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Are You Listening?

September 29, 2019
By Rev. David French

As we continue to work our way through the gospel of Luke, it’s important to remember that we’ve been looking at one section of Scripture or, if you will, one piece of a puzzle each week that when put together, gives us the big picture of God’s plan for our salvation.

In this chapter alone, for example, verses 1-13 speak of the proper use of money. Verses 14-18 show the Pharisees’ displeasure with Jesus’s statements about the use of money. And, the lesson assigned for today shows us that the improper use of money is a fruit of choosing to ignore God’s Word, which is what Jesus was saying the Pharisees were doing.

But, even though the Pharisees are the ones Jesus points to in our lesson, this chapter begins with the words, “Jesus told His disciples,” that is, believers like you and me. And, like all who have believed before us, we also are taught by the Scriptures that all we have comes from God as a trust to be used in the building of His kingdom.

We teach and believe that our offerings are simply our returning to God a portion of what He has first given to us. We teach and believe that were it not for God giving us the mental and physical abilities to work in many different vocations in life, we would have none of the things we call “our own.” We believe and so live by these truths … unless, of course, we’re like the Pharisees.

My friends, the point of this parable is not to judge wealth or poverty, but to judge those who ignore God’s Word. Of course, there’s a temptation for those who have wealth to trust in it. It’s true some give into that temptation. It’s also true that some don’t. Those who don’t - serve God as He enables them. Those who do - often use their wealth to justify their actions.

There’s also a temptation for the poor to think that God is ignoring them, or worse, punishing them. Again, some give in to that temptation and some don’t. Those who don’t - also serve God as He enables them. Those who do - often use their poverty to justify their actions.

In our epistle lesson we read, “the love of money” (and notice it makes no reference to having a lot or wanting more, it only says the love of it) “is the root of all kinds of evil.” The truth is, rich or poor or wherever you fall in between, money can be a blessing or a curse. What it will be in your life, Jesus teaches, is determined by your relationship with God.

A relationship that, as you know, is the result of our heavenly Father sending His only begotten Son into our world to restore what was lost when our first parents brought sin into the world. That is, a relationship with God based on His love as opposed to His Law. But, to do that, sin first had to be paid for and the guilt of sin removed. However, that could only be done with blood, the blood of a Lamb without blemish, the blood of Jesus the very Lamb of God. And so, it’s by the life and death of Jesus that sin has been paid for and forgiveness now freely offered through the Means of Grace that is God’s Word and Sacraments so that new life might be created in you and me and all who do not ignore His Word.

In our lesson we see a rich man who did give in to the temptation that comes with wealth, and ignoring God’s Word he lived only to satisfy himself. He was a person for whom money had become his god. His god richly blessed him with all kinds of luxuries, but those luxuries were only a blessing in this life, and at the end offered no benefits at all.

Outside his gate was a beggar named Lazarus. He was, as we see by the fact that he went to heaven, a person who did not give in to the temptations that come with poverty. He is described as a man who could not walk, as we read, “[he] was laid in front of the gate.” He was someone whose only source of comfort(ish) comes from stray dogs that lick his sores. He was sick, lonely, hungry, and completely dependent on the mercy of others. He was the physical equivalent of a spiritually poor, miserable sinner. The only thing he seems to have in common with the rich man in our lesson is death. So, this morning we consider the differences, focusing on the words spoken to the rich man, “… in your lifetime you received your good things.”

You see, there is a very big difference between our lifetime and the lifetime God gives to us in Jesus Christ. And now, as then, it is the Holy Spirit who works in our lives through the inspired and inerrant Word of God. If we choose to ignore and so, in practice, reject that Word, we will indeed have received all the good things we’re going to receive in our lifetime.

But, thanks be to God as we read in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “… if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” The way we are brought into Christ, we are taught in Romans 6, is through baptism. And what gives baptism, for lack of a better term, its power is the Word of God, specifically the words in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Not overly impressive words, to be sure, but when used according to Christ’s command, they deliver to us the Holy Spirit who creates the faith that holds to the promise that, even now, we are God’s children, and even now, Christ is preparing a place for us in heaven.

And so, we live in this world of sin knowing that our faith is not a matter of willful determination, right thinking or anything else that can be found within us. Christian living is a fruit of the spirit. We also know that while the new nature or new Adam is created within us in our baptism, the old nature, as Luther says, must daily be drown, and that implies that we will struggle daily.

Surely, you know that no matter how good you want to be, sin is always right there with you. There simply is no escaping the effects of sin while we live in this fallen world. So, what can we do? Follow the advice of Abraham to listen to Moses and the prophets, that is, to God’s Word. It’s there we’re taught that satan, the world, and our own flesh will always fight against God; that even by human standards, we will stumble and fall many times and in many ways, but we also learn that as “we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.”

When we listen to God’s Word, what we hear is there’s nothing we can do to earn forgiveness, because Christ has already earned it for us. As you listen to God’s Word, you hear God’s promise that: nothing can pluck you out of His hand, you hear that because of His grace, you are a part of His body where none is more or less important than any other. When you listen, you hear Jesus still calling you by name: “Come to me, … and I will give you rest.” When you listen, you find that as you repent of your sins, no matter how great or how many, His words never change “… as you confess your sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteous.”