Message, based on Luke 12:13-21
July 31, 2016 Sermon "Share Your Riches"

About 20 years ago, many of you will remember a TV show called ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’.
It was hosted by British celebrity reporter, Robin Leach, who went around the globe to show us people living in extreme opulence.
Mostly, they were famous stars or athletes or business moguls whose excessive wealth enabled them to live a life of luxury.
It was one of the first reality TV shows and successfully ran for over ten years,…..a long time as far as television tenure goes.
But it was successful because we Americans (like all people) love watching and fantasizing about what it’s like to be that rich.
We vicariously enjoy the excesses to which those very wealthy were able to partake of all life’s good things.
Expensive homes and cars,….elaborate vacations,… and numerous possessions that lacked little practical utility.

But if you’re expecting to hear a sermon saying all of that excessive wealth is wrong and sinful,….. well,….you won’t.
We hear a lot of hostility towards the rich in our political discourse and also even within our churches sometimes.
But Jesus never actually had bad things to say, nor did he ever make any blanket condemnation, towards the rich per se.
What he criticized,…..and what he is critical of here in today’s Gospel lesson,….was not the idea of having wealth itself.
His complaint was about what wealth and money does to us.
Jesus talked about money so often because God knows how much we get obsessed with having it.
He warned to “be on guard against all kinds of greed” and our tendency to put our faith in the things we own.
That “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions”.

So the story we heard today begins with a reality situation.
A man asks Jesus to be arbitrator between he and his brother over who gets what share of an inheritance.
But Jesus refuses to do what he asks.
Instead, the situation prompts him to teach us with a parable about the idea of greed and the love of money.
The parable he tells is about a rich man who has so much stuff that he builds extra buildings to store it all in.
The man says he will feel content and be happy within his soul because all that stuff he has will be safely stashed away.
Then he’ll be ready to live a life style like the rich and famous.
But Jesus says that, as the man’s life ends and he stands before God, the Lord asks him ‘what good are all those riches and possessions?’
Jesus says that the rich man was not ‘rich within his soul’ because he was not “rich towards God”.

So the message of Jesus’ parable is not that to have wealth or possessions is a sin or wrong according to God.
The message is that the rich man was a fool because he put his hope, faith and love in material things rather than in the things of God.
Jesus says our problem arises when we feel that our state of wellness rest more in wealth and possessions,….than in God.
For example,….the love of having money can cause us to turn against each other.
That’s why when the man asks Jesus to intervene in the dispute about the inheritance;…. Jesus wants nothing to do with that.
Instead of the two brothers working out their problem in an loving and amicable manner,….they’d rather win a fight over the money.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard of similar stories of family quarrels resulting from the issue of inheritance of money.

And we can all think of many other reality situations in life where money is the cause of intense disputes.
At the workplace,…in marriages and relationships,…even in churches
Being “rich towards God” means that loving one another supersedes being right about who gets how much money.

So in the parable Jesus tells, he’s critical of the man with all the riches because has decided his life is good because of all he has.
But the man is judged by God for neglecting to use his wealth towards things important and good to God.
The rich man is a fool because he placed his priority on his money and possessions instead of being “rich towards God”!
The man apparently gave little thought to the commandment to love God and others, and was in love with serving himself.

So where does this leave us?
Do we give up all our money to avoid placing our hopes and faith with our income, investments, and pensions?
Do we sell all our possessions to avoid the trap of falling too much in love with those things?
Are we wrong to buy lottery tickets or to dream and fantasize about  being rich (if not famous)?
As we said; all this hostility towards the well to do is not biblical at all.
And Jesus never favored the poor over the rich as children of God.
He actually loved ALL people,….rich and poor.
But….what Jesus did warn against, is how we over-value our riches.
He warned against how we choose to use the riches that we have been blessed by God with.

Do we horde them,…as the man in the parable did,… to be enjoyed only by us or just to pass on to our offspring?
If we endlessly pursue wealth and possessions to feather our nest and make ourselves feel safe and secure,….we ignore Jesus’ point.
People with wealth and riches can be very good tools of God towards making the things of God happen.
The greatest expenditures to help further the things of God throughout history have not been spent by governments.
In the whole scope of history, that is a relatively recent activity.
Much is, and has always been, spent by rich philanthropists!
And while churches have always supported helping those who cannot help themselves, those churches are often nurtured by the wealthy.

So don’t be thinking that God somehow frowns upon wealth or having a comfortable lifestyle (if not a rich and famous one).
But DO be concerned if too much of your hopes and dreams and your faith against your fears,….rests upon your loot.
DO be hesitant to fall in love with possessions and riches in lieu of loving the chance to be “rich towards the things of God”.
We can go out and eat, drink and be merry all we want.
But when we eat well,….remember those who have little or nothing to eat; or give the waitress (who might be a single mom) a generous tip.
When we enjoy a drink,… think about making a donation to AA or Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.

Or,…when you drink clean water, send a check to an outfit that protects clean water or helps provide it for others.
And when we are feeling merry,…..give a donation to some cause that helps make less fortunate people’s lives a little bit happier.
No matter how much or little we have in terms of riches and possessions,….we can always be rich towards God.

Whether you’re rich and famous or a regular person of modest means.
The reality of life is that it’s not only good for God and others to share what we have,…but also good for us.
Studies show people feel better in their souls when they share what they have with others, more than spending it on themselves.
So empty some from your barns and be rich towards the things of God
We’ll not only avoid being the fool, but we’ll actually be smarter than a lot of the rich and famous we see on TV!
Because we’ll be and feel rich within our souls, as well.

Amen.