportunity both brothers set up rival companies, they quarrelled and were never reconciled.

 

Sometimes family rivalries re-emerge when an inheritance is being divided. This was the background to the event in the Bible reading.

 

There is something unappealing about people airing family grievances in public especially when it hits the media.

 

It was a bit like that here. Jesus was busy teaching about eternal matters when he was interrupted by a man who wanted him to intervene in a dispute over a family inheritance. Jesus responded giving that phrase or saying which is so familiar to us. A man’s true life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. On more than one occasion our Lord spoke of the dangers of covetousness.

 

Covetousness is one of the ten commandments. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, or anything that is his.  

 

Envy and greed eat into a person’s whole way of thinking. It can lead to worse things. But the main reason for not coveting is not just the baneful effect it has but that God regards it as sin. 

Jesus went on to explain with a parable about a wealthy farmer. This farmer has plenty. He has so much that he does not know what to do with it all! His only solution is to build more and bigger barns. I recall a grain mill near where we lived. It was one of the last working mills along the Water of Leith. It did not have a huge barn. At certain times when there was grain delivered here was so much that it overflowed out across the yard and over the wall and onto the footpath.

 

This farmer in the parable was successful. He didn’t need more. He could have said, I have enough; other things need my attention. His only thought was, build more barns so he could make more and more. As they say, plenty is more than enough. 

 

There is a village Kingsbarns, in Fife, so named as barns were built in it to store grain for royal palaces in Crail and Falkland.

 

It is possible to become hardened through wealth, ensnared in worldliness, and life is seen only in terms of money. Watching the recently launched GB News channel my eye caught sight one of the many adverts, that said, ‘Do you like money?’ A person’s life can be a success in making money but a failure in Christian terms.

 

The farmer in the parable had no thought other than getting more and more, and for himself. He was totally self-centred and self-absorbed. It is all about me, I, mine. He has no thought for any poor who might benefit from his surplus. Luke records another parable of Jesus about a beggar called Lazarus and the rich man does nothing for him, and both die, and the rich man finds himself in torment, and sees Lazarus gathered with the saints.

 

The gospel involves a responsibility towards others; it is to free us from greed and self-absorption; it should involve giving and sharing.

 

Far better to seek the grace to be more outgoing. As a hymnwriter put it, ‘I ask thee for a thoughtful love’.

 

The rich farmer half recognized that he had a soul, but did not make any attempt to consider how he might get right with God. He was like so many people who put off considering such matters. ‘I’m doing well, I can sit back and enjoy life, I have many years left’. But God says No! You fool! This very night your soul will be required of you. The question then, to him and indeed to anyone is, have you been ‘rich toward God’, rich in the things of God?

 

The question is: how important are the things of faith, to us, to people? We are wrong to put off considering these matters.

 

One of the Greek words for foolish is ‘moros’ from where we get the word ‘moron’. To go through life neglecting the call of God as the rich farmer did was foolish; moronic. It is moronic to be conformed to worldly thinking; we are rather to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Be not foolish but be understanding of what the will of the Lord is.

 

The Bible is clear on the matter. There is a today and what happens today matters forever, for the future that is eternal. An eternity lies ahead of us. As we read the gospels we see that Jesus often confronted his hearers with this message. There is an eternal world. There is an important issue to be considered, what happens when we depart this life.

We need to provide for the soul. We need spiritual food and drink that satisfies. There’s a verse in Proverbs. Remove from me vanity and lies, give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with food that is convenient for me.

 

You recall what Jesus spoke to the woman at the well of Samaria. ‘Whoever drinks of this water shall thirst again, but the water I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into eternal life’.

 

He also said ‘labour not for the food that perishes but for that which endureth unto eternal life WHICH THE SON OF MAN SHALL GIVE YOU’.

 

The Saviour said I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE. I AM THE LIVING BREAD WHICH CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN IF ANY MAN EAT OF THIS BREAD HE SHALL LIVE FOREVER.

 

There is an eternity to be gained, and an eternity can be lost.

 

Jesus said that there will be those who expect to be admitted into the kingdom of heaven but are not. They would say, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? Have we not done all sorts of things for you?’ The Son will say, ‘Depart from me ye that work iniquity; I never knew you’.

 

The sort of knowing that Jesus speaks of here is not an intellectual knowing. It is the knowing of having a loving and saving relationship with Christ. It is to be in Christ; it is to be united to Christ by faith; it is to live a new life by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me as St Paul puts it.  

 

It begins with receiving Christ in faith as Lord and Master. It is an act of self-surrender to God. Self is dethroned. We allow the Holy Spirit to apply the finished work of Calvary to our lives; this includes ‘sanctification’.

 

The church’s Confession of Faith explains it this way. ‘The principal acts of saving faith are accepting receiving and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification and eternal life’. In this way, and by living out faith in action, we make our calling and election sure.

 

There is what is sometimes called the golden chain. We were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. We were justified, declared right with God. We are adopted in God’s family. We were washed, sanctified, and conformed to the image of his Son. The end of the chain is when this process is complete in heaven, and we will be glorified. It is all God’s grace; it is not our achievement, not our hard labour. This is God’s wonderful plan, that we are in glory.

 

The gospel is meant to free us from a life that is self-centred.

Our calling is to be conformed to the glory of Christ: and the Holy Spirit is working in believers to make it real even now. Our daily task is to allow Him to do it; to draw strength from the Lord to make the new life in Christ a reality. Jesus offers himself to all; may all come unto him.