From Jesus about Our Hearts and Money
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Luke 12:13-21
August 04, 2019

In the Gospel reading this morning, Jesus talks to us about our hearts, and money and possessions.

Jesus says, “[O]ne’s life does not consist in the abundance of one’s possessions” (Luke 12:15). In other words, as far as what the truth of the matter is in God’s eyes, our souls do not find their goal and what satisfies them in money and possessions.

Jesus’s teaching was prompted by someone calling out to Him from the crowd. “Teacher! Tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me” (Luke 12:13). Jesus responds to him with a question: “Who installed me as judge or arbitrator over you and your brother?” (Luke 12:14).

It was not Jesus’s vocation to judge or resolve civil disputes over money. God does this in his “left-hand kingdom” in the realm of civil society, through the offices that exist there for that purpose.

Then Jesus says, “Watch out. Be on guard against all manner of covetousness” or greed (Luke 12:15). Then Jesus tells the parable of the rich man. Jesus calls him a fool who loses his soul.

In Jesus’s parable, the rich man had a field. It produced an abundant crop. He did not have big enough barns to store it all. So, he reasoned within himself. “I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones.”

There is nothing wrong with any of that. This is because the field is really the subject of the first sentence in the parable, not the rich man. The field, not the rich man, produced the abundant crop. This means that the rich man did not produce the abundant crop, God did. The rich man could no more make the field yield an abundant crop than make it rain. God also gave the rich man this vocation.

The problem comes when the rich man speaks to his soul. Here is where the issue of the heart comes in. He says to his soul, “Soul! You have money and many good things laid up for many years. Rest. Eat, drink and be merry” (Luke 12:19).

In other words, the rich man is telling himself that he has found the satisfaction of his soul in all his wealth. He has found the end and goal of life. But Jesus calls him a fool for thinking so and resting his heart on his wealth. Jesus says the rich man will lose his soul for so thinking and believing.

Before we develop this further, let’s make an important observation. This whole discussion was prompted by a man who did not have. He was riled up about the injustice of his brother not dividing the family inheritance with him. He wanted Jesus to step in and rectify the economic injustice of the situation in physical terms, the goal of which was to receive part of the family inheritance.

Jesus does not take the bait. As Savior, or we could say, from the standpoint of His kingdom properly speaking, He wants no part of the dispute at that level. So, in response to the one who does not have, who thinks he is suffering injustice, Jesus warns us to “beware of all kinds of greed. One’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

But then with respect to illustrating the problem of greed and covetousness, Jesus tells a parable involving a rich man, a man who has. The problem with this man is that he thinks his soul is satisfied by his wealth.

The truth is that the one who has and the one who does not have are suffering from the same problem. This problem is greed and believing that one’s heart will be satisfied and one’s life will be full, if one has a whole bunch of money and possessions. Both are quite wrong about that. “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of one’s possessions.”

Jesus is concerned about what our hearts are set on as ultimate good and satisfaction, as ultimate value. His interest has to do with sin and the Gospel and faith and what one is putting one’s trust in. To think and believe that possessions and wealth satisfy the soul is to have one’s heart and mind blinded by greed and selfishness. No matter what our bank account or status of our balance sheet, Jesus would deliver us from this blindness and have us find the true satisfaction of our souls in God Himself. Augustine said it well when he stated that we were made for God. Thus, only God can truly satisfy our souls in ultimate terms.

Now Jesus is not condemning honest industry. He is also not condemning prospering from honest work. We learned from the Lord’s prayer last week that God the Father is quite concerned about our physical well-being (Luke 11:3). God gives us talents, vocation and property to use as the means by which He provides for our physical existence. And God is generous and kind and blesses our work in His love. Jesus does not condemn all that. He endorses it, since the field produced an abundant crop.

But Jesus is talking about how sin can sour our hearts and corrupt honest vocation and the heart’s relation to wealth and things, by causing us to think that the definition and value of our lives consists of wealth and possessions. This is false. The sin of greed can get into our hearts and cause us to be bitter and envious when we don’t have, on the one hand. But it can fill us full of self-satisfaction in wealth when we do have. Jesus rescues us from both.

How does Jesus rescue us? First, he calls greed and covetousness what it is, whether we have or don’t have money or possessions. It is sin. So, we ask God to forgive us in Jesus for the sin of covetousness and greed, which He freely does.

Second, Jesus died for this sin to redeem us from it. His dying because of this sin is intended to break its power. There was an entirely different reality and spiritual power going on in Jesus death from God’s side, than the power of sin and greed. That was the spiritual power of giving and living and dying for the good of the other.

Third, He rose out of the death and judgment on sin to bring us to faith. Jesus then fills our faith and values with a different view, a different reality. In this faith, He causes our hearts to taste an entirely different satisfaction of our souls, which is God Himself.

Fourth, through this faith He forms a different vision in us about money and possessions. In this vision, we do not say to ourselves like the rich fool, “You have much money and possessions laid up. You have found the ultimate satisfaction of your soul.”

No Jesus’s vision says, “I have found my soul’s satisfaction in God in Christ, where God gives Himself to me in grace and mercy. My money and possessions come from God to take care of my own and my family’s physical needs, and to be generous in helping others.

Thus, I will work and pray for work as God gives me ability. I will thank God and be grateful for how He blesses my labor. But money and possessions are not the ultimate satisfaction of my soul, and so I treat them and handle them accordingly, as a means to an end, but not the end itself.

Of course, none of this is perfect in us in this life. So, we are covered by grace, and it is by grace we are accepted and loved by God.  But in His grace, Christ works this vision in our hearts as He gives the reality that truly satisfies our souls, God Himself. Christ is doing it through His Word, which we hear, and the Sacrament of His body and blood which we receive in the mystery through eating and drinking. Jesus and the Spirit call our hearts away from being set on money and things, from craving them, to being inspired and grounded in God’s love, and open to the needs of others.

It is God’s love that satisfies our souls. It makes us rich in God and then turns God’s love in us toward our neighbor. May Jesus do this work in our hearts always, as He comes to us with God’s forgiveness and love, to turn us away from greed and a false valuation of money and possessions, to give us Himself. Amen.


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