Inspired by Luke 12:13-21
Well, this isn’t the most exciting of Jesus’ parables is it. It’s probably not one of the better known ones either. But it certainly has a few important things to teach us. It’s usually given the title of The Parable of the Rich Fool. And so, I imagine there are a lot of sermons being preached today, as I speak in fact, on money. But I just wasn’t feeling that this week, which really surprised me! To be perfectly honest with you, I’ve been chomping at the bit to preach about money! Cuz Lord knows, someone needs to be talking about money around here other than poor Jerry!
So, when I read this parable I thought here’s my chance, it’s finally here! And then I stared at a blank Word document for most of the week. That’s usually a good sign to me that what I think I should be preaching on is not what needs to be preached on. But don’t worry, I’ll be preaching about money soon enough. I’m not one of those pastors who thinks money has no place in the pulpit. Quite the opposite in fact.
But anyway, I went back to my first reaction as I read this passage. And that shouldn’t surprise me. I should know by now to just follow my instincts. So, before I even got to the actual parable about the rich fool, my first reaction to this passage was with Jesus’ initial reaction. So, some guy in the crowd, I like how random it starts out, some guy in the crowd asks Jesus to convince his brother to divide the inheritance with him.
And Jesus’ answer is so direct it borders on sounding callous. And I can certainly relate to that. I too, am a very direct person, and that has its value, but it also has it’s pitfalls too. But I mean, isn’t Jesus supposed to be fighting for the disenfranchised, like he normally does? We are now in the 12th chapter of Luke, as we continue through this gospel through the summer and Fall, so our instincts should lead us to believe that Jesus should stand up for this poor guy.
But he doesn’t. In what could sound very cold he says, “Man, who appointed me as judge or referee between you and your brother?” As a direct and blunt person myself, I of course love hearing Jesus this way. But that’s not the only reason I love this reaction from Jesus. It’s more than that. What I love about it is that it communicates something about our relationship with Jesus, and more specifically, how we should, or shouldn’t, use Jesus—how we should treat Jesus.
It helps to answer some fundamental questions in our faith, “Who is Jesus to us?” or “What is Jesus?” How many times, when going through a rough patch in life, have you heard someone ask, “Have you prayed about it yet?” Or maybe even, “Have you prayed hard enough?” or some variation of that, as if, your prayer is what’s missing to magically get you out of the mess you’re in?
Is that who Jesus is to us? A genie in a bottle? A magician? A problem solver? A life coach? Or, is Jesus the son of the living God, so much more than any of these roles that we like to give him, and therefore none of them? Let’s come back to that. How many fans of the Wizard of Oz out there? Yeah, it’s always been one of my favorites. It scared the hell out of me as a kid but I still loved it. It’s amazing how well it still holds up.
Sometimes I wonder, if God hears our prayers and thinks, I’ve already given you all the things you need to fulfill that desire, to fulfill that need. Why aren’t you using them? I’ve given you a brain, and a heart, and the collective courage, as a community, to handle almost anything that comes at you! And whether you can or can’t fulfill your heart’s desires, or your every need, I will be here with you—every step of the way—no matter what, says the Lord.
So, when Jesus tells that random guy, to go solve his own problems with his brother, maybe he’s not just being flippant, or rude, or cold, or sassy. Maybe, in his very Jesus way, he’s saying, “Dude, God has given you everything you need to figure out this thing with your brother, on your own. How much effort have you even put into this? I’m not a genie in a bottle. I’m not your personal wizard. I’m the Son of the living God. And I’m here for you, every step of the way, no matter what, right by your side.
Who else can give you that promise? There are a lot of self-help gurus out there. There’s a lot of crystal balls out there. There’s a lot of magicians. But there is no one that can give you a promise like that. No one. And isn’t it funny how that’s not enough for us many times. Isn’t it funny how we hear that promise, we know that promise, but we still go to Jesus and say, “Yes, yes, I know, Jesus, I know, but just this one time, and I won’t bug you, but can you just bail me out this one time, this last time?” Can God magically bail us out each and every time we need God? Sure, God can do whatever God wants to do, and maybe God does every once in a while.
All I know is this, I don’t need God to be my personal divine enabler. I need God to hold me accountable. I need God to tell me when it’s time to get off my butt and figure it out. I need God to slap me upside the back of my head at times and say the answer is right in front of you, and you know how I know, cuz I put it there for you! Do we enjoy it when God has to serve up a little tough love like this? Well, of course not, so why are we OK with it? Because God has taken care of the big things for us already, unconditional love, salvation, and promising to be present with us to the very end. Things that no one else can deliver on. Thanks be to God. Amen.