Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
“God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayer, even to all evil people.” (4th Petition, Small Catechism) After all, your heavenly Father “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Mt 5:45) We don’t give our children snakes or stones if they ask for bread or fish, and we’re sinners! So, your heavenly Father certainly knows how to give good gifts. (Mt 7:9–11) “Every good and perfect gift comes down from [Him].” (Jm 1:17)
“Seedtime and harvest” (Gen 8:22), “sun and rain,” “daily bread,” “everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body” (4th Petition, Small Catechism)—all are given by God. They come “without any merit or worthiness in [you].” (1st Article, Small Catechism) They are given to anyone and everyone. He gives not just to the good, the righteous, that is, those who trust in Jesus. He also gives to the evil and unrighteous, those who don’t actually believe. And so it was, in Jesus’ parable today, that “the land of a rich man produced plentifully.” (Lk 12:16)
((2. The Lord is rich toward you in 1st Article gifts.))
The land produced plentifully from the Lord’s own fulness. He’s “Maker of heaven and earth.” (Apostle’s Creed) “He gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater.” (2 Cor 9:10) “Every beast of the forest, the cattle on a thousand hills, all the birds” (Ps 50:10–11) are all His. “The eyes of all look to Him to give them their food at the proper time. He opens His hand and satisfies the desires of every living thing” (Ps 145:15–16, Small Catechism). “He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call” (Ps 147:9, Small Catechism). “Consider those ravens,” Jesus says, “they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! O you of little faith!” (Lk 12:23, 28)
That rich man wasn’t short on faith. His faith was in the wrong thing. Everyone has faith and trust in something, even atheists. Your faith could just be in something false. Listen to what that rich man says, “I will build bigger barns, and I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many good things stored up for many years. Relax. Eat. Drink. Be merry.’” He looked to his stuff as a sign of heavenly blessing. He was rich in faith toward stuff, but poor, “little,” bankrupt in faith toward God. He trusted in the gift, not the Giver of the gift. He trusted in his own hard work to get more. “I will build,” he says.
The Lord gives the gifts. “Every good gift comes down from Him.” (Jm 1:17) The Lord is rich in 1st Article Gifts, gifts of this creation. Rich toward that parabolic rich man, and rich toward you, too! He gives you “all that you need to support your body and life.” (1st Article, Small Catechism) Your daily bread doesn’t run short. From the people in your life to the place you live, from the clothes on your back to the food you eat, all comes from your Father’s gracious hand. It’s not about being thankful or unthankful. Even atheists know to be thankful or mindful of the things you have, so do Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and those who believe in some generic god. It’s not a thanks problem, but a faith problem because we also trust in those gifts, like that rich man in Jesus’ story.
Our trust in worldly things becomes clear when we think things will run short, run out. Suddenly, we complain to God and worry that He’s not going to take care of us. We didn’t care before that because we had our god: money, stuff, food, our own hard work. We can’t gauge God’s love for us based on our daily lives. Besides that, we aren’t showered with blessings for our own sakes. That’s Paul’s point. The Lord gives us what we have so that we would be His instrument to care for those around us. All that we have should be directed toward one another, and not toward our own bottom line. “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”
The Lord is rich in 1st Article gifts, gifts of creation and “daily bread.” He’s not just rich in Himself with those things. He’s rich toward you with those gifts. He’s rich toward you with these temporary gifts to make you rich toward your neighbor. Not only in caring for their physical needs, but to care for their spiritual needs, too, through your church offerings.
But we don’t love our neighbor as ourselves, we love our bank accounts, cars, houses more than them. “After all, God gave them to me, didn’t He? As long as I’m thankful we’re good.” It’s true that faith is living and active in thanksgiving toward the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, but faith is also living and active in generosity, in loving and caring for those around us—physically, spiritually.
((1. The Lord is rich toward you in 2nd and 3rd Article gifts.))
It’s good that the Lord isn’t just rich in earthly gifts. We always make gods from those gifts. We’ll trust anything that looks like it will care for us. Your heart’s an idol factory: gods of silver and gold, wood and stone, brick and mortar, dollars and cents, metal and microchips, hard work, you name it. The Lord would save you from your false gods. He does! He’s rich in His salvation for you, too—2nd Article Gifts. His redemption far surpasses all your sins. Jesus, your true and living God, has redeemed you from your gold and silver, wood and stone gods. He redeemed you “not with gold or silver but with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death” (2nd Article, Small Catechism) on the wooden cross, and He was buried in His stone tomb. Your debt, His own. And then He rose from the dead, too,
The Lord’s redemption “is finished” (Jn 19:30), but He’s not done yet. Because it doesn’t do you any good if you don’t believe it. The Lord is still rich toward you, rich toward you in 3rd Article Gifts, the gifts of the Spirit because “you cannot by your own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ [your] Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called [you] by the Gospel [and] enlightened you with His Gifts.” (3rd Article, Small Catechism) The Holy Spirit produces His fruit within you and your daily life: “faith toward God and fervent love toward one another.” (LSB 202)
The Lord takes creation into the service of His salvation. Flesh and blood for Jesus to die and rise. Water and Word to deliver Jesus’ cross and empty tomb to you at the Font. Trees (paper) to preserve His Word for you. Bread and wine to deliver Jesus’ body and blood for you to eat and drink for the forgiveness of your sins. A man to preach, teach, and absolve. Wood and stone to build a place for it all to be delivered. Money to make sure it’s paid for so that your neighbor, those you love and those you don’t but should, would be able to come and receive the Lord’s salvation.
The Lord’s rich in salvation and faith. He’s rich toward you and toward all in those things. He makes you rich in them so that you would be rich toward Him, trusting Him, believing in Him, being saved, which “is His good and gracious will.” (3rd Petition, Small Catechism)
The Lord is rich. Rich in what He created—1st Article gifts. “The land of [that] rich man produced plentifully” from the Lord’s own fulness. The Lord’s rich toward you with those things, too. Makes you rich toward your neighbor with them. Better Gifts from the Lord, though, lasting Gifts, eternal Gifts—salvation and trust in Him. 2nd and 3rd Article gifts. Jesus died and rose in your place because of your false gods. The Spirit through Word and Gifts creates faith in Jesus, and the Spirit also produces His fruit within you. That’s God being rich toward you with those 2nd and 3rd Article Gifts, making you rich toward Him.
THE LORD MAKES YOU RICH TOWARD HIMSELF AND YOUR NEIGHBOR, TOO. That’s just what He does. He saves you and uses His creation in service of saving you, but not just you—your neighbor, too! He cares for you, cares for them through you. He saves you. Saves them. He uses what He gives to make sure that His eternal salvation, and faith in that salvation, continues to be given out here and everywhere until the end of time. THE LORD MAKES YOU RICH TOWARD HIMSELF AND YOUR NEIGHBOR, TOO. “Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!”