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How Much Is Enough?

July 31, 2022 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Lectionary

Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 12:13–21

The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

July 31, 2022

Luke 12:13-21

 “How Much Is Enough?”

Last month, my wife and I visited Savannah, Georgia – a wonderful place to go and experience. So much history, grand old architecture, and great food! While there, one of the places we visited was Bonaventure Cemetery. I know what you’re thinking: who goes to a cemetery when you’re on vacation? But this place is different – very different. The monuments here simply have to be seen to be believed. People vied with one another in death to see who could build the biggest, grandest memorials, and we discovered that there is a whole language (or secret code) in how figures are depicted. Who knew? But at the end of the day, you can’t take it with you, can you? All of the stuff of this life gets left behind when we leave this world, which is exactly what today’s Old Testament lesson (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-26) and Gospel lesson (Luke 12:13-21) make clear. Jesus’ words about “being on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15) remind us that there is something deeper and truer, and of much greater value. Jesus’ parable of the rich fool in the Gospel lesson becomes the basis for preaching under the theme, “How Much Is Enough?” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.

Life teaches us a profound lesson. Early on, when we are young, we often want things, lots of things. We want things and we collect things – gadgets and devices, big things and small things, collectibles and thingamajigs, etc. But as we get older and reach retirement, we find that our lives are weighed down by all these things. We can’t wait to get rid of them! Many of these things end up in dresser drawers and boxes in the closet, basement or attic. We may not even remember that we have them. Out of sight, out of mind. So, how much is enough? King Solomon, with all of his splendor and wealth, wrote thousands of years ago about this and despaired that what he had worked so hard for would be left to people who not only didn’t work for it, but wouldn’t manage it wisely or well. “Vanity of vanities… all is vanity!” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). At the close of today’s Old Testament lesson, Solomon, who is that “Preacher” who wrote Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 1:1), very wisely states: “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25). That sounds so simple. Can it really be true? To be thankful and content with life’s simple gifts of food and drink, and work for our hands; to find enjoyment in these gifts of God – that is enough. If we were to read on a bit farther in Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote words that point us to Jesus’ own words in today’s Gospel lesson: He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).

We would say that the man in Jesus’ parable is a successful business entrepreneur. He’s in agriculture and his farms are producing so well that he has to expand his operation. Nothing wrong with that. But this individual seems to have only a spirituality of self. He doesn’t run any of his ideas or plans by anyone else, and he certainly does not seek the Lord’s counsel or guidance in prayer. As we read: “… and he thought to himself…” (Luke 12:17) and again, “And I will say to my soul…(Luke 12:19). It was all about him over against thinking how he might bless others through this bounty, sharing with those around him, especially those who needed help. And so this has come down to us today as “the Parable of the Rich Fool.” For someone whose wealth came from the ground that produced all of these crops in great abundance, it’s very clear that the man was not grounded in anything outside himself. The Lord’s word of judgment falls upon him: Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’” (Luke 12:20). One thing I have never seen, and doubt that I ever will, is a hearse pulling a U-Haul. You can’t take it with you. Paul the apostle’s words are a sober reminder to us all: “But there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

How much is enough? That is our struggle. I had a conversation with someone recently about this very thing, and in the course of our discussion the other person said, quite honestly: “I suppose it’s never going to be enough, is it?” We all want our basic needs to be met: food on the table, clothes for our family, a place to call home, bills to be paid. But the question for us is will we be satisfied with this? With the inflation rate at a 40-year high right now and concerns about a possible recession, for many basic needs are not being met. The buying power of the dollar certainly doesn’t go as far as it used to, and the pinch is being felt at the grocery store, the gas pump, many other places. And so we may ask ourselves this question: “If only I had ___________, then I would be happy.” What is that thing for you? That’s the question Jesus is asking all of us, but he cautions us here. Will that thing make you happy? Will it bring you contentment, peace, satisfaction, and joy? Maybe for a little while, but lasting peace and joy. That’s something only the Lord can give, calling us to lay up treasure not for self, but for God. 

Today’s Scripture readings are a wake-up call for us that redefine what success and security mean. All the money in the world will not secure our lives, shield us from illness, loss or tragedy, or give us lasting peace and contentment. The Word of the Lord in today’s Epistle reminds us of what is true and lasting: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.   For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4). How much is enough? What if God had said this about his relationship with us? “How much do I have to do for them in order for them to know they are loved? How much more can I give them?” With God, how much is enough is not measured with dollars and cents, investment portfolios, or savings accounts, but with blood – the blood of God’s own Son, Jesus, who died for us that we might be set free from the fear of not having enough. If we are so loved by God that he would not withhold the life of his only Son, won’t he also provide what we need day by day? The answer is a resounding yes!

Despite what the world tells us and what we ourselves may think, what we have in this life is not our own at all. It all comes from and belongs to the Lord. We are merely the managers and stewards of this for a time. Our selves, our time and our possessions – these are all gifts from the Lord. In response to all that God in Christ has done for us, we have been set free to be gracious receivers and generous givers, not greedy hoarders. God’s Word makes this clear: “…and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15). How much is enough? In Jesus, who loves us and gave himself for us, it is enough. Amen.

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