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More Than Counting Blessings

November 27, 2019
By Rev. David French

From ancient times cultures around the world have observed some kind of annual harvest festival. Whether civic or religious, these thanksgiving festivals marked the completion of the annual cycle of seedtime and harvest.

Today we still put out a cornucopia, but as a culture, the focus is more often on enjoying a long weekend, overeating, football, and, for many, shopping. It’s also true that we’re not deaf to reports of famine, civil war, and natural disasters around the world, so, to some degree, we do realize how much we have to be thankful for.

To be sure, there are those who have lost their job, who struggle to raise a family on a minimal income, who have experienced a serious illness or loss of a loved one. The human race is a fallen race, and we all bear the scars of sin.

But how do our individual fortunes, good or bad, fit in with Thanksgiving? The truth is, good years as well as bad ones should have the same effect on us. Both should help us realize our complete dependence on God as the source of all that’s good and as the only protection against all that’s evil. That is, Thanksgiving is about more than counting blessings.

Jesus began His parable, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully” (v 16b). That’s a good thing, right? Is there anything wrong with a nice house or a comfortable pension? Certainly not, in and of themselves. I mean yes, we refer to this lesson as the parable of “the rich fool,” but it’s not for being rich that he’s called a fool. The man was a fool because of the wrong conclusions he drew from his riches.

What really reveals the man’s foolishness is that with all his foresight and planning, he never once considered the most important truth of all. That reality was made clear when God said to him, “… This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (v 20).

Clearly, he doesn’t seem to believe these things were never really his. Listen again, “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops? … I will do this: I will tear down my barns, I will store all my grain and my goods. And (the clencher), I will say to my soul ….” You get the point.

It’s so easy and natural for people like us who sit here this evening to talk and think that way. My job, my house, my car, my money, my life ... even though we all know the answer to the question, “But are they really ours?” Yes, we know the best farmer can’t cause seed to germinate, rain to fall, or the sun to shine. We know these and other blessings are ours only in the sense that God has entrusted them to us to use and to manage for a time. Be on your guard against the temptation the rich man was trapped by, that is, forgetting that we will all give an account for our use or misuse of the blessings God has entrusted to our care.

The reason God’s judgment sounds so harsh to us is there’s an opportunity for a bit of self-reflection in the irony of God’s judgement. If you listen, you can hear God say, “You want to talk about yourself. Okay, let’s talk about you. You’re a fool! Not because you’ve had a good crop or plan to build bigger barns. You’re a fool because your plans are all about you and your focus on the here and now.”

When King Solomon looked back on a long and distinguished reign, he asked, “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” (Eccl 1:3). His point is that all earthly gains are temporary. But remember that’s not only true of the blessings we experience, it’s also true of the burdens and sorrows that come our way. They’re all temporary conditions that affect only the life we’re given to live here on earth. In Christ there is a greater reality that finds its fulfillment when our soul returns to God.

Jesus told this parable because someone asked him to settle a dispute over an inheritance. Jesus knew that this was not just a matter of the equitable distribution of wealth. This was a request triggered by greed.

Disputes about an inheritance or any other kind of wealth arise because people set their hearts on the wrong kind of riches. In our baptisms we are born of water and spirit into a new life, a life that is not dependent on earthly wealth or pleasures for success or happiness, a life that lasts, a life that brings a joy that cannot be found in the things of this world.

That new life is a gift of our gracious God, who offers both eternal riches and unending joy purchased with the blood of His Son, our Savior, Jesus, the very Christ of God. He came into this world as King of kings and Lord of lords, yet he had no home, no fancy clothes, no place to lay His head. Still, on the Last Day, every knee will bow before Him. Why? Because he was poor? No, it is because He faithfully carried out the will of the Father to pay for the sin of all humanity.

Again, why? Simply put, we were created in the image God to be His treasured possession. Our heavenly Father’s love for us knows no limits. We are the crown of His creation. Our first parents, however, chose not to follow God’s way but their own way, and that was the beginning of the sorry story that is the history of the human race. And that, because their way, the way we inherited and eagerly put into practice, leads to death. God would have been fully justified if He had just let us walk that path to our own eternal destruction.

But, that was not His will nor His plan for us. And so, Jesus, true God and true man born of the virgin, paid the price to bring us back to the Father. He offered His perfect life on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for our sin. And on Easter morning with His resurrection, He reclaimed us as God’s own sons and daughters.

We have been assured of an eternal home with Christ in heaven. We are heirs of a priceless inheritance, but that inheritance is not measured in dollars and cents. As Jesus says a few verses after our lesson ends, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

So, enjoy your earthly blessings today and every day, be they: physical, financial, or emotional, but always take to heart the truth that it is God who has blessed you with them, and be thankful. Ya know, I used to thank God for all His blessings, both great and small, until I realized there is no such thing as a small blessing when it comes to you from the hand of your Creator.

But still, the gift of His Son is different. For while the gift of His Son was given for all, in your baptism His promise was spoken to you by name. So, you and all who believe in Him for the forgiveness of their sins can live in this sorry world knowing, even now, we are heirs of eternal riches this world will never understand.

                                                                                           In His name, Amen.