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"The Heart's Treasure, the Servant's Alertness"

July 21/13 Lk.12:32-40


Jesus challenges us with sayings and stories that question this world's "conventional wisdom". In today's lesson, for example, He tells us to sell our possessions and give to the poor. That sounds like a recipe for financial disaster. This comes on the heels of a parable about a rich man whose fields produced good crops. He didn't have room to store all the produce, so decided to build bigger barns. That's conventional wisdom. Makes sense, doesn't it? Saving up in anticipation of securing a future in which he can lie back and take life easy. Yet God calls him a fool, because he's about to die that very night.

Jesus challenges our conventional views on money and wealth because they're deceitful; we presume they're very valuable, but there's much that capital CANNOT do, and Jesus wants us to appreciate the intangibles that last. Someone has written this little summary of money's limitations: "Money will buy: a bed, but not sleep; books, but not brains; food, but not appetite; a house, but not a home; medicine, but not health; amusement, but not happiness; finery, but not beauty; a crucifix, but not a Saviour."


"Sell your possessions and give to the poor," Jesus says in Luke 12:33. What's He getting at? Is He exaggerating to make a point? How literally are we supposed to take this? John MacArthur notes that Peter tells Ananias in Acts 5:4, "Didn't it [ie your property] belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal?" What's implied here was that Ananias wasn't really expected or compelled to sell his fields and give the money to the needy, even though that's what some others in the early church at Jerusalem were doing. Selling possessions was optional. FF Bruce comments, "I prefer to believe that even Luke sees in the words not a mechanical rule, but a law for the spirit."

But let's not let ourselves off the hook too easily, and write off the Master's words as mere hyperbole. Jesus may be saying this world's values are untrustworthy, that there's something more valuable than earthly goods and supposed security. V33B "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." Purses wear out; material "stuff" breaks down. Recently I took some old computers to the electronics recycling container at the North Huron landfill; it was so full of once-valuable electronics that I had to stand on a big speaker in order to toss the monitors, printers, and computer boxes up on top near the roof. Sobering to realize how much all that "junk" was once worth when it was purchased. This year's hottest handheld devices will be next year's cast-offs, outdated as people move on and upgrade to the latest and greatest gadgetry.

"A treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted." The word can be translated treasur-Y (casket, storehouse); the heavenly treasury God has for us is inexhaustible, unfailing, won't be "eclipsed" (same root in the Greek). How do you make a deposit to that treasury? In Mt 10:42 Jesus promised whoever gives even a cup of cold water to a "little one" won't lose their reward. You can't take it with you, but you CAN send it on ahead - through Spirit-led loving deeds.

"Where no thief comes near and no moth destroys." This world's possessions bring with them their own concerns and worries: will somebody take my valuables? How do I keep my house or cottage secure when I'm not there? Will the moths or other insects get into our wardrobe, rats into our ceilings and walls, mould into our basements, rust into our vehicles? Multiplied goods can bring mutliplied headaches. And that's not even to mention the fact that failing health can interfere with people's enjoyment of things they've acquired.

This world's belongings are transitory, even ephemeral in value. One a very godly and generous businessman in London England was asked for a donation to a charitable project. Very little was expected because the businessman had recently sustained a heavy loss form the wreck of some of his ships. To the amazement of the charity's leaders, he gave about ten times as much as he was expected to give to the project. When asked how he was able to give so much in light of his business difficulties the businessman replied, "It is quite true, I have sustained heavy loss by these vessels being wrecked, but that is the very reason why I give you so much, for I must make better use than ever of my stewardship lest it should be entirely taken from me." He'd learned to see his possessions differently - as goods entrusted to him to use for a short time, and for which he was accountable to God.


This world is in decay, and the material in it. But there's a deeper issue at play here, which Jesus points at in V34: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." What we value, what we view as precious, we tend to idolize, and our thoughts can become preoccupied with how to get more of whatever it is. Psalm 115(4ff) talks about the nations' handmade idols of silver and gold, that are powerless to speak, see, hear, feel, or walk; then the Psalmist adds, "Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them." (See also Ps 135:5ff) We become like what we worship, what we value and treasure. Where your attention is directed (what you treasure), your heart follows. Yet God has commanded - and deserves, we owe this to Him - that we love HIM with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and have no other gods before Him. He is jealous (rightly and justifiably so) for our affections. To become fixated with any lesser god is to condemn ourselves to become less than fully human, as that false god starts to take over and usurp our life. Unseen heart issues are what's really at stake in Jesus warning against greed's insidious effects.

One day a certain old, rich man of a miserable disposition visited a rabbi, who took the rich man by the hand and led him to a window. "Look out there," he said.The rich man looked into the street; the rabbi asked, "What do you see?" The rich man answered, "I see men, women, and children." Next the rabbi led the man to a mirror. "Now what do you see?" The rich man replied, "Now I see myself." The rabbi commented, "Behold, in the window there is glass, and in the mirror there is glass.but the glass of the mirror is covered with a little silver, and no sooner is the silver added than you cease to see others, but you see only yourself." The callousness of cash. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


Undergirding Jesus' argument in this whole section of Luke 12 is the idea that humans worry about so much because they fail to understand God cares for them. "Consider the ravens": God feeds them; "consider the lilies" - God clothes them; "How much more will He clothe you!" (12:24, 27f) The rich fool expanding his barns for more storage left God completely out of the equation - totally self-focused. Jesus wants us to understand how much God would love to share with us if we only acknowledged Him.

V32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." Did you catch that? He's PLEASED to give it to you - the verb means "it seems good to on, is one's pleasure, to be well-pleased with, to be favourably inclined towards one." Too many people have the wrong impression about God, as if He's fundamentally like some Greek or Norse thunder-god waiting to hurl lightning bolts. At VBS this week we sometimes had a challenge fitting the whole Bible story into the 20-minute time frame. One teacher had been explaining the ten plagues inflicted on the Egyptians but ran out of time to finish the lesson. Later in the week, a little girl brought up about God sending the plagues, and it became apparent she'd missed the real reason - that the plagues were intended to convince stubborn oppressive slave-driver Pharaoh to release the Israelites. Suddenly it dawned on the little girl that God had a good reason for sending the plagues, to rescue His people. But sometimes people in our culture get the wrong impression about God, as if He's arbitrary or gets His jollies from making people suffer.

Jesus presents quite a different picture: "little flock - your Father has been PLEASED to give you the kingdom." It's what He WANTS to do - it's just that our sin and rebelliousness, our un-belief, get in the way. The Father is KEEN to share good things with His children (especially the Holy Spirit, as we saw last week - Lk 11:13).

Also, consider the attitude of Jesus the Son. If you think Jesus' attitude toward wealth is unconventional, wait till you see His own unconventional approach to Lordship! Hear the parable that starts at v35: "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for [blessed are, happy are] those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, [underlining for emphasis - get a load of what comes next!] he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them." (Lu 12:35-37) How unconventional! How unheard-of! A master tucking his robe in his belt, rolling up his sleeves to play waiter to his own servants? Weird! Totally counter-cultural! What kind of a master is that?!

Precisely the point. Jesus is like no other master. This is exactly what He has done for us, "stripping down" from heavenly glory to take form as a man, being obedient to what we needed in order to be saved, all the way to dying on a cross for our sins. In John 13(4f) He even acted this out by washing the disciples' feet just before He was crucified. Can you not trust a Master like that, who is so concerned for your good? Would you acquire possessions to wall you off from depending on Him, so He has no opportunity to come through for you and show you how He can be trusted to provide when you obey? A crazy master, crazy for you - to the point of giving Himself up to show you kindness. Happy are, blessed are, servants who have a master like that - more blessed and happy than possessions could ever make them.

Tony Campolo notes that in a dramatic sermon at Eastern College, a prominent African-American theologian shocked the audience with his description of Jesus. He started off his message by saying, "Jesus was a nigger!" He went on to explain that he was not suggesting that Jesus had black skin. Being a "nigger", he said, had to do with what you were in the eyes of the world. As a matter of fact, he pointed out, there are some African-American people who call other black people 'niggers'. The word 'nigger', he claimed, refers to the downtrodden, the spat upon, the cursed, the humiliated, the rejected, and the despised. Given that definition, he reasserted his contention that Jesus was a nigger. He went on to say, "There's no way you can read the 53rd chapter of Isaiah and not come to this conclusion. There the prophet tells us that the Messiah would be despised and rejected; spat upon and cursed - and we would hide our faces from Him." He then went on to make another statement that was almost as shocking as the first. He said, "If you want to be like Christ, then you must be ready to become a nigger too! You must be ready to empty yourself of the wealth, status, and power that has marked your life. But if you are thinking of turning away from the calling, you should be aware that only niggers can be saved!"


This crazy Master "will dress Himself to serve" (v37). Back in v35 He commands, "Be dressed, ready for service" - same verb as in v37, literally "to gird up one's loins", tucking the long robe in the belt in preparation for work, like rolling up one's sleeves, getting your coveralls or apron on. Verses 35-40 have a theme of being "ready" running through them - 35 'be dressed ready for service,' 38 "it will be good for (or, blessed are / happy are) those servants whose master finds them ready," v40 "You also must be READY because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him." Are you ready? Do you have your lamps burning, eagerly anticipating the Master's return? Are you ready to open the door IMMEDIATELY - an indication of the priority of waiting for Him, so you don't keep HIM waiting? Is His bidding 'priority one' for you? Does He have your attention, your alertness, OR do you risk getting sidetracked by the world's amusements and trinkets? Luke 21:34 Jesus warns, "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap." Such things "weigh the heart down" - back again to the condition of the heart.

At the bottom of all this is the fact that Jesus doesn't want your money - He wants YOU! The person you are, with your personality, your interests and passions, your abilities. Possessions are all external 'stuff' - Jesus is passionate about an intimate relationship with you. Are you entirely at His disposal?

In closing, an observation from Ralph Waldo Emerson. "But our tokens of compliment and love are for the most part barbarous.Rings and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts.The only gift is a portion of thyself.Thou must bleed for me.Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd his lamb; the farmer his corn; the miner a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing."

Be dressed, ready to serve the Master who's so crazy about you that He likewise dresses Himself to serve and wait on you. Let's pray.