Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Glory of Humility

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
St. John the Baptizer
August 29, 2010
Luke 14:1-14

If you are truly humble and someone asks you if you are you would not hesitate to say no. How could you claim to be humble if you really are? Those who are truly humble will see clearly just how self-absorbed they really are.

That’s why we need the saints. The Scripture lifts up the saints so that we may follow their example. The saints that fill its pages are people just like you and me. People who are sinners. They mess things up even when they are seeking to be faithful to their Lord. They are examples for us so that we know that it’s not just us, out on our own, wondering if we got it right or not, if we’re living as God has called us to live or not.

One person the Scriptures lifts up as an example for us is John the Baptist. He was martyred for faithfully proclaiming the Word of God to the world. Since the commemoration of John the Baptist falls on this day, August 29, we might be able to make a case that there is no greater summary of what Jesus is teaching in our Gospel reading for today than the words of John the Baptist himself, speaking about Jesus: He must increase, but I must decrease [John 3:30 ESV]. It was Jesus Himself who said that of all people born of women, none was greater than John the Baptist [Matthew 11:11].

This is exactly the kind of contrast Jesus is painting in the Gospel reading. It is the paradoxical nature of the Gospel that presents opposite things like humility and glory and doesn’t deny either.

If you think of glory when it comes to the people of this world you would think along the lines of kings. You wouldn’t think of lowly John the Baptist, unkempt and clothed in camel’s hair. And yet, in our Lord’s Kingdom John the Baptist holds the position of honor and the king is relegated to the folding chairs in the back. But any king worth his salt would surely see that it is only in humility that he can rule his kingdom in a way that brings true glory to himself and the office he occupies. If he treats the people of the kingdom as not nearly as important as he is they will resent him and not see in him or the kingship glory but disdain. But if the king treats his subjects with dignity and governs in a way that provides what is best for them they will gladly give him honor and glory.

We don’t hold up John the Baptist as an example for us because he was such a great man. We hold him up because he pointed us to Christ. His glory was in the wardrobe he got from the thrift shop. John the Baptist didn’t seek glory, he sought Christ. Christ exalted him not because of any earthly value but because he humbled himself to point people away from himself and to Christ.

The glory and exaltation and honor John received was not by men. It wasn’t in the eyes of the world. It was the opposite. The world disdained him. The world mocked him and wanted him out of the way. And it was easy enough to make that happen, just get the man who has the power and means, to separate John from his head. No more dealing with a man who’s got nothing better to do than tell people what God has to say.

So why are you worrying about what’s coming to you? Why are you concerned with what you deserve and what you need and what you want? Why are you laser-focused on getting the best place when it is up to God who gets that? Why are you scanning the scene and comparing yourself with others, who has what, and what they deserve and don’t deserve, and what you have and don’t have? Why are you not content with what God has given you? Why are you not humble and laser-focusing on what will make others happy and what will help them? Why are you not rejoicing in the blessings of others instead of envying them? Why are you questioning why God has not blessed you more abundantly?

You hear the Word of the Lord and you exchange it for your own desires. You hear ‘humility’ and you desire glory. You hear ‘spiritual and eternal blessings’ and you long for temporal and physical ones. You hear ‘suffering and hardship’ and you seek a life free from those things. You hear the Law of God and push it aside for only the good news.

To this Jesus can only come with more Law. Paul says that “whatever the Law says it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be stopped” [Romans 3:19 ESV]. This is what Jesus does in our Gospel reading: “And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?’ But they remained silent.” After healing the man He said to them: “‘Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?’ And they could not reply to these things.” We don’t know what’s in the heart of others, but Jesus does. He pours on more Law because they need to be chopped down to size.

Jesus is not malicious. He doesn’t derive pleasure from driving us down. He brings us down, He lays us out, so that we may be raised up. They say that an alcoholic can’t see his way out until he has hit rock bottom. If you can’t go any lower there’s only one way to look and that’s up.

The funny thing is, Jesus doesn’t sit up there at the edge of the pit and yell for you to come on up. When you look up you will find the answer staring you in the face, right beside you. Jesus has come down into the pit, right where you are. He hit rock bottom Himself because He stepped down from His highest and glorious seat to the lowest, right where you and I are at.

When Jesus attempted to wash Peter’s feet Peter recoiled in horror. You are the Lord, I’ll wash your feet. But Jesus stopped him in his tracks: If I do not wash your feet, you have no part in Me. Jesus told the slaves to take the day off, He was taking over the dirty job. When John the Baptist was busy with his baptizing Jesus stood in line. John the Baptist would have none of it. I need to be Baptized by you! But Jesus silenced him. He doesn’t tell us to get on board with Him, He comes to us and brings us into union with Him.

The Scriptures are loaded with examples of people who took their position of power and abused it rather than seeing that all they have is from God and ought to be used in service to others. King David wasn’t satisfied with all the material wealth and pleasures he had amassed. His desires took over him and he committed adultery and in order to cover it up, murder. The Scriptures are equally filled with examples of servants of God who rejoiced in their lowly status. Mary wasn’t a queen or even the most popular kid in school. But she realized that she had ultimate glory because the Lord had brought His favor upon her. She knew she didn’t deserve it and even wondered why God had chosen her, but she submitted to the will of the Lord.

God does an amazing thing to pull off this kind of paradox, where those who seek glory are brought low and those who know they don’t deserve anything are given glory. All the religious leaders wanted to do was celebrate the Sabbath day. Jesus dropped the bomb on them, should we leave this guy in a helpless state one day longer so that the Sabbath can be enjoyed with our feast? It might seem ironic that time and again they accused Jesus of breaking God’s Law by healing people on the Sabbath while they themselves were having this feast, with the very best food and invitations sent out to honored guests. But in their celebration of the Sabbath they got it right. This was the way to observe the day of rest. Enjoy the blessings Almighty God rains down on you. Receive. Eat up and enjoy the company of those close to you.

What they failed to recognize is that it wasn’t just for them to enjoy. Why not share the wealth? Why not invite those who don’t feel all that special to share in the celebration? This is what Jesus brings to the table. Namely, He brings Himself to the table. But He doesn’t pass everyone by, muttering, excuse me, pardon me, VIP needing to get to the front. He serves. He takes off His clothes and wraps a towel around His waist. One man there was suffering from an ailment. But Jesus takes on Himself the ailment we all suffer from and then spreads a feast before us.

How you celebrate is by rejoicing that it is Christ Himself who makes it all happen. He silences you so that you don’t have to offer up all your great reasons of why you deserve His blessings. He throws them in the trash. He kills you, bringing to an untimely death your sinful nature so that you don’t have to enjoy the blessings of God while keeping an eye on those worldly passions that are catching your eye. Jesus suffering on the cross was the supreme glory of God, bringing His Son down in order to raise you up to new life. He raises you up to where He is because He got down on His knees where you are to lift you up. If you’re in the back, don’t worry, He has saved the best seat for you. It is up here at His Table. It is where He gives you Himself, His Body and Blood, for you, healing you of your pride, giving you new life so that you may serve and truly enjoy all His eternal blessings. Amen.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Are You Asking the Wrong Questions?

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 22, 2010
Luke 13:22-30

True theology is asking the right questions. What you need to know as a Christian is dependent on you listening to God and hearing what He has to say to you, not what you’d like to hear.

So when you come to portions of Scripture where someone asks a question of the Lord, you ask, Is this the right question to ask, or the wrong question? If you ask the wrong question, Jesus’ response will show you that you are not seeking what He wants you to know but rather how you would like things to be. If you ask the right question, you will already know that what He has to say to you is what you truly need, because He has come to bring about for you what is best for you.

What prompts us to ask the wrong questions of God? Our sinful flesh clings to us so tightly that we too often want our walk with God apart from the cross. The world wonders why we’d want to be in a religion where you are to be humble and where you are to let others take advantage of you. Our sinful flesh is pretty compelling for us and we admit that it’s hard to live a life in which it doesn’t always appear that God is working for what we need, certainly not always for what we want. And so we ask our questions of God, so often the wrong ones.

Who of us has not wondered what that man in the Gospel reading was wondering? Will those who are saved be few? Who of us has not looked around and wondered that if God is so great and Christianity so true, why are there not more who believe? Why are there so many religions out there? So many different beliefs that, according to the Bible, are wrong? Who of us has not wondered what is the mind of God in these things? But we are asking the wrong questions, desiring to know the things that God knows and that only He has the right know.

Since the man asked the wrong question, he got an answer that dealt with his problem, not what he was wanting to know. Why are you concerning yourself with things that are beyond your reach? Why are you not looking to yourself and your own need for salvation? It’s one thing to be concerned about others, to have a genuine heart for others. It’s another to place yourself in the position of God and want to know what is not given you to know. What is given you to know is your own need.

Jesus says: “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” What if you were to see everything God sees? What if you knew everything He knows? You would understand completely. You would see things as they are and would know why they are that way. You would have no questions. You would not seek answers. You would not wonder why things are the way they are.

But you are not God. It is not given you to know all things. It is given you to narrow your focus. It is not given you to see how many will be saved. But it is given you to know how salvation is gained. It is not given you to know who is in and who is not. But it is given you to know that before it is too late that there is a too late. It is one thing to wonder why so many are not saved. It is another to admit that you in no way deserve salvation.

We Lutherans are always making the point that of all strains of Christianity we alone get the Word of God right. That we alone state the doctrine of the Bible most clearly and faithfully. But in our zeal for that do we boast of our salvation? Are we ready to meet our Maker because we were faithfully in God’s House every Sunday? Because we lived a good life, doing many good things, staying away from many bad things? From that stance do we then ask our questions of God, why only a few, and thank God we’re among them!

Jesus turns our questions on ourselves. Take all the energy you use in asking the wrong questions and expend it on the narrow door of salvation. On that door is a sign: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” It really is that clear. You stand before that door and see the message. Believe in Jesus and you’re in. The Kingdom of heaven is yours. There is no room for boasting in who you are or what you have done or how you are as a person. A room is just that. It has lots of room, to fill our heads up with all kinds of stuff that leads us on the wide road to destruction. But Jesus talks about a door. It is a narrow passageway that leaves no room for anything we’d bring to the table.

Once you open that door, you will see on the inside of it another sign, it reads: “It is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works.” Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV] Listening to Jesus means hearing what He has to say to you, not what you’d like to hear. We want to be able to enter the Gates of Heaven being able to hang our hat on a few things. We don’t want to have to stand there with the only thing to offer a darkened and filthy heart. Jesus’ response tells us that we by our sinful selfish nature want heaven the easy way. We want good things from God because we’re pretty good people. Jesus says there is no easy way. You must strive. You must enter only through the narrow way. You are not in just because you think you’re in.

This is the amazing irony that we sin-filled, stubborn, prideful, selfish people don’t get through our thick heads! We want God to give us the easy road to heaven but we don’t want it in the no-strings-attached way He gives it to us. And that’s just it, we don’t want it given to us. We want the easy way, we want to be able to have it our way, so that we don’t have to submit to His eternal unfathomable will. That’s outside of our control. That’s not easy.

So He tells us we must strive. He tells us that it’s a narrow way. He makes it clear that it’s His way or the highway. He tell us that when we come knockin’ that He will take one look at us and not recognize us. What He will see are workers of evil that He can only turn away.

This is what happens when we ask the wrong questions.

So what are the right questions? The right questions are what our Lord points us to. He says that we will see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God. How did they get in there? Well, it’s true that they are pillars of the faith. It’s a fact that they are held up as examples for us to follow. It goes without saying that they were godly men who carried out the vocations God called them to.

Oh yes, there’s one more thing. None of that had anything to do with why they were saved. There was only one thing. And all those people who stood before Christ as He spoke His words of judgment could say that they ate and drank in His presence and that He taught in their streets, never really saw Him for who He was. Never believed in Him as the one who was on His way to a cross. Never stripping away their own self-righteousness so that their eyes could focus on the One who was taking anything but the easy way. The one who was striving toward that one thing. That one thing that is the only reason Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob, or David, or Peter, or Andrew, or you, or me could get into the Kingdom of God.

There is no easy way. There is only the way of the cross. The narrow path Christ walked led to Jerusalem and the hill of Calvary. When you stand before the Gates of heaven there will be only one thing that your Lord will show you and that is the righteousness that flowed from the cross as surely as the blood flowed from His body. The ones from the east and west, the north and south, from the ends of the earth, will be in the Kingdom of God for the same reason—not of works, or any easy way, but simply the way of the cross, the way of grace.

Will there be few? Will there be many? If we’re intent on asking the wrong questions we will have an eternity of going over them even as we can’t think straight from the torment of the weeping and the gnashing of teeth of hell. But if we listen to our Lord and hear what He has to say to us, the right questions will come. Even if it’s, Lord, can you teach me the way? He is ever patient, ever merciful, ever stretching out those blood-stained hands to us as welcoming us into the Kingdom.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

What If You Were…

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 8, 2010
Luke 12:22-40

What if you were to not be anxious about your life? What if you were not so consumed with what you will eat, or if you’ll have enough money to take care of yourself? What if you were to live as if life is more than food, and the body more than clothing? What if you were to consider the ravens, that they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them? What if you were to believe wholeheartedly that you are much more valuable than the birds? What if you were to live without undue care for the things you need in this life? If you were to believe and actually live as knowing that worry cannot add a single hour to your life? What if you were to actually live with the conviction that if you are not able to do as small a thing as that, then there is no reason to be anxious about the rest? What if you were to consider the flowers of the field, how they grow; that they neither toil nor spin, and yet are more spectacular than even the glory of Solomon? And what if you were to realize and actually give no thought otherwise that if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you?

What if you were to hear Jesus’ words to the disciples, “O you of little faith!” and take them to heart, acknowledging that you, too, are of little faith? What if you were to admit that it’s true, that you are more concerned than you should be about having enough to eat and that you worry that you might not have enough if things get worse? What if you were to simply realize that these are the things the nations of the world seek after but that your Heavenly Father knows that you need them? What if, instead, you were to seek His kingdom? What if, instead, you were to live in the simple comfort and trust that the things you need will be added to you?

What if you were to actually have no fear. Not like those bumper stickers and T-shirts you see that say No Fear. What if you were literally to have no fear for your life. That no matter what happened to you you would rest secure in knowing that you are in God’s care. That He is your Shepherd. That it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. That when all is said and done you are the recipient of the eternal Kingdom of God Himself. That whether you have a lot or a little, you have all things in the eternal God who has given you His Son.

What if you were to actually sell your possessions, as Jesus says, and give to the needy? What if you were to actually live in such a way where it doesn’t matter what you want or need or have? Where your concern was with others and not yourself? What if you were to provide yourself not with the things you need in this life but with a treasure in heaven that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys? What if you were to wake up to the reality that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also?

What if, instead of being so focused on what you need and want you were to dress for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks? If you were so blessed as a servant whom the master finds awake when he comes? What if in those times where it doesn’t seem you have enough or there’s more that you’d like and you’re not content, that you were to ponder the reality, the truth, that your Lord will dress Himself for service and invite you to recline at table, and will come and serve you?

What if these things were really true? What if you lived this way? Thought this way? Acted this way? Really believed it? What if nothing were so important to you as what your Lord gives you? What if you really did live as if He will come back at any moment? That you lived at the ready, knowing you are blessed simply because He has called you to stay on the watch for His return in glory?

Now, what if you were to take all these questions and ask one more? What if you were to take it on faith that these are not what ifs, but rather that this is who you really are? You would think, well, it can’t be, because I don’t live this way all the time. I am anxious about the things in my life. I’m battling illness, difficult relatives, addictions, depression, a hectic schedule. I’m barely making it through each day, and you want me to think about eternity? God may think more of me, but I see myself for who I really am. I fall short of what He has called me to. I don’t deserve the Kingdom He has promised me. I’m not worthy of being in His eternal Kingdom now.

And this proves that it’s true. That you are exactly what Christ has called you to be. Because he doesn’t hold out a carrot and motivate you to run after it. He gives you all that is His. He welcomes you into His palatial estate of grace. He rains down in your life favor that washes away despair and fear and hopelessness.

So why do you still feel those things at times? Or even a lot of the time? Because His perfect peace and grace doesn’t empty your life of difficulty and sin. It is through those challenges, and trials, and temptations that your Lord tears you down so that He may lift you up. If you are content because you have everything you need in this life then why would you look to God for help? It is when we are without those things we need and want that we look to God for what we truly need.

That you are able to see that you fall short of God’s call to you to rely solely on Him shows you that His grace is sufficient for you. Otherwise you would not see your need for God and His grace and forgiveness and salvation. Instead of being anxious, rejoice. Instead of worrying, give thanks. Instead of being afraid, take heart, your Lord has given you the Kingdom. He dresses Himself for service and invites you to dine at His Table. Instead of wondering where you’ll find the strength to carry on, rest in the gift He gives you at this Table often, His very Body and Blood. In other words, He gives you Himself.

You know how it pleased your Heavenly Father to give you the Kingdom? He gave His Son. There on the cross you see God giving His Kingdom to the world. You know how the Holy Spirit actually delivers this Kingdom to you, personally? Here at the Table of your Lord. Here at the font, in Holy Baptism. When you were washed with the waters of Baptism you were given the Kingdom. Your Lord dressed Himself for service and gave you all His grace, mercy, and peace He secured in His suffering, death, and resurrection.

Next weekend, some of us in our congregation are going to be at our annual congregational retreat. The theme is “Be Who You Are.” The theme verse is “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,” from 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV). A retreat is a good opportunity to get away from it all. To be in a different setting, to have some time to ponder the blessings of God in your life where you’re away from the daily pressures of life. But what your Lord calls you to in today’s Gospel reading is a daily renewal. A daily walking in faith. A daily living out of the new creation He has given you in Baptism. When anxiety runs high, when worry overwhelms you, remember who you are. Be who you are. You are a new creation in Christ. It has pleased your Heavenly Father to give you the Kingdom. Your Lord has dressed Himself for service and serves you daily with all His grace and blessing. Seek His Kingdom. Everything else you need will be added unto you.

What if it were true that you could be as your Lord has called you to be? What if you were to be as your Lord describes? What if you were to not ask the question but rather rest in faith in Him? In the promise He has declared to you: it is true. You are a new creation. It is no longer you who live but Christ who lives in you.

Imagine a conversation among God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—going something like this: What if We were to deliver fallen man by doing it Ourselves? Not calling on them to make it happen. But delivering to them forgiveness, life, and salvation. What if it pleased Us to simply give them the Kingdom? What if we simply served them rather than expecting them to accomplish salvation?

Well, we know no conversation ever took place, because we know the heart of God: it is with us. It is with being gracious and merciful and loving. No conversation was necessary, just simply God being God. God being who He is. And that is how it is all true. That we are who we are as God has called us to be. Because He has made it happen. He has made it happen in what He has done: giving us His Kingdom in our Baptism; blessing us eternally in Holy Communion; forgiving us in the Gospel. As we go through life we at times have questions. Not God. He has only answers. His answers are His promises. Amen.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

You’re Already a Fool, so Be Foolish

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 1, 2010
Luke 12:13-21

Have you ever had to work with someone who is incompetent? It seems the harder you try to get them to do their job right the more frustrated you become. You wonder why they can’t or don’t learn. It took me a long time to realize it, but incompetent people don’t realize they’re incompetent.

That’s the way it is with a fool. A fool doesn’t realize he’s a fool. Does anyone want to be a fool? If he becomes aware of it, won’t he want to change so that he is no longer a fool?

But a fool doesn’t realize he’s a fool. What’s even worse is that it’s easier to see that someone else is a fool than it is yourself.

This is where Jesus is going with this parable. If you don’t see that you’re a fool then you’re in big trouble. This very night your soul may be required of you and then what? The Bible is clear: eternal separation from God and eternal torment. But the fool hears that as nonsense. The fool thinks it is foolish. The fool thinks God is a fool. And we know of plenty of people who think that Christians are fools for believing in God. After all, we believe in things like God being born a baby and rising from the grave and salvation as a pure gift without having to earn it.

If you look in a Bible that has headings you’ll see this parable designated as the “Parable of the Rich Fool.” But it would be foolish to say, I’m not rich, so I don’t need to worry about the message of this parable. It would also be a mistake to say, I’m rich, but thank God I’m not like that idiot in the parable.

This parable is about you. It’s about me. The parable of the Rich Fool is spoken by Jesus to turn the heart of every person from being foolish to trusting in Him for everything they have and need. The wise person doesn’t see himself as wise but as foolish. The wise person realizes he is a fool. It is the fool who doesn’t think he’s a fool.

So don’t play games with God and yourself. Stand before Him as you are. A fool. A beggar. A person with nothing you deserve. A person who wants what you want, not what God desires for you. Stand before Him and confess that you are a fool.

The man who came up to Jesus didn’t seek Jesus’ wisdom, he just wanted what he wanted. He may not have known Jesus was God but he nevertheless came up to God to get Him to get what he (that is, the man) wanted. It seemed like a fair enough request. He should get his fair share of the inheritance, right? But who deserves an inheritance? No one. An inheritance isn’t something that’s yours by right. If your parents choose to give it to you, great. But if not, be content without it. The man not only wanted it, he wanted God to get it for him.

This is not the way it works. We don’t dictate to God what we want so that He can get it for us. Well, we do, but that’s because we’re fools. The way it works is that God has everything and He gives us blessings beyond measure. It’s hard to imagine the kind of money Bill Gates has. But even so, for all that he has, how much is it, really? After all, the rich man in the parable had more than he could handle and what good did it do him? His life was taken from him that very night and so it was all as if it were nothing.

We can’t treat God as if we can just go up to Him and get Him to our bidding. God is God. We are, well, we are fools. We too often think of ourselves as our own god. Maybe we don’t go around thinking we’re God, but we sure act like it. We think like it. We talk like it.

Listen carefully to what the man was saying it Jesus. He was calling the shots. He was dictating to Jesus. He was wanting Jesus to do for him what he wanted. He didn’t go up to Jesus and seek help. Jesus, can you help me out with this problem? I’ll admit, I really want my share of the inheritance, but maybe I’m not seeing things clearly. Can you help me out? Too often when it comes to the things of this world, all we see are the things of this world. We see what we have and we want to hold on to it as if that’s what is most important to us. Or we see what we don’t have and we’re consumed with acquiring it. And hey, God, if you’re God and you love us, then why aren’t you getting it for us?

But don’t think of this in terms of just being a wealthy person. Many of us have no desire to have a yacht. But rich or poor, we all want things, don’t we? The question is, is what we seek according to God’s will or simply what we want? The problem with the rich fool wasn’t that he had wealth, the problem is that he was consumed with himself. The problem is that he had no regard for the fact that all he owned was a gift from God. He was a fool because he sought his contentment in himself and not in God.

If you are willing today to admit you are a fool then you will have wealth beyond what you can imagine. If you don’t admit you are a fool you will never know what you’re missing but you will be called to account on the Last Day. It may be tonight as it was with the man in the parable. But if you see that God really is God, that He is the one who owns everything and calls the shots, then you will see that He also did a very foolish thing. At least, foolish in the eyes of our sinful and fallen lives. He gave up everything for sinful fallen foolish human beings. We are fools because we lusted after what we could see that was not given to us. He created us in perfection. He created us, giving us everything we need and more. We seek more and more, God became less. We seek greatness, He chose humility. We want what we don’t have. He has everything and became a servant. He gave up all to suffer on the cross to restore us to eternity with Him and all the riches of His grace.

Listen to this contrast Jesus draws in His parable: “‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” We lay up treasures for ourselves and are not rich toward God. He, on the other hand, is rich toward us in the laying down of His life for us. So if our life does not consist in the abundance of possessions, in what does it consist? How are we to use what God has given us, whether we are rich or poor, to be rich toward Him?

The way is only through the treasure He has given us. Consider the treasure that I hold in my hand. The Bible is a book, but it is more than just words on pages. It is a treasure beyond compare because it contains what God gives you, not what you seek for yourself. You don’t do anything to receive the grace and mercy, the forgiveness and salvation of God. But if you do want to do something, then read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Word of God. Take refuge in your Baptism when you long for the things of this world. Hunger and thirst for the Body and Blood of your Lord and Savior for the forgiveness of your sin and the strength you need when you are dissatisfied with your lack of what you want.

God calls you a fool because He loves you. He is calling you to repentance. And if you hear this and are grateful for His mercy toward you, hear also His appeal to you to do something foolish. Trust in Him. For everything. In all things. If you have a lot of possessions and money, thank God. Enjoy them. Be content that it is a blessing from God and that He gives you the opportunity and call to use your money and possessions to help others. If you don’t have very much, thank God for what He has given you. Enjoy the small blessings He gives you and be content in Him. Rejoice in the opportunity that even with a little you can still help others and be a blessing to them.

Whether you’re rich or poor, if there are things you don’t have that you want, leave them in God’s care. Be so foolish as to keep reading His Word. Rest your soul in the new birth He has given you in Baptism. Approach the altar of your Lord often in humility and awe that He feeds you and gives you Himself in simple bread and wine. No storehouses can contain the wealth your Lord pours out to you in your life. You stand simply with an empty hand and are given it all. Amen.