Sermon for Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, August 4, 2013
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: Luke 12:13-21
Sermon Theme: “Too Much Stuff!”
(Sources: Brokhof, Series C, Workbook; Emphasis online Commentary; Emphasis online Illustrations; personal examples)
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Due to a plumbing problem, our house was flooded over three months ago. We still have not had needed repairs made, nor any of the ruined flooring replaced. Why? Because we have too much stuff! We are in the process of giving or throwing away half of it and finding storage space for the rest.
Of course, like everybody else, we have a storage building in our back yard. The only problem was that it was filled top to bottom with stuff, stuff we don’t need, stuff we didn’t need when we bought it. My son-in-law suggested that we rent a unit in the storage center that is just inside city limits in East Bernard. And, by the way, not just the big cities, but every little town in the United States has a storage center with storage units for rent. Now that should tell us something about the way we are in today’s world! Everybody has too much stuff. Let me share with you what George Carlin says about “stuff” in Brain Droppings.
Stuff is important. Right? You gotta take care of your stuff. You gotta have a place for your stuff. Everybody’s gotta have a place for their stuff. That’s what life is all abut, tryin’ to find a place for your stuff!
That’s all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time. A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it.
You can see that when you’re taking off in an airplane. You look down and see all the little piles of stuff. Everybody’s got his own little pile of stuff. And they lock it up! That’s right! When you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn’t want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. ‘Cause they always take . . . the good stuff; the shiny stuff; the electronic stuff. So when you get right down to it, your house is nothing more than a place to keep your stuff . . . while you go out and get . . . more stuff.
That’s what the modern world is all about. Trying to get more stuff. Stuff you don’t want, stuff you don’t need, stuff that’s poorly made, stuff that’s overpriced. Even stuff you can’t afford! Gotta keep on gettin’ more stuff. Otherwise someone else might wind up with more stuff than I have. Can’t let that happen! Gotta have the most stuff . . .
There’s an old fable that illustrates this bizarre aspect of modern man. The fable goes like this:
It seems a fly discovered a tantalizing strip of flypaper. It looked so appetizing that he decided to claim it for himself. So, after chasing away all the other insects that threatened to share his find, he landed on its very edge and happily announced, “My flypaper.” Then he proceeded to partake of the tasty feast.
However, in his desire to satisfy his appetite, he tried to walk around to get all he could. Alas, his feet became firmly attached to the sticky surface. Realizing he couldn’t move his legs, he began flapping his wings, but they too became mired. Finally, completely exhausted, he gave up. It was then that the flypaper proudly exclaimed, “My fly!”
This fable portrays what happens to those who get caught in the trap of materialism. At first they say, “My possessions!” But after catering to the trinkets and troves and pleasures of this world, they themselves are the ones who have been taken captive.
To be sure, there is nothing wrong with material possessions themselves, it’s what priority we give them that makes the difference. It is only when Christ and his salvation are first in our lives that we are freed from bondage to what is perishable.
And of course there is no virtue in being poor, needy, or devoid of material needs. It is a matter of keeping material goods in perspective. Do we possess our possessions or do our possessions possess us?
The parable in our sermon text for today is the tale of a man who wasted his life on the acquisition of material goods. Then God said to him, “This night your soul is required of you.” The life that is wasted in our text is a life motivated by greed, it’s a life obsessed with accumulating great possessions, and it’s a life devoted to pleasure. The man in the parable says, “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 then Jesus says, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” If it does not consist of material goods, of what does life consist, you might ask. Most people feel that money is the key to real living. After winning in the Irish Sweepstakes, a woman exclaimed, “Now I’m gonna start living.” Oh, you think so, huh?
The futility of materialism is one of the most prominent themes in the teachings of Jesus, so there is no doubt about its importance. In Matthew’s version of the passage, Matthew ends with, “Strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
Luke concludes our text with, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself [foolish] and is not rich toward God.” What does it mean to be “rich toward God”?
It means investing in the future, a concept that the “me, now” generation doesn’t understand at all. Young people work at a job after school, and instead of saving the money they earn for college, they spend it on “stuff” they don’t need. Newlyweds get money as a wedding present, and they spend it on luxury items rather than save it for furniture or a house they will need someday. Some people, if they are not given stuff, or do not have the money to buy stuff, will steal it, risking spending the rest of their future life in prison paying for their crime.
We should be willing to work and earn money for those things that God wants us to have. Yes, it is important to ask God for things for ourselves. But we should ask for the really good things, things like good health, experiences that broaden and deepen our lives, meaningful occupations, loving relationships, beauty in our life, joy and contentment in our life. There are lots of good things that God really wants us to have. Many of them don’t cost money, but if they do, it is money well spent.
Loving relationships will lead us out into involvement with others. We will find ourselves needing to invest ourselves in things that serve the needs of others. We will find joy in other people’s happiness. We will devote ourselves to God’s House and God’s Word. Spiritual things will take priority over material things. As our faith grows, so will our service to God. As our faith grows, so will our understanding of the sacrifice our Savior made for us through His suffering and death on the cross, providing us with forgiveness of sins and eternal life (the greatest life insurance policy we can have)!
But being rich toward God rather than rich toward ourselves is not an easy thing for us sin-filled human beings to do, especially when the rest of the world isn’t on that page. There is a period in life that most of us come to if we live long enough that will put things into perspective, and maybe some of us are there now. But God is understanding and forgiving, and He understands how frail and weak those of us are who are not there yet. The issue here is not “justification,” as we cannot earn salvation but receive it by grace through faith. The issue is sanctification, and so we pray that God will lead us to behavior which is truly a reflection of our faith! Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.