READINGS: Deuteronomy 8: 7-18; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Luke 12:16-30
Have you given anyone a gift recently? I wonder what the occasion was. Perhaps a birthday, Christmas, or the celebration of a new life – the birth of a baby. Perhaps a grandchild?
Think about the gifts you have received in the past year.
- Do you remember who gave them to you?
- Did you remember to thank them?
- Do you think about them when you use that gift?
The overwhelming idea in the passage from the Old Testament today is a warning that we should not forget the gifts God gives us – the blessings he bestowed – the things he has done. And I would add the prayers he has answered.
Over the years I have had amazing conversations with people who have really considered believing in God – or have prayed to him (when they usually didn’t) – or have even come along to church for a while in a crisis. Who contact me in emergencies for spiritual help and prayer – and when things are going well they are suspiciously silent. We pray for people who have needs – are unemployed or unwell – their prayers are answered and we don’t see them again for a long time.
Deuteronomy 8 reminds us of this amazing gift of life and creation (whether it’s the land promised to Israel or this beautiful country we enjoy) – that we should not forget and become proud about our achievements (v14) – and it also says that he gives us the ability to produce wealth! (v18).
It’s that old attitude of gratitude. We often realise too late when people are dead and gone what a blessing they were. And so too many other things we enjoy.
- DON’T FORGET THE LORD! This is the first point today. This generous God – we should not neglect to speak of his kindness and grace, and to praise him constantly for his gifts. Which leads to the second point worth remembering today:
2. GENEROUSITY IS CONTAGEOUS
The reading from Corinthians picks up the harvest theme from a different angle.
Again it is God who “supplies seed to the sower and bread for food” (2 Corinthians 9:10).
The generosity of spirit in both practical and spiritual things – with cheerfulness – is the natural outflow of knowing we are blessed to be a blessing.
And so Paul says to the church in Corinth (in the context of their giving):
2Co 9:6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 2Co 9:7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
We are not always known to be cheerful givers. The offering time in many churches is not noted for excessive happiness and hilarity!
Paul was dependent upon peoples’ gifts to keep the work going – so that the gospel could reach all the places he travelled to on his missionary journeys. He says:
2Co 9:10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 2Co 9:11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2Co 9:12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. (As an aside we need to thank God regularly for those who serve with us here).
God has blessed us – we bless others and give to the work of the gospel as part of our thanksgiving and worship.
The riches we receive are not physical here. This is not a prosperity business – giving to be blessed – even though we are told we will be blessed!
We give to those in need to glorify God! We need to be generous kids of a generous Father. Generosity is contagious. Like love – its catchy!
And now to the third point today:
- SELFISHNESS IS RISKY AT BEST – FOOLISH AT LEAST
The gospel reading is a stark reminder of the power of sin – which focusses on me mine, what I will do for myself. It comes through clearly in the words of the barn man:
Luk 12:17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Luk 12:18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. Luk 12:19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”‘ Luk 12:20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ Luk 12:21 “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
What is this guy really after? A nest egg and early retirement? God calls him a fool.
What matters when the plug is pulled and we are gone from all this stuff in a flash?
There’s nothing wrong with providing for oneself and family. But this man is totally obsessed with himself. The context is greed. Look at the preceding verses Luke 12:13-15:
Luk 12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Luk 12:14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Luk 12:15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.
What could he have done?
Probably being content with what he had would be a start. Paul says this on the matter:
1Ti 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1Ti 6:7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 1Ti 6:8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 1Ti 6:9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 1Ti 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Following on from this warning is our last point:
4. TRUST HIM WHETHER IN WANT OR WELL PROVIDED FOR (aka DON’T WORRY BE HAPPY?)
The gospel passage today ends with that wonderful reminder about God the provider:
Luk 12:22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Luk 12:23 Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Luk 12:24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Luk 12:25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Luk 12:26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Luk 12:27 “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. Luk 12:28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! Luk 12:29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. Luk 12:30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.
He ends with this:
Luk 12:31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Luk 12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.
Worry is an unprofitable emotion indeed. Remember last week how I said we have to fill our minds with scripture to offset all the other stuff we are fed.
My prescription for you today: Read this passage at least once a week. It reminds us that we are more valuable than the birds who are provided for. He will take care of us!
- Guard your heart – that insidious love of money and stuff can destroy you.
- Seek his Kingdom, little flock. He has been pleased to give us the kingdom! This means not storing up for heaven as a kind of investment, but living for different lasting values and priorities now.
To recap we should work on:
- Not forgetting the Lord – being thankful!
- Being like Him – generous.
- Living lives in a mode opposite to greed and selfishness.
- Trusting Him – he is our provider. The Kingdom kids have the King’s kindness to depend upon! Remember Luke 12:30 “Your Father knows that you need them”.
May His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth – as it is in heaven.