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.


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