Luke 12:16-31 (NIRV)
16 Then Jesus told them a story. He said, “A certain rich man’s land produced a very large crop. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have any place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones. I will store my extra grain in them. 19 I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain stored away for many years. Take life easy. Eat, drink and have a good time.” ’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You foolish man! Tonight I will take your life away from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “That is how it will be for whoever stores things away for themselves but is not rich in the sight of God.”
22 Then Jesus spoke to his disciples. He said, “I tell you, do not worry. Don’t worry about your life and what you will eat. And don’t worry about your body and what you will wear. 23 There is more to life than eating. There are more important things for the body than clothes. 24 Think about the ravens. They don’t plant or gather crops. They don’t have any barns at all. But God feeds them. You are worth much more than birds! 25 Can you add even one hour to your life by worrying? 26 You can’t do that very little thing. So why worry about the rest?
27 “Think about how the wild flowers grow. They don’t work or make clothing. But here is what I tell you. Not even Solomon in his royal robes was dressed like one of those flowers. 28 If that is how God dresses the wild grass, how much better will he dress you! After all, the grass is here only today. Tomorrow it is thrown into the fire. Your faith is so small! 29 Don’t spend time thinking about what you will eat or drink. Don’t worry about it. 30 People who are ungodly run after all those things. Your Father knows that you need them. 31 But put God’s kingdom first. Then those other things will also be given to you.
A certain rich man’s land produced a very large crop. There is nothing to suggest he was a nasty man. There is nothing to suggest that he got his wealth through sinful behaviour. There is no backstory and no reason for anyone to think he may have got his money from robbing the poor etc. There is nothing to make us think anything badly of this man unless we read things into it. What this story does tell us, is this: all that we do can have no worth unless God blesses the deed.
This passage is asking, who do you prioritise? Some versions call the rich man a foolish man because he is not putting God at the centre or thanking God for all the extra crop he is growing. Psalm 53 starts off by saying “Foolish people say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’” This rich man is foolish because he thinks his success is down to him. He does not thank or worship God. He does not have an attitude of gratitude. He has not put God first, and that is why he is foolish.
There is nothing wrong with creating wealth, it is what you do with it that matters. You can go out and earn money; there is no question that God wants us to prosper. There is no doubt that God wishes us to enjoy the riches of God’s creation. But the foolishness of this story is that the man does not think of giving any of his surplus crops away to those suffering around him.
The second part of the reading is in many ways more self-explanatory. It reminds us not to worry, and that is really hard. I admit I am a bit of a worrier. I went to the theatre yesterday, which you probably think would have been a pleasant experience. I went to see Les Miserables, which in itself is the most dreadful, horrible story in the world, but the music is very good. So, what did I worry about? I worried if I would get there on time and I worried that I did not have the right COVID-19 double vaccination proof, but that all went well. I then got to my seat and I worried about where my arms were going to go, are they going to get in the way of the lady sharing the armrest next to me? Then I worried about who is going to sit in front of me. What if it is a 6ft 8 giant? Luckily, God blessed me with a 4ft 8 lady instead, who needed a booster seat! I worried I would not be able to hear, I worried I would cry because I cry quite easily. In the interval, I worried about getting ice cream. Am I going to get the right number of ice creams? As it happens, I got in the queue and the card machine was not working, so I had to join another queue! After the show, I worried about how I would get home. It was getting late and it was raining, was I going to get soaking wet?
So, trust me, when you are a worrier, life is very hard, but Jesus tells me, do not worry, do not be anxious. I know how hard it is to have anxiety but if we have faith in God then our worries should at least be alleviated. Of course, if you do worry, that does not mean you do not have faith in God. What this reading is saying is allow God to help you, allow God to be with you in that anxiety and let him help you get through the worry.
This sermon was first preached at Gants Hill URC on 3rd October 2021
We are happy for you to use any material found here, however, please acknowledge the source: www.gantshillurc.co.uk
Rev'd Martin Wheadon