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August 18, 2014, 4:00 PM

Monday Morning QB: Luke's Parable of the Rich Fool



MMQB  Just a few thoughts about the sermon yesterday.  I do believe that when preaching or teaching on the topic of money/wealth, there is a tendency to paint "rich people" as bad, or even worse, flat-out evil.  I think that's always going to be a risk when it comes to that sensitive topic.

I think a better way of thinking about money is looking at what people actually do with their money.  As I read Scripture, I am impressed that neither wealth nor poverty gets a free pass into the saintly unimpeachable zone.  I think particularly of Proverbs 30:8-9, Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, "Who is the LORD?" or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. (ESV).  True, it says that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.  However, there are many rich people in Scripture who are held up as positive examples -- I think particularly of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) and many of the women who followed and supported Jesus and his disciples as they traveled during his earthly ministry.

I think it comes down to recognizing that money (as well as everything else) is a gift from God.  It's not a sin to spend money on yourself, whether it's a vacation or a nice dinner, or whatever else.  The key is, what else are you doing with "your" money?  Generosity is big.  Sacrificial giving is commended, while, I must add rather forcefully, still covering your obligations.

In one of my briefest incarnations in the work world, I was employed by a small loan company.  I had the un-enviable task of calling delinquent accounts regarding their loan payments.  I'll never forget a lady telling me quite seriously, "I can't make my loan payment this month because I had to give it to my church."  I was astonished.  (Reality Check:  She probably wasn't telling the truth there -- perhaps trying to generate a little sympathy...but, what an uninformed lie.  Thinking about Commandments #8 & #9.)  No, you pay your bills!

It's what you do with the rest that's in play here.

I think about a good friend of mine who was primarily responsible for pushing me into seminary.  He passed away just as I took my first call as a pastor.  I have taken to calling him St. Barry.  The only man I have ever known who could be described as both earthy (wicked sense of humor, sometimes too graphic) and godly at the same time.  Barry started a little silk screen operation in a small town in North Carolina.  The business took off.  He ended up inhabiting the entire downtown block with his business.

Now, that was a man, St. Barry, who could truly live unto himself, if ever there was such a man.  However, the key characteristic that defined St. Barry was his generosity.  He gave; and God continued to bless him.  Oh, Barry lived well, make no mistake about that!  He drove Lincoln Town Cars. Smoked the best cigars.  He refused to ride in my low-status Nissan Stanza.  (Never mind that it was brand new and I kept it immaculate.)  He took wonderful vacations.  He remodeled his house in style.  But, you know what?  Barry was a giving man.  He frequently recounted how "his" money was God's money.  He knew the Giver who made it all possible.  As a consequence, he took his stewardship very seriously.  He never "tipped" God, as he liked to say.  He always gave back.  The man loved God and he was a great teacher.  Used in a mighty way.

A good example of how a rich man can get through the eye of a needle!

I think we need to focus on these twin Biblical disciplines of generosity and love of God.  If we do, I think we get at the heart of what Jesus taught.  Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:33-34 ESV).

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