9th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 14) LSB #’s 545, 492, 668
Text – Luke 12:33
Sell your possessions, & give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches & no moth destroys.
SELLING YOUR POSSESSIONS
A little boy, on a wintry day, was walking with his father on an icy sidewalk. It wasn’t long before the boy slipped & fell. Raising himself from the sidewalk, he said, “Daddy, I think I’d better hold on to your hand.” When they came to another slippery spot, the boy’s feet again went out from under him. His grip on his father’s hand was too weak, & he fell once more.
Getting up, this time he said, “Daddy, I think you had better hold my hand.” Then, if they came to an icy stretch, his father’s strong hand could hold tightly to him & his son would be safe. As you walk your way through life, are you trying to hold onto the hand of God, or are you allowing Him to hold on to your hand?
One way of discovering the answer is given by Jesus in the Gospel reading from Luke. He says, “…do not be anxious about your life…” (Luke 12:22 ESV) With the mass shootings in Texas & Ohio, the trade war with China, the gyrating stock market, the weekly violence & killing, in cities like Chicago & Baltimore, there are plenty of reasons to be anxious.
On daily display in the news media we see how callous, crass & cruel people in our nation have become. The Left is screaming that it’s the fault of the Right, & the Right is forcefully making the case that it’s the fault of the Left. The disdain & disrespect on both sides, for the other side, is obvious. And to gain votes, politicians are striving to stir up anxiety.
Yet, Jesus speaks to us saying, “…do not be anxious about your life…” And going beyond all the chaos of our lives, as a solution He goes so far as to say, “Sell your possessions, & give to the needy.” Do you have problems with worry or anxiety in your life, then sell your possessions & give to the needy. Sounds kind of radical doesn’t it? Many preachers try to ease the shock of Jesus’ words by explaining away the hard edge of the Law. What if we take His words at face value, & try to understand why they bother us so? If we figure that out, maybe we’ll discover why, in spite of our heavenly Father’s love, we still don’t trust Him in all things.
The Gospel reading for last Sunday concerned the rich man who had so many possessions he could not store all of them. Rather than using the excess to help others in need, he plans to build larger barns so he can keep it all for himself. Jesus calls that rich man a fool, explaining that he won’t be enjoying any of those possessions because that very night he will die.
The story sets the stage for today’s reading. In contrast to the rich man, Jesus tells the disciples to consider the ravens. (Luke 12:24) They have no barns at all, but are scavengers who daily need to look for food. This distinction between the rich man & the ravens is important because it helps you & me to understand the connection between trust & worry.
The rich man trusted only in himself. He idolized his ability to collect so many earthly goods. Some people are in awe of rich men & all the treasures in their possession. Yet, there are two kinds of treasure. One grows old & rots while the other lasts forever. The rich man trusted in the kind of treasure that grew old & rotted.
Though he didn’t seem worried about growing old & rotting in the grave, he should’ve been. When we put our trust in our own abilities, we are choosing not to put our trust in God. For many people this misplaced trust causes worry, anxiety, sleepless nights, panic, & even physical discomfort. That’s why Jesus said, “O you of little faith.” (Luke 12:28)
When we fail to trust in God, we end up trusting in things that should cause us to worry. That’s the point Jesus is making with the rich man. He man should’ve been very worried because he trusted in himself, but the ravens – they trust in their creator & thus do not worry. To address our anxiety we need to assess what we trust in. When we trust in things that grow old & rot there’s plenty to worry about. We end up being anxious about what we will eat & what we will wear. But when we trust in God for our daily bread there is no need to worry:
“Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, & yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds.” (Luke 12:24) When placing our trust in God there’s no need to worry because He never grows old & does not rot. We trust in God who provides for our earthly needs & also for our spiritual needs.
Possessions cloud our eyesight, whether from a lack of them, or from an abundance of them. They blind us to the fact that it is God who is always taking care of us. Selling our possessions does not earn us life, but it flows from already having been given life. If you live in the Gospel, selling your possessions is what you do, in order to help the needy.
We can test how well you’re doing by asking, “When dealing with stress where do you turn? To what do you cling?” When hearing the words, “Sell your possessions, & give to the needy” you may feel accusations burning in your mind. So be it. It is helpful, now & then, to feel the weight of our sin. This helps us to appreciate the Gospel instead of taking it for granted.
For eternity we already possess all the wealth we need. It is stored up in heaven for us by Christ Jesus. Our faith is in Him, not in our faith. It’s like the little boy learning to trust in the strong hand of his father holding on to him, rather than the weak hand of the boy holding on to his father. Faith is not a matter of how firmly we hold on to God & His promises.
Faith is all about the fact that God makes & always keeps His strong promises to you & to me. God provides purses that will not wear out, treasure that will not be exhausted. Look to the cross. Do you see Jesus hanging naked, hungry & thirsty? He hung there so that we have the best treasure of all, forgiveness of sins & a clean heart. No matter how many barns the rich man had, no matter how much he trusted in himself to maintain the level of his wealth, it does not compare to the treasure we have in the life, suffering, death, & resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are ravens living every day trusting in God to provide. And He does! Fear not! Do not worry! Be not anxious!
Selling our possessions is putting “trust in God” into action. It’s walking the walk instead of simply talking the talk. It is a purposeful choice to not trust in our own abilities. It is, instead, a choice to trust in God who sacrificed His Son. Jesus chose to die so we could live. He offers us the treasure of everlasting life that does not grow old & does not rot.
By directing us to sell our possessions, Jesus is simply calling us to allow His strong hand to hold us up in this life that is full of slips & falls. By turning to our possessions for comfort, instead of God, at best we are trying to hold on to our Savior’s hand. Because of our weak grip there will be many occasions when we fall.
By clinging to our possessions for comfort, instead of God, at worst, we’re not walking anywhere near Him through the dangerous & icy path of life.
After pointing to the birds, & then to the lilies, Jesus comes to His main point in verses 30-34. The reason for not worrying is twofold: He knows our need, & He gives the kingdom. The Father knows our needs because He knows everything. This is a comforting thought, but only if He is gracious.
Indeed, if the Father knows our need & does not give, then He’s no better than the evil fathers mentioned in Luke 11:11-13. But Yahweh is gracious. It is His pleasure (v. 32) to give the Kingdom to His disciples. That is the promise we proclaim from this text.
The Kingdom is the reign of God in Christ which has no end, & it is characterized by forgiveness & mercy for those who are in need. By selling our possessions & giving to the needy we are only doing what our Father in heaven does. We are only reflecting the true nature of His kingdom. Being able to sell our possessions & give to the needy is God’s gift to us. That is the nature of true life. Coveting, hording & being greedy is a sign of death. Choosing to sell our possessions to give to the needy is a way of battling against the sinful nature in us.
In this way our hearts will be where God’s heart is – with those who need Him & His gracious reign. The goal of this sermon, then, is twofold. First, it’s to strengthen your trust in God’s promise to give you the Kingdom. Second, it’s to loosen your grip on your possessions so you can participate in the giving mission of your Father & His Son.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, & the body more than clothing.” Amen. (Luke 12:22-23 ESV)
Since Christ returned to claim His throne, great gifts for me obtaining, my heart will rest in Him alone, no other rest remaining; for where my treasure went before, there all my thoughts will ever soar to still their deepest yearning. O grant, dear Lord, this grace to me, recalling Your ascension, that I may serve You faithfully in thanks for my redemption; & then, when all my days will cease, let me depart in joy & peace in answer to my pleading. Amen. LSB 492:2-3.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet