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Luke 12_13-21

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TITLE:  SuperSizing It!           SCRIPTURE:  Luke 12:13-21

How much money do we need to live?  How much "stuff" do we need?

Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables of Jesus deal with money. 

One out of ten verses in the New Testament deals with that subject. 

Scripture offers about five hundred verses on prayer, fewer than five hundred on faith, and over two thousand on money. 

Every once in a while, I find myself reflecting on how much more prosperous we are today than when I was growing up.

I can remember when a three-bedroom, two-bath ranch-style house was everyone's dream house.  I remember hearing that Johnny Carson had bought his parents a new house.  Carson, of course, had become unimaginably rich as the host of The Tonight Show.  When I heard that he had bought his parents a new house, the picture that came to my mind was a three-bedroom, two-bath ranch-style house -- about 1600 square feet.  I couldn't imagine that they would want anything larger. 

I dreamed of hitting it big myself so I could buy my parents a 1600-square-foot three-bedroom, two-bath home.  That never happened.  It was hard enough to buy a house for myself and my family. 

In recent years, things have changed.  People are tearing down three-bedroom, two-bath houses to make room for McMansions -- huge houses -- houses many times as large as the ones that they are tearing down.

Why does anyone need a McMansion?  Maybe it's to entertain business associates.  Maybe it's to "Keep up with the Joneses!"  Maybe it's to store all the "stuff" they have accumulated.  At any rate, we have begun to SuperSize our houses.

And it isn't just houses.  A full-sized car used to weigh 3,000 pounds and would accommodate your family quite nicely.  Now many of us are driving cars that weigh 4,000 pounds -- or 5,000 pounds.  We have SuperSized our cars, and we have SuperSized our gas bills.

And it isn't just houses and cars.  Fast-food restaurants encourage us to SuperSize it -- to order enormous portions.  When I eat in a restaurant these days, I can hardly eat all the food that they place before me.  If I do eat all of it, I feel uncomfortable for hours.

And it isn't just houses and cars and food.  It is us!  We have been SuperSized as well.  A few years ago, cigarettes were the big killers.  Today, food is the culprit -- especially sugar.  There is sugar in everything --soft drinks, ketchup, mochas.  There is an epidemic of obesity today -- an epidemic of diabetes. 

We live in a SuperSized world.  Everything is bigger and supposedly better.  But let me ask this question.  Are we better off?  We are, without doubt, richer than ever before.  We are among the richest people who have ever lived.  We use the phrase "better off" to mean financial prosperity, and we are, indeed, better off financially than ever before.

But I would suggest to you that being truly "better off" involves more than money.  True prosperity has other dimensions that we dare not ignore.  True prosperity includes good health.  An unhealthy person isn't truly prosperous, regardless of how much money he or she has.  None of us would trade places with a rich person who is also sick. 

True prosperity also has a spiritual dimension.  I have known wealthy people whose lives revolved around making and spending money.  I have some distant relatives who fit that description.  To visit with them is to hear one story after another of money they have made and the things they have bought.  Many like that think that nobody likes them because they are rich, but the fact is that nobody likes them because they are boring.  They are rich in money, but poor in everything else.

In our Gospel lesson today, a man came to see Jesus.  He wasn't rich, but he had money on his mind.  He spoke to Jesus, saying:

    Teacher, tell my brother

    to divide the family inheritance with me."

Apparently, the father had left his estate to two brothers jointly.  This man didn't want to be tied to his brother.  He wanted to be free.  So he said:

    Teacher, tell my brother

    to divide the family inheritance with me."

That wasn't a question.  It was a command.  He was ordering Jesus to do his bidding.  He said:

    Teacher, tell my brother

    to divide the family inheritance with me."

Before this man came onto the scene, Jesus had been engaged in serious teaching.  He had been warning people about hypocrisy.  He had been telling them that they would face opposition, but he assured them that the Holy Spirit would help when they were arrested. 

But this man interrupted Jesus' teaching with this request.  He said:

    Teacher, tell my brother

    to divide the family inheritance with me."

So Jesus stopped what he was doing to tell this man what he needed to hear -- not what he wanted to hear, but what he needed to hear.  Jesus said:

    Take care, be on your guard against all kinds of greed;

    for life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.

Then Jesus told him a parable.  A rich man had a great harvest.  The harvest was so great that the man had to tear down his little barns to build big ones.  This man didn't say thanks to God.  He didn't give his workers a bonus.  He didn't help to feed the poor.  His only thought was of himself.  He said,

    "What should I do, for I have no place to store MY crops?

    I will do this: I will pull down MY barns and build larger ones,

    and there I will store all MY grain and MY goods."

And then he concluded:

    "And I will say to MY soul, 'Soul,

    you have ample goods laid up for many years;

    relax, eat, drink, be merry.'"

But God said:

    "You fool!

    This very night your life is being demanded of you.

    And the things you have prepared,

    whose will they be?"

And Jesus concluded:

    "So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves

    but are not rich toward God."

I would like to draw your attention to a small but lovely detail in this parable.  The New Testament was written in Greek.  When the man said "Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years," he used the Greek word psyche.  That was the word for "soul."

But then God said, "You fool, this very night, your psyche -- your soul -- is being demanded of you."  It's the same word in both places -- a fact that some English translations obscure.  "SOUL, you have ample goods."  "Fool, this very night, your SOUL is being demanded of you."  The man was going to die that night, and no telling what would happen to his barns full of grain -- or his soul.

Then Jesus concluded:

    "So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves

    but are not rich toward God."

Please note that Jesus did not say that it is bad to have money.  Bill and Melinda Gates are using their money to fund medical research to eradicate malaria and other Third World diseases.  God bless them! 

Andrew Carnegie used his wealth to start the public library movement in this country.  God bless him! 

Alfred Nobel used his money to endow the Nobel Prizes -- to encourage excellence and to promote peace.  God bless him!

John Wesley put it this way.  He said:

    "Do all the good you can

    By all the means you can

    In all the ways you can

    In all the places you can

    To all the people you can

    As long as ever you can."

We can do that whether we are rich or poor -- and, if we do that -- if we do all the good we can -- it won't matter whether or not we are rich. 

But if we are fixated on accumulating wealth -- or things -- if our primary concern is SuperSizing our houses and cars and food portions, then we need to hear Jesus' warning.  He took one look at the rich man who would die that very night, and warned:

    "So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves

    but are not rich toward God."

So how do we get rich toward God?  Jesus said two things that sum it up.  The first is to love God.  The second is to love our neighbor as ourselves.  If we truly love God and neighbor, then the thing that we will SuperSize will be our generosity.  And if we SuperSize our generosity, we will be rich toward God -- and a whole lot happier, too.

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