MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS
A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.
6421 W. Poinsettia Drive
KJV Luke 12:13 And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. 14 And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? 15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. 16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: 17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
Thanksgiving as Medicine
This Gospel teaches us about thanksgiving, and about not being rich toward God. The Son of God is our only source of forgiveness of sin. Through faith we receive the wealth of heaven and eternal life.
The lesson begins with one of the rare times Jesus did not answer a request. We may think it is odd to ask the Son of God to settle a problem with an estate. But it was not so then. Bishop Augustine, many centuries later, spent an inordinate amount of his time in dealing with estates, and he was not even a Planned Giving Counselor.
We get the picture, as Lenski has noted, that the man edged his way up to the front of the crowd and asked a question irrelevant to Jesusí sermon about persecution. It was as if he was saying, ďForget about that. What about the farm? I want at least 60 acres. Tell my brother.Ē We see many examples of that on the new judge shows, where people reveal that they cannot handle the simplest problems among themselves.
Recently we asked a lawyer to do a little legal work for Bethany. Following lawyerly procedure, we asked for the cost first before we would go forward. We made it clear Ė tell us how much it will cost to do this and we will answer about going ahead. He did not do this at all. Instead, he badgered one member about irrelevant questions and ended up billing $270 for doing nothing. When I phoned him and made him a fair offer, $100 for doing nothing, he slammed the phone down. Now he will be tied up for many hours over the difference, $170. And he thinks his time is valuable.
Jesus answered the man in two ways. First of all, He was not sent to worry over estate problems. Secondly, He warned everyone not to be covetous, for the human life does not consist of having an abundance of things. Here of course, life does not mean just being alive, above room temperature, but having a genuine life, a worthwhile life. Being alive would be bios, the base for biology. Life here is zoe,
KJV John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life (zoe): no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Coveting is a terrible sin. It is an evil desire for something we do not have, whether it is money, land, a business, a divine call to a congregation, someoneís spouse, or the service of employees. We have two different commandments against it. Coveting is the only mental sin specified in the 10 Commandments, although others are implied, as Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Because coveting is a mental sin, it leads to many carnal sins and to the death of the soul.
Paul defended his ministry as being not based upon covetousness. False teachers covet position and wealth.
KJV 1 Thessalonians 2:5 For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: 6 Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.
Paul warned the Colossians not to covet. It is also in the list of sins in Romans 1:29.
KJV Colossians 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
KJV Romans 1:29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Jesus taught a parable to show how coveting leads to a loss of soul. A man was wealthy from his successful work. So he had an inner debate with himself. What should he do? Nothing comes out about sharing with the needy, a frequent subject of the Scriptures. Nothing is said about thanking God for his blessings.
Mary sang in her Magnificat:
KJV Luke 1:52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. 53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
The man, after debating with himself, decided to store up all his wealth, to build bigger barns and live a life of ease. ďEat, drink, and be merry.Ē He looked forward in time and only saw self-fulfillment.
God said, ďFool. You will give up your soul tonight. Who will get all your goods?Ē It is an interesting contrast. In life these goods are the source of prestige and power. I have seen many clergy cower and bootlick for a few dollars from a wealthy man. But when death paints a different portrait, the goods have no value and only eternity matters.
He who lays up treasure for himself is not rich toward God. If you ever covet the worldly success of people who cut corners and do whatever is necessary for themselves, look at how God paints their faces over a period of time. One of the great missionaries, Passavant, was criticized for judging a manís character by his overall looks. Passavant replied that the manís character was written on his face.
In contrast, the person who is rich toward God will be shaped and blessed by Godís work through the Gospel. Therefore, whatever the unbelieving world looks at is absolutely irrelevant. I learned that as we entered the world of the disabled, with our two daughters. For many people, they did not exist. Church leaders refused to acknowledge that they existed. They knew, of course, but they were utterly silent. We often felt we were ghosts living in a ghostly world. But we knew many others in that same world. Some moved from one world into the other. One nurse was very condemning and suddenly became disabled. Then she understood. We felt no sense of loss, but just the opposite. We gained from Godís blessings through our daughters and through the most unlikely people.
I often wondered if it was possible to buy orthodoxy the way people buy false doctrine. For instance, a businessman liked the Church Growth Movement and bought himself a couple of corrupt ministers (who had destroyed their families) to promote his views. He owned them. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that money and doctrine form a non-reciprocal relationship. Money corrupts, but poverty does not create orthodoxy.
But we learned that one can give and receive the gift of time, which is the most valuable gift of all. We all have the same amount of time each week, no matter what we earn or do. If all our time is spent on ourselves, we are not giving anything of ourselves. When we visited a man dying of cancer, it was a wonderful experience for us, for him, and for his wife. It took two days, but those two days will always live with us and his family.
When we visited a woman fading away with Altzheimerís, she smiled with her eyes closed while we talked. Often closest relatives will not visit, so the time spent means a lot. It can simply be relief from the monotony or strain of the situation. No one wants to think, ďI am in this alone.Ē
I have heard Church Growth people fret over how they can promote evangelism, when the Receptivity Axis is pointing the right way. Anyone who visits someone in need can speak about the Gospel, without having an agenda. Visits for joyful news can also be accompanied with the Word. After all, are we happy or are we thankful to God?
During times of trial and anguish, being thankful for blessings is the best possible medicine. That means we need to understand with faith how God works. It is often tempting to thank ourselves rather than God for good news, but during bad times we are most likely to blame God.
Letís say a man is at the peak of his career and suddenly becomes disabled? Clearly God has a role in this. How can someone be thankful for pain, loss of income, and loss of enjoyable work? And what about his wife? Her role is reversed. Now she must take up the slack in many ways. How can she be thankful? If we measure things in terms of bigger barns, it would be better to listen to Jobís wife, curse God, and die. But a disabled man can end up spending much more time with his wife than he could have otherwise. Being thankful often means counting up what God has allowed to stay (friends, wife, a reduced income) and what God has moved to the forefront (His Word).
KJV 1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end [purpose] of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
Many Lutherans I know have been bounced around various synods, each one promising to be Godís answer to the question: which is the perfect synod. Because those people have been bounced around and abused, others who tolerate false doctrine have joined in abusing them for changing synods. This seems to be a bad process but it is ultimately good. That is, anything evil can be turned into something noble by God. Those who have been disillusioned by Lutheran synods are in a position very few have. They have no illusions left. Thatís what dis-illusioned means. More importantly, they have the opportunity to trust in the Word alone and to study the Confessions the way beggars study the markings on curbs.
The hungry look for food. The wounded and sick look for medicine. Unfortunately, when we are content and pleased with matters, we do not hunger and thirst for righteousness, for the truth of Godís Word. We lack a capacity for Godís Word. The Scriptures are not lacking but we are. Only when God stretches and softens us by the hammer blows of misfortune do we cast ourselves upon the mercies of God alone. Only when all our human devices have failed do we say, ďThou alone, Lord.Ē
The deepest sense of thankfulness comes from the greatest sense of loss. For some it is from the enormity of their sin and the greatest of Godís mercy. For others it is the realization that God has rescued them from total loss and shame. But we do not need to have catastrophes to be thankful. Daily meditation upon Godís Word will help us realize that our treasures are divine and not material.
I am thankful to God for being a small part of several different congregations across America. All of our congregations are weak and inconsequential by most standards, but we love Godís Word and benefit from it daily. I am thankful for 30 years of marriage to a wonderful woman, having 3 unique and priceless children, a perfect daughter-in-law, and two heaven-sent granddaughters. I am also thankful to be able to serve in Phoenix and help in New Ulm, where a special set of circumstances allowed my wife Chris to get the best medical care (for a change), first in New Ulm, then in Phoenix. Our best friends in Christ have come from the turmoil of Lutheranism. Some we may never meet face to face, but we feel close to them all the same. Such unity can only come from Christ.
Let us be rich toward God.