Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Sermon: Money Makes Fools of Us All (Luke 12:13-34)

Below is a sermon I originally preached on 29 December 2013.

Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But He said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or arbiter over you?"

And He said to them, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." And He told them a parable, saying: "The land of a rich man produce plentifully, and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'  But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."

And He said to His disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today and tomorrow is thrown in the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Lk 12:13-34)

Good morning, Grace Church.

If I haven't met you before, I'm Michael Belote, one of the Elders here at Grace. Before I start this morning I need to let you know that I am crazy sick right now. My family is incapable of celebrating a holiday without a major sickness breaking out, and I have been under the weather for a few days. To battle the illness I have taken basically ALL of the medicine in my medicine cabinet. Everything in there I just took one of it this morning. So if I start saying something weird today, I'm not speaking in tongue under the Spirit or something...I'm having a bad drug interaction and someone please call a doctor.

OK, so starting today I want to complain. I want to complain about one of your pastors—maybe next time they’ll think twice about giving me the mic, huh? Your associate pastor, Josh Hurlburt, apparently hates me. I say that because three years ago when I volunteered to help with youth group, I asked what topic he wanted me to teach first. He said, “I’d like you to teach about creationism and evolution – what is Biblical, what is maybe Biblical, and what definitely isn’t Biblical – and how to evangelize to evolutionists.” Right. Because THAT isn’t controversial at all.
Then here we are and he asks me to start teaching on Sunday mornings as well. Fine, and my first assignment is to restart our Luke series. OK no problem. But then as I’m studying for the passage a few weeks ago, I realize that he has assigned me to teach about money and materialism. On December 29—the Sunday after Christmas. Look, nobody likes a sermon about money anyway, but doing it the day after Christmas, the time of year where most of you have the biggest credit card bills and smallest cash accounts of the year? That’s just awful!

So to start with, I want to let you all off the hook a bit. You see, when Jesus preached this sermon, you know what He didn’t end with? “Will the ushers come forward and take up the offering, please. Peter needs a new
microphone, and James & John want these nice seats on stage, and Judas wants a new children’s wing added.” There was no local church, and this wasn’t a local church fundraiser—even if that’s how it is normally taught. So I’m not here to try and raise funds okay? Now if you happen to give to Grace later, I won’t track you down in the parking lot and return the check or anything. But that isn’t our primary purpose. Jesus here is teaching about materialism and your personal attitude toward your money. That's what we're focused on.
Okay, so now that we are getting started, let me remind you where we are. If you are new here—or a very unobservant member—you might not know how we normally teach at Grace. We pick a book of the Bible and start in chapter 1 verse 1, then we teach through the end of the book. As a result, you are able to see the context really well…today’s passage is a great example of something that is usually taught as two separate sermons when really it is part of one message.
Now currently we are in the book of Luke, which was written by a guy named….Luke. (That’s the kind of top notch Biblical scholarship you get when the seminarians have the day off.) Luke was a Gentile—like everyone in the crowd. Luke was a doctor—like most of the people in the crowd. Luke was a high IQ convert who was hired by a man named Theophilus to investigate Jesus. Theophilus was having some doubts and wanted to know what was going on, so this book is basically a doctor’s investigative history, talking to the eyewitnesses, putting together an orderly account.
For those who can remember our last lesson—way back before Missions Month and Advent season—as we get into Luke 12, Jesus has become super-popular. He is so popular by this point, on account of all the miracles and teachings, that the Bible tells us people are literally trampling each other to get to the front of the crowd. And that brings us to our passage today.
But before I unpack the passage, I want to make sure you understand a common pattern in Jesus’ teachings, which will help us here. Jesus’ teachings often take this pattern:
1. Someone from the crowd asks a question
2. Jesus answers the question to the crowd in parable form
3. Later, Jesus tells His disciples more info about the same question
That is important because the second half of our passage today—where He talks to the disciples—is usually
 taught as a sermon about worry and the first half about generosity…but in fact, both are part of Jesus’ one single answer. So don't miss that.
Now what is going on here? Well, in Deuteronomy we are told how God set up the inheritance laws of ancient Judaism. The older son received double the portion of the younger sons. So take my family for example: I have two sons, Alex and Ryan. And I have an estate worth literally dozens of dollars. So if I were to divide this vast estate among them, I would divide it into three parts: Alex would get two, Ryan would get one. And Ryan would complain to high heaven about how unfair it is. As an older child, it seems fair to me…and what can I say, it’s God’s word, guys. Older kids deserve more.
Anyway, there were exceptions to this. Maybe the older son had dishonored the family. Maybe the older son had left the faith. Maybe the older son had a mental handicap that precluded him from running the business. Whatever it was, the Sanhedrin would assign local rabbis to serve as arbiters for such lawsuits or disagreements. This guy in our passage today is coming to Jesus and asking Him to serve as arbiter.
And Jesus…basically blows the guy off. He shrugs and says, “Not my problem.” Jesus tells him that He is not
the judge in this case, and the guy should seek the appropriate channels.
But then Jesus turns to the crowd and elaborates on the point of inheritance and money, with what we call the
Parable of the Rich Fool.

So why is this guy a fool? Notice that—unlike most of the rich people Jesus talks about—he didn’t do anything
unethical or illegal here. As far as we know, he owned the land and the harvest came legitimately. There is no
hint that he is shorting wages or anything. So why is he a fool?

He is a fool because of verse 19: the rich fool is seeking what? “RELAX, eat drink and be merry.” The rich man thinks that he will receive peace through his bank account.
Notice that the man has a number in his head—a storehouse size. And then as that storehouse finally gets filled, what does he do? Makes a bigger number. He tears down the storehouse and builds a bigger one, one which holds “many years” worth of grain…basically this is a retirement fund. Do you see that? This is a 401k or an IRA. This is someone with a “magic number” he wants to get to (an always-moving number) that he thinks, “If only I can get HERE, I will have peace.”
I gotta admit something…I am the rich fool. I got a reminder of that as I studied for this sermon. You see, I too have a number. I have a number in my head of how high my savings account needs to be in order for me to relax. But the last few months have been rough. A few months ago, we had a friend who was in a financial place where they were about to be foreclosed on. We were able to help them out, paying for their mortgage and some extra to get them back on their feet.
And the storehouse shrunk a bit.

Then we had Christmas shopping come, and I don’t like to have debt so we pay in cash when possible. And
maybe we were more generous than usual or more frivolous, I don’t know…but it took a big bite of the savings.

And the storehouse shrunk a bit.

Then my wife got kidney stones, as many of you know. And even though Sara and others helped tremendously, that makes it my responsibility to provide food. Some days (as those who follow us on facebook know) that turns into PB&J sandwiches with M&Ms…but usually it is take out. Which is WAY more expensive than Jessica cooking.

And the storehouse shrunk a bit. And now I’m starting to get nervous.

Then, every light on the dashboard goes off on our 4Runner. I read on the internet and it says not to worry—and the internet is never wrong, of course. It’s just an oxygen sensor, $50 and they can reset it. Take in the car and what do we find? A $2500 bill as the entire catalytic converter system was hosed.
So now my storehouse is empty. And I am in a panic. I told Jessica, “It feels like I’m losing control.”

And that’s when it hit me. Money had made a fool of me.

You see, I didn’t lose control…I never had it to start with. Money never had the ability to guarantee me a working car or a healthy wife. Money never had that ability...I just tricked myself into thinking that it did. All that my empty storehouse did was teach me the lesson that was already true: that money was powerless to provide any real peace. Only God can do that.



So money makes the rich fools when they see it as the source of their peace.

But surely that isn’t the case for the disciples, right? These guys were dirt poor! They have to be feeling pretty good at this point of the sermon. I mean, the disciples were poor before they quit their jobs to follow around the homeless preacher. They were so poor that once, to get lunch, they stole some poor kid’s sack lunch of fishes and loaves.

But Jesus has a message for them, too, doesn’t He?

Being poor may mean that you don’t seek your peace through money, but that doesn’t mean you also are not overly obsessing about it. You too may be allowing money to take over your life. Because you think that money is the source of your provision.

Yet see what the Bible is promising here in the text—that God knows what you need and will provide it. That you are His little flock and He will care for you. We see that in Psalm 23 and with the manna in the desert and all throughout Scripture…the Lord will provide. He is our provision and our strength, not something which can be purchased by money.
Yet again, we allow ourselves to be easily made fools by money: for money gives the illusion to the rich that they can buy peace, and to the poor that they can provide security in provision.


I don’t like being made a fool, no more than you do. So how do we avoid it? How do we keep from being made
Jesus gives us two very practical applications we can take away and use this week. Let’s look at how HE comments on the sermon.



First, Jesus says that if your heart is right, your money will follow it. Check out v.31-32. If we seek God’s kingdom—that is, be Gospel-focused—then our money will take care of itself. God will give us “these things”—that is, peace and provision.
So what is the Gospel? Well, to put it as simply as I can: the Gospel is that when you were helpless, God made you the heir to all of creation…and someone else (Jesus) wrote the check. You received something you did not earn. You have inside you something of infinite worth, and someone else had to do the work. You didn’t buy it. Your money didn’t provide it. This eternal peace came freely to you, not due to your own action.
If God gives you eternal peace without you having to pay a dime for it, why do you think you need a giant storehouse to buy temporary peace?
I love what Tim Keller once said, pointing out that in 1 Cor 13 the three Christian virtues naturally lead to generosity. The three Christian virtues are faith, hope, and love, right? 1 Cor 13. If you have these, think about the natural fruit that results:
  • If you have faith, then you trust God's promise that peace and provision will come from Him
  • If you have hope, then  you believe God's promise that He will make you co-heir to all creation
  • If you have love, then you cannot pass by one who is hurting, because when YOU were hurting Jesus didn't pass you by
Faith, hope, and love LEAD NATURALLY to generosity.


But then look what Jesus does, He flips it completely around and says it exactly the other way:

Where your money IS (present tense verb), there your heart WILL BE (future tense verb). Jesus is saying that if you start investing in something, your heart will naturally follow your money.

This goes along with what Doug Mary shared with you guys the other day, that Randy Alcorn once said “Giving is the only antidote to materialism.” That is exactly what Jesus is saying here. Yes, generosity will come naturally from a “right” heart…but if you AREN’T being generous, then give sacrificially! Give up your cable and use Netflix, or downgrade a car…literally sell your possessions so that you can give sacrificially. Your heart WILL become more focused on it.
Don’t have a passion for the orphans like you should? Give to Livada or the James Initiative or the Call…that will change. Don’t have a passion for missionaries? We support like a billion of them, pick one and invest in them. Don’t have a passion for the poor? Give to the Foodbank.

Look, I used to zoom past the beggars on the side of the street…until my six-year old reminded me that we were not giving to take care of the poor like Jesus would want. Now? I’m passionate about helping them, can’t pass one by without feeling horrible and turning around. Where your money is, there your heart will be.

So as we wrap up today, let me remind you of the big idea.

Jesus’ big idea here is that money makes fools of everyone. It makes us fools because we seek in money things that only God can provide—provision and peace.

But Jesus gives us a clear application here: if we want to stop being so materialistic, there are two cures:

1. Get your heart right/focus on the Gospel, and the money will follow

2. Get your money right and the heart will follow


  1. Wonderful post! Money which is required in our daily life is also deceptive and makes fool of us if only we run after it. Keeping believe in God and earning good deeds in life is more valuable in life and always come first than money.

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