< Back

How to Be Rich toward God

June 10, 2018
By Rev. David French


In our lesson, a man asks Jesus to command his brother to divide the family inheritance with him.  Jesus ignores the argument and instead uses this situation to teach a vital lesson on the subject of greed.  “Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Jesus goes on to tell the story of a wealthy farmer.  His fields produce abundant crops.  He loves his work and everything he does seems to turn to gold!  We don’t know what opportunities he had to develop his spiritual life, but apparently, he considered getting “more” a more valuable use of his time and energy.  A pattern that to this day is all too easy to fall into.

Eventually, the farmer decides to tear down his barns and build bigger ones to hold all his grain and goods!  Bursting with satisfaction, he says in effect: “I’ve got tons of money in the bank and my future is secure; now … I think I’ll just kick back eat, drink, and be merry!”

But that very night God said, “You fool!”  No doubt at his funeral, people were saying: “He was a genius, a shrewd business man, a wise investor!”  But God called him a fool - not because he was doing anything evil, but because of his greed.

And that leaves the obvious question: What good did his barn full of grain do him?  He invested all his time and energy into storing up earthly riches, while investing nothing in what mattered the most, and in the end, he stood before God a fool.  Jesus concludes, “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself, but is not rich toward God.”

So what’s important … is that we be rich toward God!  But, what does this mean?  It’s really not complicated; it simply means to invest our lives in our relationship with God!  We spend so much time and money investing in education, work, friends, families, and entertainment, but are we rich toward God?  A disciple, that is one who is always learning to trust Jesus, needs to learn to invest his or her life in serving God by meeting the needs of others.

One way for us to be rich toward God is to give faithfully and generously.  We need to ask ourselves: “What is God asking me to give?”  To be sure, 10% was the amount given in both the Old and New Testaments, but in Christ we’re no longer bound to that Law.

So, as Christians, what amount of our incomes should we give that shows our gratitude to God for Who He is and what He’s done for us through His Son?  We’re not commanded to tithe, but, just as Jesus encouraged the Pharisees to continue their tithing, we are encouraged to use the tithe as a guide for our giving. 

In the end, the amount we give means nothing when compared to our attitudes and motives for giving.  We honor God even if we give less than the tithe when we give our gifts cheerfully and from faith.  When God has your heart, the things of life, even money, begin to find their proper place in our lives.

But still, we must learn, and so we turn to the Scriptures to teach us what it means to be rich toward God.  For example, in Exodus 23:19 we read: “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.”  That is, we are to give first to what is first in our lives.

Remember, we are sinners and our greediness can lead us to spend until we have nothing left for the work of our God.  It’s a little thing, but set aside the money you want to give to extend God’s kingdom first.  It really will make a difference.

So, how much should we budget for Church?  Again, the tithe is a good goal, but as Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be expected.”  That is, the more you make, the more you are expected to give!

That means, beware of the temptation to think, “I give my tithe, so I‘m good!”  Not necessarily.  Ten percent isn’t the goal.  The goal is by God’s grace to give generously!  Usually when we get a raise, our first thought is, “Now I can get this or do that, when it should be now I can give a little more for the work of God’s kingdom!

Remember, God’s Word does not teach that you shouldn’t invest or prepare for emergencies and retirement and so on.  It does not teach that we can’t have luxuries, but it does teach that those who can afford luxuries are also “… to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”

We need to keep a balance.  God gives the good things in this life as gifts for us to enjoy and to be generous in our giving.  You see, we are also rich toward God when we give cheerfully, as Paul writes to the Corinthians, “… for God loves a cheerful giver.”  The Church should never make people feel guilty about giving.  We give joyfully by God’s grace, and grace never threatens or condemns.

Consider the following story: Two brothers shared a field and a mill, and each night they evenly divided the grain they had ground together during the day.  One brother lived alone; the other had a wife and large family.  The single brother started thinking, “It isn’t really fair that we divide the grain evenly, because I only have myself to care for and my brother has children to feed.”  So each night he secretly took some of his grain to his brother’s granary to see that he was never without.

The married brother also said to himself: “It isn’t really fair that we divide the grain evenly, because I have children to provide for me in my old age, but my brother has no one.  What will he do when he is old?”  So every night he secretly took some of his grain to his brother’s granary.  As a result, both of them always found their supply of grain mysteriously replenished each morning.

You see, as we cheerfully and generously give the first fruits of our labor to God, we are, by His grace, being rich toward God.  So, how much should we give?  The bottom line is, God is pleased when we offer our gifts from loving and thankful hearts.  Today the tithe acts as a biblical benchmark and, if needed, an encouragement for us to grow in the spiritual discipline of giving.

Very few of us give as generously as we should; I know I don’t.  But then, very few of us obey God in any area like we should: Bible study, prayer, loving others – I don’t do any of those as well as God demands, and yet God still loves me.  Even if you never give a penny, God will not love you any less.  Christ died for all our sins, including our lack of generous giving!  But if you don’t give even a penny, and we all can give that, at least ask yourself why not?  Why don’t you feel the need to share in God’s work here at St. James?

You see, it’s through Word and Sacraments that we grow as disciples and we do come to understand more and more of what God has done for us in Christ, until we are led by the Holy Spirit to respond by sharing the resources that God has given to us to help meet the needs of others. 

My friends, God will transform our selfish hearts into hearts filled with a desire to share if we have the courage to let Him.  In doing so, we also are growing in the grace of becoming rich toward Him who sacrificed His Son for you.

In His Name, Amen.