Thanksgiving (Lk 12, 13–21)

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“Those things that you prepared, whose will they be?”

᛭ INI ᛭

((5. Oops!: Yeah, whose will they be?))

The Lord’s question is a fair one. It is for the man, the rich man, in His parable. “The land of a rich man produced plentifully.” He was already rich. He had more than enough. Then he got more more than enough. Yet he was never satisfied. Needed to build bigger barns to store up all his grain and goods, all his more than enough stuff. But to all his scurrying for more the Lord says, “Fool! Those things you prepared, whose will they be?”

It’s a fair question for you and me. It’s directed at you and me, too. We live in the most affluent land in history. We never really want for anything. And the recent supply chain issues show us how we can’t handle any want or delay. We crave what we want when we want it. Why should we have to wait? Maybe we’ll just start hoarding, stockpiling: money, combine parts, food, stuff, toilet paper! The rich man’s statement from the parable is almost the American Dream! “You have many goods stored up for many years. Relax. Eat. Drink. Celebrate!”

“Those things you prepared, whose will they be?”

((4. Ugh!: We still hoard more.))

But after all this scurrying around for more and more, we still want more! Enough is never really enough. We have closets, houses, sheds full of stuff. We don’t even know all the “goods” we own! We live in a society of always more. Black Friday is a symptom of it. (Sure it’s low hanging fruit, but might as well mention it.)

We’re not really thankful for what we have, and it shows in the fact that we replace with new what we don’t even use. And we certainly don’t think about all our money and goods as being God’s money, God’s things given for us to enjoy and serve those in our lives.

Our thanklessness and wanting more reaches a head when we get old enough and start thinking, “Who’s going to get all my stuff?” “Those things you prepared, whose will they be?” And the Lord’s question, which bears on us today, is weighted with the wisdom of Solomon, as he puts it in Ecclesiastes: “I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.”

((3. Aha!: God sends us the true Source of Thanksgiving.))

Now, this sermon isn’t about proper thanksgiving. Don’t get me wrong, we should be thankful for all that God gives us. He gives us all that we have “only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness” on our part. Our true problem isn’t that we’re unthankful. Our true problem isn’t that we always want more. These are both symptoms of a deeper problem.

The reality is being the most thankful person won’t save you. The reality is being the most generous person won’t save you. The problem is living a spartan existence won’t save. The rich man’s problem in the parable wasn’t that he was rich. The problem was he trusted in those riches. They were his god.

That’s our problem, too. The things we work the hardest for often become our gods. And being thankful for them doesn’t make them any less gods. Besides, many non-Christians are thankful to whatever they call “god” today.

Our chief joy today, as it is everyday, isn’t that God gives us what we need for this body and life. It’s that He gives us, freely, the true source of thanksgiving—His own Son!

((2. Whee!: Jesus makes us rich towards God.))

Jesus makes us rich towards God. He alone can. Paul puts it this way: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor 8:9) The grace of God, His “fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit and worthiness in me,” is that He sends His “only begotten Son into the flesh to bear our sin and be our Savior.”

Yes, it also means that “God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people,” those who don’t believe in Him. But what makes us truly rich toward Him is what His Son did for us. For, as Peter puts it, “we were not ransomed with perishable things like gold or silver but with the precious blood of Christ, like a lamb without blemish.”

Christ had all things from eternity. “All things were made by Him and for Him” (Col 1), “but He did not count equality with His Father a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking on the form of a servant, becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2) “Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor.” Just like the hymn puts it: “In life no house, no home, My Lord on might have, In death no friendly tomb But what a stranger gave.” (LSB 430:6)

Jesus is “very God of very God” and yet “for us and our salvation came down from heaven, and was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate.” He does what our things, our money, our estate, our possessions can never do: give us eternal life and make us rich toward God. We don’t need to gather up for ourselves in order to find peace and safety. We’re eternally rich toward God in Christ. We’ve been given, as a free gift, the most precious thing in the universe: God’s own blood shed on the cross for you.

((1. Yeah!: LIFE’S NOT ABOUT WHAT YOU GATHER, BUT WHO GATHERS YOU.))

Because of Christ has done for us, and because we have faith in Jesus, our entire world-view as Christians is changed. Life for us can be as the Psalmist describes: “When riches increase, do not set your heart on them.” But in a world of debt-to-income ratios, minimum payments, and net worths, it’s hard. The flesh wants to focus on such things, plans everything around such things, views all peace and security around such things.

Only the Spirit can create such a new heart within us that our heart focuses on the cross of Jesus in such a way that worldly wealth doesn’t matter to us. With our hearts focused on Jesus, “the Author and Finisher of our faith,” we can have joy and thanksgiving over the gifts of this life. With faith in Jesus, eyes fixed on His making us rich toward God, only then can we be generous in the way Jesus described: “when you give a gift, don’t let your right hand know what your left is doing.” (Mt 6) With eyes on the cross, you can’t focus on your hands, just Jesus’ hands that were pierced with nails for you.

“Those things that you prepared, whose will they be?” It’s a fair question. It actually reminds us that life’s not about those things at all. Those false gods.

LIFE’S NOT ABOUT WHAT YOU GATHER, BUT WHO GATHERS YOU.

Jesus warns us, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” As He says elsewhere: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Mt 16)

LIFE’S NOT ABOUT WHAT YOU GATHER, BUT WHO GATHERS YOU.

“Those things that you prepared, whose will they be?” Doesn’t quite matter, does it? Whose are you? You’re Christ’s. He gathers you. Bought and paid for you. You’re his. “He will gather His wheat into the barn.” There you will be “in His garner evermore.” (LSB 894)

᛭ INI ᛭

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