a homily for Proper 14C
Text: Luke 12:32-40
Thinking all the way back to last week, Jesus was asked to settle a property dispute. Two brothers were arguing over property and invite Jesus, the holy man, to help them settle it. Seems natural enough. Let’s call on the guy who can help us settle on what GOD would want. Now Jesus doesn’t give them what they want. They want a settlement. What Jesus gives them is a story about a man who plans to hoard his stuff.
The main character in the story gets a bumper crop, then seeks to build a giant storehouse for it. He wants to keep it and never work another day of his life. The man doesn’t even think about sharing it. And as a Jew, he has forgotten that this wealth, this excess isn’t really his to possess; it is a gift to be shared.
Jesus argues that the relationship that should be their concern isn’t about one brother to another, but how greed interferes with their relationship to GOD.
Then, in a part the Lectionary skips over, Jesus turns to His disciples and says
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.
He compares them to ravens and lilies: GOD provides for their needs without big barns with which to hoard their abundance.
Right before we pick it up again, Jesus tells them again not to worry—not to strive after food and drink.
For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
This is the big lead up to Jesus’s teaching about the future: don’t worry.
And Jesus knows they will anyway.
How can they not? We would. We do. We worry about paying our bills. Wishing doesn’t make the bills go away. Simply ignoring our problems might relieve a little stress, but it won’t make them disappear. We certainly worry about the budget around here.
We also worry about not having abundance in service. Not having enough volunteers. Not having enough interest in events or support for the existing ones. Not enough time to get everything done. Not enough wisdom to make the hard choices. Not enough attention for our problems. Not enough talks about what is “really going on”. Not enough good times because we sure do a lot of complaining. I’m surprised more of us aren’t home sick from all the worrying we do.
And even though Jesus explicitly tells us not to, we do it anyway. He says that worry is the way of the world, that isn’t the way of the Kingdom. And we hear that and then guess what happens next? We worry. We worry that we aren’t doing what Jesus asks us to. Worrying just reveals the tip of the iceberg. There’s a whole host of other stuff underneath that makes us worry because we think we should be doing something we’re not or because we aren’t feeling the way we think we should be feeling.
And then we hear Jesus say to sell off our stuff and we don’t know what to do. We throw up our hands. We give up.
There’s something important, however, in what Jesus says to his followers, that we often mishear.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
We’ve heard it—turned it into a saying. An aphorism. A positive thing. Just throw your love into something and life will be good. Jesus’s teachings rarely work so neatly and comfortably. It actually is saying the opposite: you find your heart where your treasure already is. In the context of the teaching, it has a kind of scathing ring to it. You care too much for your stuff, Jesus explains. That’s what you love. You love your stuff more than your own flesh and blood.
Jesus isn’t saying put your heart where your treasure is—it is already there. And He isn’t saying put your treasure where your heart is, because your heart is already residing in the wrong spot. It’s already with your treasure…over here. In the bank. Far from where you think your heart is.
Instead, stop worrying. Trust that GOD has this. Put your work into living out the Kingdom. Walk the walk. Preach the preaching.
And these words He speaks happily to His followers, saying:
Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
It isn’t earned or won or bought. The Kingdom is joyfully given. Don’t be afraid.
The irony for today is that as long as the teaching is abstract, we don’t need to worry what it tells us to do. Like the invocation to love our “neighbor” we can claim to love everybody while we crab at the woman scanning our groceries at Neiman’s, so too can we claim that we aren’t greedy or that we aren’t afraid or that we trust in GOD. We can pretend that we are just perfect Christians with the best of them. We often seem more afraid of actually trusting Jesus means what He says than we do when we simply ignore His help.
When He speaks of greed, however, Jesus isn’t saying we are bad—that we are the dictionary definition of greedy—but that the greed for our stuff—in our case, the preservation of the status quo—obscures our relationship with GOD. It means that we can’t trust GOD when we’re quarreling with our brother over inheritance.
Our job is to trust. Therefore, we get rid of whatever keeps that from happening. The greed. The worry. Our own way. These are the things that keep us from trusting. Of course, this isn’t saying we aren’t supposed to be pragmatic or realistic or practical; or that we shouldn’t take care of ourselves because Jesus will swoop in like Superman and pay our electric bill. That’s as “greedy” and off-topic as the brother’s inheritance. Greed is naval-gazing.
No, the challenge in what Jesus is saying is not that we blindly trust without regard for what we actually believe, but that the Kingdom is given to us after we start acting like we’re already living in the Kingdom. Our hearts follow our treasure. If our money is in the bank, we love collecting interest. But what we invest in is what we come to love.
Or perhaps we flip the old saying: rather than put our money where our mouth is, we put our money where GOD is and then make our mouths play catch-up. May we put our trust before our belief.