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Message for 10-6-13 WHERE TO INVEST YOUR LIFE

“WHERE TO INVEST YOUR LIFE?”

Luke 12:13-21

 

            What are we here for?  What is our purpose in this present life on earth?  Unless we have a correct understanding of why we’re here and what we need to do, we are bound to pour our lives down the drain by investing them in the wrong pursuits.  We will look back and say “What a waste of time and effort!”, and we will end up empty-handed.

            Like the financial investment world, life is one huge gamble of faith.  We cannot avoid making numerous gambles every day of the week.  Either I buy gas for my car here today, or I’ll buy it there tomorrow.  Either I buy meat today at this store, or tomorrow at that store.  I will either make a deal with this phone company or internet provider, or with that one.  I need to either leave my money in a savings account, or find a bond or a CD that’s paying more, or find a stock or mutual fund where I can do better – maybe.

            Life is a constant gamble.  And to say that it is a gamble of faith doesn’t mean that we always know what we’re doing.  All it means is that we’re trying to make the right moves to get where we’re trying to go, like someone trying to step on the right rocks when they’re crossing a river.  We don’t want to place our faith in a loose or slippery rock.  And maybe faith of a different kind leads us to not cross that river at all.  Life is too short to find out in the end that we crossed the wrong river or have been climbing the wrong mountain.

            That’s where we find the rich man in today’s parable.  Now, we’ve gotta remember that Jesus gives us this story as a piece of fiction.  Jesus made this story up, so we gotta avoid trying to push the details farther than Jesus intended.  But as a rule, we can say that rich people usually get where they are partly because they know what they’re doing (dumb rich people usually don’t stay rich for long).  Jesus doesn’t tell us why the man’s land produced a bumper crop, whether it was his own agricultural skill, or environmental conditions over which he had no control.

            Jesus does give us one important detail he wants us to know: the guy made a miscalculation.  He failed to plan for enough room to store his unexpectedly large harvest.  But there is one more miscalculation that this guy has made, according to the way Jesus tells us this story.  He makes the greater mistake of believing that life is all about how much stuff he can pile in his barns. 

Here we have a mistaken act of faith, a case that reveals to us how crucial one decision of faith can be, one way or the other.  The rich farmer buys into that famous line, “Whoever dies with the most toys wins.”  He fails to reckon with a very different possibility that proves to be true and proves to be his undoing: “Whoever dies with the most toys, loses the most toys.” 

The rich farmer thinks his biggest problem is not having a big enough box to store his stuff.  His real problem (and Jesus makes this explicitly clear) is that he has lived his whole life piling up the wrong kind of riches, and now he has 2 huge problems.  He’s going to lose all that he thought was so important (duh! He was going to lose it anyway), and now he has no more time left on earth to fix that problem.

Jesus says, This guy missed out on what life is all about.  As he says just before he tells this story to drive home his point, “Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”  And while maybe nobody formulates their controlling philosophy of life quite so obviously in these terms, the way that many of us actually live demonstrates a core belief that material possessions are what is all-important in life. 

Jesus wants to set us straight on this crucial misunderstanding that leads to any number of crucial miscalculations in the way we live our extremely limited life spans on this earth.  Jesus says, Look out when you invest your life, your time, your energy, and your resources in the wrong place.  John Calvin used to call that: idolatry, whenever we bet all our hopes on the wrong treasure or the wrong pursuit that we think will make us happy.

“Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”  So, what is our mission in life, then?  What are we here for?  What is the purpose for which we were made, the place where we should be investing our lives if we want to avoid pouring them down the drain?  Some ways we invest our lives will turn out to be huge disappointments; some will lead to the lasting treasure that Jesus recommends we pursue. 

The Westminster Shorter Catechism has a classic answer to the question what we are here for: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”  One way to translate that is: We are here to be good advertising for God, and to experience the positive difference that God will make in a person’s life.

Sounds good for starters.  But what exactly does that look like?  Let me try another formulation of our purpose here on earth.  See if this works for you: We are here to find out what God is doing down here, and find out where we can join the action.

Many of us (maybe most of us) have been put here on this earth because God wants to use us to provide for the needs of people.  God may have put us here to produce food, or deliver goods by truck, or care for people who are sick or incapacitated.  God may have put us here to fix cars or computers, or build homes, or teach, or to sell goods where they are in demand.  There are countless ways that we are able to serve God by serving others, by working to solve problems and make this a better world to live in.  Pastor Tim Keller says that our work on the job can be both a way we love and worship God, and a way we love our neighbor.

God has given us gifts and talents to use to make that happen.  But it’s not healthy when we make the focus of those talents all about us, to say “Hey, look at me, how great or lucky I am!”  God can give those talents to anyone, even to people who hate God.  The fact that God has given skill or beauty or brains to someone has absolutely nothing to do with their self-worth.  That’s not what it’s all about.  The real joy, the real purpose in life, is to be used by God to make a positive difference in the world by using those gifts God has given us.

The same is true, not only for our talents, but for the time and treasures that God gives us.  God does not give them to us so we can blow them all on our own enjoyment.  God gives to us to meet our basic needs.  And yes, God has put us in a world full of beauty so that we can enjoy what God has created.  But the best use of our time and treasure is to use it for purposes that will last, including the time we spend with people. 

God puts us in places where we can influence others: by our faith, by our care, by our positive example.  It is a joy to be able to come to the end of one’s life and know that we have made an impact in the lives of others.  It’s not the toys we owned or the days we enjoyed, but the lives in which we invested and the relationships we had that are the true measure of a life lived according to God’s purposes.  

The most important relationship you can possibly build is a relationship with Christ.  That’s the unspoken point Jesus is trying to make in today’s story about the Rich Farmer.  The Rich Farmer discovers all too late that he’s invested his whole life in the wrong place.  He fails to invest his life storing away treasures that will last, treasures that can’t be measured in dollars.  He bets the whole farm on earthly pleasures that he can’t take with him, and fails to seek out God, the only One who can give him treasure that will last forever.  And where do we find God?  We can only find him in Christ, not in our own efforts to save ourselves.  None of us can buy our way into heaven. None of us (not even Mother Teresa) can earn our way into heaven.  All we can do is reach out and receive what Christ has done to take away our sin and put us right with God.

Jesus says in Luke 19:10, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  Jesus came to save people like you and like me who were lost without him.  And once we have found him, we need to tell the rest of the world where they can find the same mercy we found.  As we look for where to invest our life, part of our mission down here will involve helping other people connect with God who haven’t found God yet. 

God is in a constant search mode.  Wherever there are people in need, whether their needs are physical or spiritual, there you can bet that God is on the move, seeking them out, and looking for someone to use to meet those needs.  Both the physical and the spiritual are important.  Today’s scripture is proof that physical needs are not enough.  Here we have a guy who has all the food, money, and toys he could ever want, who is still lost and headed for you-know-where without Christ.

What are we here for?  We are here on this earth, not to pile up a box full of stuff we can’t take with us, but to find a life-giving relationship with Christ, and to let him use us to make an eternal difference in people’s lives.  That’s the kind of treasure that will last forever.

Let us pray.  Lord, you have put us here for a purpose, and it’s not to pile up stuff.  Help us invest our lives in people and efforts that will make a lasting difference, both here and for eternity.  And Lord, we know it’s all worthless if we don’t know you.  Help those who have never done so before to place their faith in what Christ has done for us, so that they may know the joy of everlasting life and peace with you.

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