Colossians 3:12-17 and Luke 12:13-21
A stingy old lawyer who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness was determined to prove wrong the saying, “You can’t take it with you.”
After much thought and consideration, the old ambulance-chaser finally figured out how to take at least some of his money with him when he died. He instructed his wife to go to the bank and withdraw enough money to fill two pillow cases. He then directed her to take the bags of money to the attic and leave them directly above his bed. His plan: When he passed away, he would reach out and grab the bags on his way to heaven.
Several weeks after the funeral, the deceased lawyer’s wife, up in the attic cleaning, came upon the two forgotten pillow cases stuffed with cash.
“Oh, that darned old fool,” she exclaimed. “I knew he should have had me put the money in the basement.”
In Luke 12:16-20 we read, ‘Jesus told them a parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crop, “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. 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.”’ 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?’
The background for our story is an incident that occurred in Galilee as Jesus was teaching to a large crowd. A young man called out from the crowd and said: “Rabbi, tell my brother to divide the inheritance of our father.” Now, Jewish law clearly prescribed that at the death of a father, the elder son received 2/3 of the inheritance, and the younger son received 1/3. This is obviously a younger son who is complaining about the inherent unfairness of it all. Nothing will divide brothers and sisters more than dividing up an estate. So it was then, and so it is now. Jesus refused to get involved in a petty family squabble.
He then illustrated this point by telling a story. There was once a man who had an unbroken run of prosperity. In today’s language, he had successfully played the commodities market. So prosperous did he become that his barns could not hold all of his crops. His solution was to tear down these barns and build bigger and better barns. Then, with his financial security in hand, he could sit back and truly enjoy life. His philosophy was: eat, drink, and be merry.
Truth be told, when we hear this story, we find ourselves rather envious of this man. A financially successful man—we see him as savvy and wise. Yet, Jesus concluded the story by saying that this man was a fool!
Henry Ford once asked an associate about his life goals. The man replied that his goal was to make a million dollars. A few days later Ford gave the man a pair of glasses made out of two silver dollars. He told the man to put them on and asked what he could see. “Nothing,” the man said. “The dollars are in the way.” Ford told him that he wanted to teach him a lesson: If his only goal was dollars, he would miss a host of greater opportunities. He should invest himself in serving others, not simply in making money.
That’s a great secret of life that far too few people discover. Money is important. No question about that. But money is only a means by which we reach higher goals. Service to others. Obedience to God. God comes to the rich man and says, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” The answer was clear. The rich man had put his trust in things. Now he was leaving these things behind.
John Wesley’s rule of life was to save all he could and give all he could. When he was at Oxford he had an income of 30 pounds a year. He lived on 28 pounds and gave 2 pounds away. When his income increased to 60 pounds, 90 pounds, 120 pounds a year, he still lived on 28 pounds and gave the balance away. The Accountant-General for Household Plate demanded a return from him. His reply was, “I have two silver tea spoons at London and two at Bristol. This is all the plate which I have at present; and I shall not buy any more, while so many around me want bread.”
The Bible is consistent in the theme that:
• we are given to — so that we might give to others;
• we are blessed — so that we might be a blessing;
• we are loved — so that we might love;
• we are reconciled — so that we might reconcile;
• we are forgiven — so that we might forgive.
The problem with greed and accumulation is that rich fools — then and now — forget that blessings are intended to be used to bless others.
In Colossians 3:12-14, Paul tells us, ‘Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.’
Christians should clothe themselves with love. In the scripture lesson for today in Verse 12 Paul says, “Clothe yourselves with compassion and kindness and humility and gentleness and patience.” Clothing stores have a saying which goes, “Clothes make the person.” Indeed, they do. Clothes cover us, protect us, contain us, shape us, announce us. Clothes are so much more than pieces of fabric sewn together. Clothes tell people who we are, what we want to be and with whom we want to be identified. We dress not just for comfort, but for self-expression.
It should come as no surprise that the Bible is full of references to clothes. “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and Eve and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). When the prodigal son came home, the father said to his servants, “Quick, bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet” (Luke 15:22).
When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead he said, “Take off his grave clothes and let him go” (John 11:44). Isaiah said, “All righteous acts are nothing more than filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Here Paul says, “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” In the early church when new converts were baptized into the faith, they were stripped naked, and then clothed in a white robe which they wore for an entire week, symbolizing their new life in Christ. Paul seems to be saying in this passage, don’t be running around with a naked soul. Shed the filthy rags of selfishness, pride, lust, and greed, and let your soul be clothed in Christ, who makes all things new.
I know it is hard to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. There are some people who are very difficult to love. Yet, if we are going to take on Jesus’ name, as Christ-ians, we must try.
I pledge to do my best to clothe myself in love. I pray you do too. It helps to have the Holy Spirit of God directing our life. Lord Jesus, send your Holy Spirit down to enter into my heart that I may be clothed in love.
Pastor Rosemary DeHut