TEXT: Luke 12:13-21
Who Left the Outside Door Open? It’s Freezing in Here! Did You Grow up in a Barn?
Who Left the Cupboard Doors Open? It Makes My Kitchen Look like a Mess!
Open doors, I know, are not always welcome occurrences. It’s true. But these past few weeks we have been talking about open doors in a positive way. We’ve been talking about God opening doors to us – how we can recognize them and choose the best ones.
As we look through Scripture, we learn that God’s open doors are typically invitations to make our lives count with God’s help, for His glory and for the sake of other people. Ultimately, God opened the Door for us so we might open doors for others. Unfortunately, though, some miss going through these doors. They miss the joy and satisfaction they can experience in their own lives, as well as bring into other people’s lives. It can happen for a variety of reasons, like the one we encounter in today’s story from Luke’s Gospel.
One day, while Jesus was teaching, a person interrupted Him and said, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me!” Apparently, a skirmish had been going on in his family, and this man was afraid he was going to miss out on his fair share of the family inheritance. Jesus doesn’t play the role of judge as the man would like Him to do. But He does give a caution: “Take care and be on guard against all kinds of greed, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
Be careful, Jesus says. Greed is dangerous. It shrinks our souls. It keeps us from walking through open doors that God places before us to serve others. It narrows our vision of the world to me – with a capital M – E.
You’ve heard this little poem, I’m sure,
“I had a little tea party
this afternoon at three.
‘Twas very small,
three guests in all:
I, myself, and me.
Myself ate all the sandwiches,
while I drank up the tea.
‘Twas also I
who ate the pie,
and passed the cake to me.”
Me, myself, and I.
Greed is a dangerous thing. It is one of the seven deadly sins, because it is so insidious. It is all too easy to get caught up in if you are poor, but especially if you’re a person with some wealth.
Haddon Robinson, a preacher I respect, once said, “For every verse in the Bible that tells us the benefits of wealth, there are ten that tell us the danger of wealth.” One of the dangers is greed.
These days a new term has been coined from the technological world of Facebook. It’s called FOMO, an acronym that means “the fear of missing out.” On Facebook, people share the wonderful things happening in their lives. However, in doing so, we can soon begin to sense that person is getting more than me – more vacation opportunities, more fun, more invitations for fun events, more friends. It can make a person feel depressed, like they are missing out. My life should be better than this.
We actually see a bit of FOMO in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. The serpent approaches Eve and says, “Did God say you shouldn’t eat from that tree?”
Eve replied, “Yes, He told us that we couldn’t eat it. We couldn’t touch it, lest we die.”
The serpent says, “That’s not true. God just doesn’t want you to be like Him. You are missing out. All you need to do is just take a bite!”
We have an insatiable hunger within us for more. When it is focused on self gain, it is a foolish, ungodly, dangerous, lonely, dead-end street.
Jesus goes on, then, to make His point with a parable. He tells about a man who was living for himself. The land of a rich man produced plentifully. He was a rich farmer and had a bumper crop. A strange thing happened as a result, though. He had a conversation with himself – not with God, not with the wise elders who would sit at the city gates and help with decision-making in the community. No, he had a Board of Directors of one – himself.
Notice all the “I’s” and “my’s” in this: “What should I do with my crop? I’ll tear down my barns and take my grain and my goods. I’ll say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years: relax, now. Be merry. Have a comfortable retirement. I have myself well taken care of. What a good life I have created!’”
The story doesn’t end there. Jesus went on to give God’s take on his life: “Fool! This very night your soul, your very life will be required of you. Now these things – whose will they be?”
Jesus summed it up by saying, “So are the ones who lay up treasures for themselves and are not rich toward God. They are nothing more than fools.”
To be rich toward God means to treasure God above everything else, to use one’s life for Him. To walk in His ways. Jesus is saying that leaving God and others out of the picture to pursue treasures for yourself is considered a wasted life in God’s eyes. It is foolish and very shortsighted when you think about it. You can’t take it with you. How many U-Hauls have you seen on the way to the cemetery? Everything goes back in the box. This is the big picture.
In the verses that follow this parable, we see Jesus turning to His disciples and basically telling them, God has a better plan for you as His people. “Don’t be anxious about your life, what you will eat, what you will drink and about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” He talks about the birds of the air and the beauty of the fields with the flowers. “If God takes care of those things, how much more valuable you are to him!” If His eye is on the sparrow, you can be sure He watches over you.
He points out, “You can’t add an hour to your life by worrying about these things. The nations (pagans) of the world strive after all these things. Your Father knows what you need. Trust Him. Seek first His kingdom instead. Serve your heavenly Father by serving others.
“Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions. Downsize. Hold them more loosely. Sacrifice and give to those in need. Replace greed with generosity. Make wise investments in others that will open doors for them with acts of kindness. Help with your resources, your time and skills. Make money bags for yourselves that will never wear out in heaven, an unfailing treasure where thieves cannot steal and moths cannot destroy.”
Jesus sums it all up by saying, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If God is your treasure, your heart is in a good place and you are living wisely. But if personal comforts, security, well-being, personal glory, and possessions are your treasures, you have a serious heart problem.
The bottom line here is, Jesus points out, the wise way to live as His disciple is found in taking the focus off of me, myself, and I. Instead, look for ways to serve, to open doors, to help others. It is in using all God has given me – my time, my money, my skills, my talents, my connections – to open doors for others.
Doors open when we look closely for ways to live that way – to be rich toward God as we put ourselves out there and take these words seriously. We begin to notice and care about people whom we might overlook. We begin to see them through the eyes of Jesus. Love and generosity open up all kinds of opportunities for us to be door openers in other people’s lives. This is when life gets exciting.
You don’t have to look far for divine opportunities to open doors. It can begin right at home, in fact, with our spouse as we listen, as we pay attention to one another, as we go out of our way to serve each other, affirm one another, encourage, and ask what we can do for them.
I have a friend named Jim whose wife recently went through some serious surgery. He called me and said, “I won’t be at Bible study for a few weeks. My wife is laid up, and I am playing nurse. She’s going to have to learn how to put up with my cooking for a few weeks.”
I think of my father taking care of my mother for many, many years as she suffered with lupus. He served her hand and foot, clothed her, bathed her, worked two jobs to support them.
It is in caring for your parents. I’m thinking of another friend of mine, Phil. He and his wife’s health are not the best. Their son recently told them he is adding a new addition onto his home so Phil and his wife can move in, and they can take care of the mom and dad.
I think of other door openers. Rob has a real skill at helping others figure out directions in life, how God has wired them, and what they might do with their careers. He is constantly giving himself over to consult with people – no charge – to help them figure out where to go next with their lives.
I think of Vicki and Jim who have become involved with the Haiti Teen challenge ministry. Through their finances, time, and talents, they pour themselves into helping young people develop into godly leaders in Haiti.
I think of Larry who spends more time at projects serving other people than he sometimes spends at home. Or Dave and Claudia who work at the food shelf each week. I think of Nancy who is big on sending sympathy cards and encouragement cards, you name it, every-kind-of card in the book to others within the congregation. They remind others how much God cares about them, we care about them, and we are praying for them. I think of people who give up their Wednesday nights to work with our young people. They are opening doors for these kids to find Christ. We have a team of people who are adopting a refugee family from the Congo. They are thrilled! All of us are thrilled for them.
A person might wonder, Why would I opt to live that kind of life? It could be inconvenient. It could be uncomfortable and sacrificial. It could be messy.
My response is, it is the “Jesus’ way.” Don’t you want to please Him after all He has done for you? I know I do. Think of the door God opened for us through Jesus. He opened the door of salvation for us. He laid down His life for us so the door of heaven might be open to us. He paid for our sins so we might have a relationship – which was broken by sin – restored, and we can live with our Father in Heaven. He rose from the grave so we might live under Him in His kingdom in the here-and-now, living the good life God intended for us in the first place.
Jesus called it the abundant life, the life of putting self aside for the sake of others. Acting on opportunities to be kind in Jesus’ name. Jesus said this is where you will find a fulfilling life – in giving it away. He has opened the door for us so we might open doors for others. You and I were saved for a purpose – to open doors for others to serve.
Jesus knows exactly what He is talking about. His way is the way, His truth is the truth, and His life is the life for you and me. It was affirmed at the resurrection. He lives! He rose from the grave. You can believe Him, then, when He says it is in losing your life for others that you find it.
This, my dear friends is God’s ultimate plan for your life. With all kinds of open doors out there, He calls you to step into them. Be a door opener who can offer life to others in His name.
My encouragement to you today is to be on the lookout for divine opportunities, open doors to love and be generous and kind – even in small things – whether it’s buying a cup of coffee for the person standing behind you at the coffee shop or giving the waitress who is waiting on you in the restaurant an extra big tip. (Christians should be known as big tippers.) Instead of just saying, “I’ll be praying for you,” offer to pray on the spot with someone who is struggling. Do it then and there. When you see a person struggling with a project at work or school, offer a listening ear and a helping hand. Step through that door, I dare you. This is where the excitement is. It is where the abundant life is.
This is God’s Word to you today. Let’s do something with it and act upon it.
Are you ready? On your mark, get set, go! Amen.
Pastor Steve Kramer