YR C ORDINARY 18/PENTECOST 8 – Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21
Grace and peace to you from the Holy Trinity – Father, +Son, and Holy Spirit! Amen.
This morning I want to talk with you about America’s love affair with…making money.
Our affair with money is obvious even in certain television shows we watch, like “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and “Shark Tank” among many others.
Indeed, making money is as American as baseball, Mom’s apple pie and waving the flag on the 4th of July!
Moreover, America’s schools strive to teach our kids that making money is a critical part of their self-care and self-esteem.
While some people worry that schools are just teaching our kids the art of greed; others prefer to call it the art of productivity.
But whether we call it the art of greed or the art of productivity, making money can become a trap for us Americans; a trap because it can easily become all consuming – the chief good of life – a god – an idol.
And, yes, unchecked productivity can turn into rampant greed!
Indeed, we have a lot in common with the crowd of listeners in Luke’s parable whom Jesus warns:
“Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
The truth is that for many people, life does consist of their abundant possessions – and they dread having to give any of them up.
In this regard, I’ve noticed something that occurs whenever a new housing development is built.
Perhaps you too, have observed that as soon as – or even before the bulldozers are finished carving up the landscape for new roads and houses - certain businesses pop up.
Usually the first is a WaWa or a Sheets gas station; closely followed by a grocery store, bank, a couple of pharmacies and of course, an auto parts store.
Soon after the homeowners move into these houses, storage facilities also begin to dot the landscape.
For, it is a sure thing that homeowners’ closets and basements will soon bulge – like the farmer’s barn in our parable – with the fruit of their productivity; stuff which they want to keep.
So, they rent a space in a storage facility to store their stuff.
The late American comedian George Carlin, presented a monologue which describes “tongue-in-cheek” people’s greed for stuff,
Carlin began, saying: “You got your stuff with you? I’ll bet you do. Guys have stuff in their pockets; women have stuff in their purses…Stuff is important.
[So important that] You gotta have a place for your stuff…
That’s what your house is; a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house….
A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you’re taking off in an airplane.
You look down and see all the little piles of stuff. Everybody’s got his own little pile of stuff.
So now you got a houseful of stuff. And even though you might like your house, you gotta move. Gotta get a bigger house. Why? Too much stuff!
Or, maybe [you can] put some of your stuff in storage.
Storage! Imagine that. There’s a whole industry based on keepin’ an eye on other people’s stuff.”
Turns out that Carlin was right – there is indeed a whole new industry based on keepin’ an eye on other people’s stuff!
Now, people could just stop collecting stuff – or give their stuff to others – but many just continue buying more and more stuff and storing what they already have because they cannot bear to part with any of it.
Yes, we Americans love our stuff – our possessions – for they are a sign to others, and to ourselves, that we are productive and successful.
Sadly, some will learn to their great distress that their riches do not make them happy.
So, how can we solve this problem?
In the Lord’s Prayer we pray that God’s kingdom “come” – on earth as in heaven.
And, in his Large Catechism Luther writes: “…[the kingdom of God] is realized by us …”
We “realize” the kingdom by using our excess money and possessions to benefit others here on earth; rather than keeping it stored in banks or in storage facilities where it doesn’t help anyone at all.
For, sharing with others is our thankful and appropriate response for all the blessings – all the riches – that God has showered upon us.
In fact, keeping our wealth for ourselves means we are living in a fool’s paradise.
Like the rich man whom Jesus calls a fool and before telling him: “This very night your life is being demanded of you” (v.20).
The rich man is a fool, not because he is stupid, but because he is oblivious to the needs of those around him.
Indeed, Jesus’ three final words in this reading warn everyone – from the very rich to those who labor for minimum wage – that we are not to store up treasures for ourselves but to be rich toward God.
So, on a practical level, how is a Christian “rich toward God”?
To start, we are rich toward God when we live simply.
Not by obsessing about how we can keep our money and possessions for ourselves;
And, we are rich toward God when we share the fruit of our productivity with others.
Especially, when we make room for and share with the poor; making them a place at our tables and in our hospitals, our schools, our nation and our lives because, like us, they are children of God.
Also, we are rich toward God when we are thankful for the signs of God’s blessings in the people around us.
Like the young girl who plays the piano for an elderly neighbor;
Or, a family that sets up a foundation so an immigrant student can complete his or her education;
Or, a community that develops, implements and preserves green spaces for people to enjoy.
Yes, we live in the most productive country in the world – and our economy is the envy all.
So, isn’t it time to stop; stop building bigger and better barns to keep our stuff for ourselves?
Rather, let us live as those who are “rich toward God” working together to realize God’s kingdom on earth.
Let us cheerfully and thankfully give others a share of our abundant stuff – our money and possessions; confidant that God will continue to provide for us day after day after day.
And the people say, Amen. (Amen)