Hard Sayings of Jesus, II (Inscription 47)
Sell Your Possessions
April 10, 2011
· Spring Cleaning
Scripture reading: Luke 12:22-34 (Michael Pompeo)
“Sell your possessions;” this really is a “Hard Saying.” But if you were here last week and remember the hermeneutics lesson, you are probably thinking, It’s hyperbole, right?”
Nope, he meant “sell your stuff,” there are no verses demonstrating he thought otherwise, to the contrary, the danger of wealth is a pretty frequent theme in Luke.
Okay, so it’s just for the disciples, right? Not unless you also want to say, “Don’t be anxious” was only for them. Nope, this for anyone who is a follower of Jesus.
Are vacations a sin?
Q Can you tell I’ve tried to think my way out of this one?
Like some of you, I grew in church and there seemed to be this underlying thought that spending money on yourself was less than holy. If you were really righteous, you’d take a vow of poverty.
Q Have you ever felt guilty for buying a nice car? Is it really godly to buy a car when people are starving in Africa?
Q How about taking a vacation?
· Half the reason I chose this passage to preach on is that I needed to figure out what Jesus was talking about.
So here’s the short version, Jesus is really telling you and I that we need to sell our possessions and give to the poor.
Part of me (the bad part) wants to string you along and let you worry I’m going to tell you to sell everything and take vow of poverty.
But I realized that if I did that, you would spend the whole sermon thinking up counterarguments and you would miss the point of Jesus message. So here is the spoiler:
Jesus does tell us to sell our stuff, but he doesn’t tell us to sell all of your possessions. He did tell the “Rich Young Ruler” to do that, specifically saying “Sell everything.” (Luke 18:22).
But when Zacchaeus said he would sell half of his possessions, Jesus didn’t say “Only half?” (Luke 19:8-10). And throughout the Bible it is clear that the believers had possessions
· Yes, some Christians are called to lives of poverty; that is one calling, different than mine, but not higher.
A vow of poverty is no more righteous than a life of rich generosity; it is better in some ways, worse in others. St. Francis of Assisi was called to poverty, and did great things.
· Beware romanticizing or idealizing that calling.
Of course, for many of us, that is not a problem; you hope God calls you to a vow of being really rich, and you keep buying lotto tickets just in case.
Don’t check out
Jesus’ point isn’t “stuff is bad and you have to give it away.”
· His point is “worry less about the stuff of this life and more about the stuff of Heaven; don’t be so tied to this life.”
This entire passage works towards this one idea “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” and he wants our hearts in Heaven, in God himself.
This idea of simplifying and living on less is in vogue now. You have shows like “Clean Sweep” and “Hoarders,” and we are starting to see the value of living with less.
But I am giving you a higher reason than the Zen of space, or whatever. This is about re-orientating yourself to Heaven.
· My objective is to challenge you to treasure possessions less and God more, to live on less and give more.
To get there, we’ll have to deal with deeper issues, because stuff is never about cars, clothes, bank accounts. It’s about things like how you view God and who’s really in charge.
A rich fool
Let’s look at the context: Jesus tells this parable of the Rich Fool. He has a really good harvest, and rather than thanking God and sharing his bounty, he decides to live it up.
It’s like he just won a $50,000 shopping spree at Wal-Mart. He’s got far more stuff than he knows what to do with. He can’t fit it all in his house. He makes Hoarders look like amateurs.
Q So what does he do? Look at his neighbors who are literally on the edge of starvation and share with them?
No, he goes down to “Storage-R-Us” and rents half the place out, and says, “Ah, now I can kick back and enjoy life.”
God says to him, “You idiot – I gave you that shopping spree to take care of your neighbors. You should have said, ‘Oh, Martha could use this, Mary needs this.’ Instead you got 4 blenders sitting in your storage unit. blender would be fine, but not 4.”
· “It was your job to bless others with my stuff, but you failed. You’re fired.” And the guy drops down dead.
TYRANNY of the urgent
There are two big obstacles to making Heaven our treasure, and the first one is the struggles and worries of everyday life.
NIV Luke 12:22-23 ¶ Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.
We get this; we know that life is more important than food or clothes. We know that those things are temporary and our souls are eternal.
· Human nature is that we sort our priorities more by what most urgent than what’s most important.
Q Which do you pay more attention to, your gas gauge or check engine light?
For most of us, it’s the gas gauge. If you run out of fuel, you stop. But that light may stay on for a while, and we can ignore it until it is too late.
· Jesus is saying don’t be so caught up in the urgent that you neglect the important.
Q How many times this morning have you been distracted from worship or the sermon by these sort of things?
· Is there going to be anything I like at potluck?
· How many calories was that latte? (Not fear of Jesus’ day)
· Do these jeans make me look fat? How will I pay for them?
If I were to ask you who is more important, you would say worshiping God and studying his Word, but you are putting your energy into the temporal things instead.
But that is easier said than done because if you don’t eat, you will notice it. You walk around naked, it will get noticed, you’ll get you thrown in jail.
But many of you are facing serious problems. You wish your jean size was your biggest problem. There is some worry eating away at you, whenever your thoughts wander, they come back to it.
Q How do we stop worrying about all the anxieties of life?
24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? 27 Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!
Q How do you hear “how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith”?
Is he angry? Or is comforting them? “Child, be calm, don’t worry, don’t be afraid. I feed the birds and keep the universe together, I have got you covered, I love you.”
Q Do you believe your father loves you and takes care of you?
Jesus was saying this to the poor, they were the hypothetical neighbors in the story of the Rich Fool, so they loved the story, but Jesus turns the tables on them.
· It’s ironic, the disciples, rich man, and you and I all have the same problem: We don’t think God will take care of us.
The disciples were frantic about getting, the rich man was frantic to hoard what he had, and we do both.
· The big dividing line is not “Have and Have not’s,” it’s “Trust and Trust not’s.”
If you see God as loving and capable, it becomes easier to trust God. But if you earthly father was stingy, lazy, or uncaring, it becomes harder trust him.
Q Can you see how stuff is about more than stuff?
Blessed are the lazy?
But maybe you have some very practical objections: No disrespect Jesus, but I am not a raven; I can’t eat road kill. And if I dress my kids in flowers, CPS will be knocking on my door.
Q This sounds great in theory and all, but how am I supposed to live my life?
· Let’s be clear: Jesus doesn’t mean “Blessed are the lazy” or “Blessed are the irresponsible.”
He doesn’t tell them to stop harvesting their crops, quit their jobs, or cash out their 401(k) to support Love INC. Nor does he say cancel your health insurance.
· Scripture interprets Scripture.
The Bible is clear that we work to provide; it praises hard work and condemns laziness. It praises planning and saving, of being prepared for the future, leaving an inheritance.
Worry or trust
This is don’t worry means: You do what you can reasonably do. Work, plan, be diligent, have a savings account and a retirement fund. But there comes a point where it is out of your hands.
· There is a gap between what you can do and what needs to be done, you can fill that gap you can worry or you can trust.
It’s like when you were interested in someone: You did everything could to make them interesting in you. But in end you can’t make them like you, and there is a point where you will make it worse, not better.
· Jesus is saying, “Don’t be a stalker.”
What are you pursuing
So the first thing that keeps focused on earth and not God is everyday anxieties and needs. The second setting your heart on the things of this life:
29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.
Stop acting like the pagans. All they have is this life, so what else are they to do? I can’t blame an atheist for investing all of his time and energy into this life.
Q Why shouldn’t the poor their entire life into the newest phone, biggest TV, nicest car?
It’s like if I were to offer Sarah a candy bar or to pay her college, I wouldn’t be surprised when she took the candy.
· She doesn’t know any better than being short sighted.
We are supposed to be different; we are not supposed to be childish. We know there is so much more to this life, do we live it out? Jesus is asking you to examine yourself:
Q What are you running after? Is your heart set on the things of the world or are you seeking God’s kingdom?
You can say what you want, but what you spend your money on is one of the best indicators of what is most important to you.
Jesus said that what you treasure reveals your heart, and what you spend your money on reveals what you treasure. It’s not the same for everyone:
Micah is a musician; he should spend money on music. I read a lot, so a Kindle was a good investment; for you it might make an expensive paper weight.
Q Ask yourself is “Why do I spend money on that?”
If clothes are really important to you, it could be because your career requires that you dress well, but it may be because you are trying gain approval.
Maybe you eat out a lot because you were poor, and now that you have money, it is your right to eat out.
Q We are back to the heart – do you find your value in God or in what you have or do?
Q What makes you a worthwhile person, all of the trappings or God’s love?
Yeah, but how much is okay?
Again, it’s not that stuff is bad, or else Jesus wouldn’t say:
31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
This isn’t a promise that if you give x God will give you y. It means put God first, then enjoy the gifts he has given you.
As I said in the “Wisdom for the Good Life” series, I firmly believe that God’s preference is that we enjoy this life as much as possible without distracting us from the next.
· This is that balance, seek the kingdom, seek the eternal, then enjoy the gifts God has given.
Contentedly placing a stake
At this point, you may be getting really confused: So I can have stuff, but not run after it. I need to give stuff away, but I can also keep some.
Q How much can I spend on a car without feeling guilty?
Q How much money can I have in my savings account?
· I can’t give you a dollar amount, that is legalism – legalism tries to address a heart issue with rules.
Instead, I can give you one principle examine heart issues: Contentment.
· Until you are happy and obedient with what God has given you now, you will never be happy.
Beware the contentment mirage: “Once I have this, then I will be content.” Nonsense. Not too long ago, you thought that if you had what you now had you would be content!
· Also beware waiting until you have more before you give – if you aren’t giving now, you won’t then!
Once you are content, and giving from that contentment, you can prayerfully evaluate what would be a reasonable income to live on and a reasonable amount to save.
· Here is a revolutionary idea: Find the point at which you will say “this is enough, and from here I will give.”
There is a fundamental shift that happens when we look at every pay increase as a chance to get more and start seeing it as a chance to give more, to fund kingdom work.
Q Remember the Rich Fool, he was given more and he spent it on himself: What would happen if God gave you more?
Q So how do we “seek first the kingdom of God?” How do we know that we keep from being distracted by the things of this life?
Q How do we demonstrate we trust God to take care of us?
I do not think that this is some balance we can ever hope to achieve. It is a constant tug of war between seeking God and his kingdom and enjoying the gifts he has given us.
· On one side is the danger of running after earthly things like the pagan and being distracted from eternity.
· On the other side is an unbiblical emphasis on asceticism that neglects God’s good gifts.
The best we can do is osculation between the two, compensating for one with the other.
Studying this passage this time around I saw something I had never noticed before, but it lines up with what I have been learning in other areas.
When I invited you to observe Lent, I said giving something up allows is to keep focused on the truly important things. This is what I have learned in my life:
I fast to get my eyes off of this life and focus on the next, then there are feasts to celebrate the earthly God-given joys.
· Throughout the OT, there are fast and feasts.
In that same way:
33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Q Do you want to keep your eyes focused on Heaven?
Give your stuff away, not all of it, but some. Sell your stuff; give the money to the kingdom and to those in need. Stuff ties you to earth, giving it away re-orientates you to Heaven.
· You need to sell possession rather than just give money because having less stuff helps you seek the kingdom better.
It is my conviction that trusting God will carry towards greater simplicity and being content with less, to seeing things as less important.
But beware the false idealism that is less stuff is good then no stuff is better. That is an unbiblical ascetics.
· Just like the cycle of feasts and fasts, the cycle of having and giving away reminds us what is important.
A Clean Sweep
In many ways, the call to sell some stuff is more radical than to sell everything. You can ignore the call to sell everything, but I am telling you – Jesus said to sell some of your stuff.
· This is my challenge to you: This week, set some time aside to go through your house and de-clutter.
Begin by praying, asking God to show you what you should get rid of. Involve the whole family, teach your kids. Go through rooms and get rid of things. Be ready to hear from God.
· If there is anything we cannot sell, we must ask whether we own it or it owns us.
Once you get that pile:
1. Give stuff to people in need: Your neighbors, family members, Love Inc.
2. Sell the stuff that is worth selling: Do a garage sale as a community group. The Deacons are creating a fund to help those in need from inside the congregation.
3. Get rid of excess: EG: Bargains Galore
All the while, remember that your father loves you.
Q & A
· Make a “clean sweep”
· Give to the poor
Objectives of sermon:
· Exhort the church to treasure possessions less and God more, to live on less and give more.