The Grinch of Greed
We are about to be buried in dens full of colorful wrapping paper torn to pieces by children eager to see what Santa Claus brought them. This annual ritual comes with considerable anxiety. We actually have a wish list on ANYLIST.COM where we have plugged in the things we desire, like a 20 oz. Yeti Rambler cup.
Now the YETI cup is supposed to keep your drink as cold as science can accomplish in our modern age. It has become the rage. We failed to secure one before the run on them at Academy, Ace Hardware, and Cabella’s.
Correction—someone in Slidell managed to secure four of them when he realized what was happening. I could buy one of those for $75 if I cared to pay that much money for an insulated cup. Since I was about to preach this sermon, I passed on that and a 30 oz. Rambler I saw on Craigslist for $130. My son-in-law finally found a 30 oz in Hattiesburg and paid a premium for it.
Here are a few things I see in this passage that will keep the Green Monster from devouring your Christmas joy:
Don’t Measure Yourself By Money:
“Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15).
Be on your guard! Here we are at Christmas time, worshiping the Christ child born in a stable in a pasture. He and his family have practically nothing of this world’s goods. He will eventually die naked on a cross, only a few items to leave his friends, without even a permanent address.
He made the remark in Luke 12:16 and told this parable in response to a question about financial equity and the division of inheritance between siblings. He did not answer the question itself but took the opportunity to reinforce his perspective on the relative value of money in a world governed by the Heavenly Father.
We call him Lord and Savior. We want to follow him with all our hearts. And we are going to talk or act as if money is the point of living on the planet? Have we lost our minds?
Yes, in a way we have lost our minds. And we have lost our way. We have wandered from the path of Christ Jesus into another path. The force of gravity has pulled us there. We are under the influence of culture, society, and family norms rather than being under the influence of the Man from Galilee.
You have to see this from God’s point of view. He supplies us all the raw materials that are necessary for existence on this planet. He creates thousands of species of plants and animals. He carves out oceans and pushes up the mountains and scatters the stars in space.
Then he says to humans, the capstone of creation, “I have given you every tree and plant for food. Here is this garden. It is for you. Till it and tend it. And do not eat of the forbidden fruit from that one tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.”
We eat from the forbidden tree any way, asserting our own rule not only over the creation provided for us but even over God himself. And then we slash and burn the natural world in an unrestrained effort to prove that we are indeed the greatest. Accumulation is the way you win in this garden, we think.
You are much more than your money. Do not forget this at Christmastime. Your gifts are precious, not because you have spent so much money, but because they represent a heart that is given unto your family and friends.
Don’t Prepare Financially Just for Yourself:
‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ (Luke 12:20).
The Rich Fool does not seem to have a plan for the disposition of his property after his own death. This is foolish of anyone who has accumulated wealth by working or inheritance in this world. We all need to be good stewards in our wills as well as in our regular income.
The Fool seems to be alone. There is no apparent heir to the fortune he has laid up. “Then whose will all these things be?”
A family man may be just as greedy as a single man. And a single man may have a life just as full of love as any married man with children.
- Whether you are single or married, have children or not, do not simply accumulate for yourself alone. The rich man in the parable was in part a fool because he did not prepare wisely for his own demise.
- Think about how you will bless those you love and how you will bless the God who made you through the way you write your will and distribute your resources when you are gone.
I had a discussion recently with someone in our church who told me that we really needed to encourage people to think about their church when they write their wills. In fact there are many ways that you can bless the work of the gospel through the distribution of your accumulated wealth upon your death. Please hear me: I will not personally benefit from you including the church in your bequeaths. This is not a plea for personal advantage. I am talking about moving forward the work of the gospel through wise preparation for your inevitable death.
The McFarlands did just this decades ago. A married couple without children, they blessed the hospital, the seminary, and First Baptist New Orleans through their accumulated wealth. That is why you are sitting in this spacious sanctuary this morning. It could not have happened without their wise preparation and heart for Christ and the good news.
If you treat your money as wholly and always yours, you will have the same shock as this Fool in the parable. One day you will die clinging desperately to keys that will never open another door for you.
Be Rich Toward God:
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).
He stored up things for himself. He was focused on his own toys, his own pleasures.
- He failed to acknowledge that his wealth was a stewardship, that he could not hang on to it forever.
- “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.” He failed to acknowledge that it was a gift, that God had created the heavens and the earth. He did not deal in grace with others because he had no sense of the grace God had given to him.
Instead, he felt that this was his stuff and nobody else had a claim on it, not even God.
Greed is the shift of our focus from God himself to the things he has made. It is the worship of the creation rather than the Creator.
Greed is idolatry. It makes the created order a god, a false god, of course. In fact, greed may be the fundamental idol that humans bow down to with their effort and time and talents in this life.
Baal was the god of increase, the god whom they supposed would make the crops grow and the flocks multiply.
Greed cannot deliver on its promises. Their baals were just stone or wood, unable to help them or hear them or know anything about their plight.
- Money is the same way. It cannot hear you or help you or love you. It cannot provide security or peace. A man alone with his money is truly a man alone.
- Greed pulls us away from the priority of people to the idolatry of things. So many people sacrifice relationships with the people they know they are supposed to love in order to have more of this world’s goods piled up somewhere.
- Let’s not make that trade. Let’s not fall into that trap this Christmas. Let’s deal with the reality that time is fleeting, that God is Creator and Jesus is Lord. And that we are stewards for a time of what we have been given. Let’s use it help those in need and to care for our own family of faith and the spread of the gospel.