Sunday, March 13, 2022 Brad Barrett
Be Heavenly Minded
We are in a sermon series going through the Gospel of Luke. This morning we are chapter 12.
Luke 12:13–21 (ESV)
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?”
15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully,
17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’
18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.
19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’
20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’
21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
A man asks Jesus about his family’s dispute over an inheritance. Some of you in this room are all too familiar with this problem in your own family over an inheritance. Such topics can get very messy.
So why did Jesus respond like this? “Who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” At first glance, this may seem harsh. Jewish rabbis in those days would commonly help resolve disputes, so it seems like a reasonable ask from this man.
But Jesus may have two reasons for his response:
- His primary purpose in coming to earth was not to resolve family disputes. In fact, another dispute was brought before him in Luke 10. Martha was upset with her sister Mary. Jesus is FOR peacemaking, but that was not his primary mission on earth.
- Jesus knows that with this man and his brother, there is a heart issue. Vs. 15 tells us what this is.
So with the crowd listening, Jesus immediately turns this into a teachable moment.
Covetousness or greed is about seeking to accumulate a greater amount of possessions. Bigger bank accounts. More possessions. More toys. Fuller investment portfolios. Newer homes. The rich person or the poor person can become consumed with this desire. And when this happens, there is no room for anything else, not even God.
So Jesus says, “Be on guard. Be watchful. Keep alert to greed in your hearts.” Real life is not found in the accumulation of things.
Now Jesus tells a story—a parable— to make a powerful point. Parables are “Earthly stories with heavenly meaning.”
This one is about greed. Being consumed with accumulating more and bigger. This greed can be driven by various motives:
- Desire for comfort and ease.
- Fear of not having enough.
- Jealousy and competitiveness.
Whatever the drive is, the outcome is ungodly and earthly.
Look at vs. 17-19. What is a common theme out of the rich man’s mouth?
Note how many times the man says, “I” and “my”. He’s not thinking of God. He’s not thinking of the brevity of life, and God’s ownership of him. He’s not thinking about using his wealth to bring good to others, like in the parable of the Good Samaritan, stopping to help a beaten, robbed, dying man on the side of the road.
He’s thinking of his own comfort and security. Of building his investment portfolio on earth. He yearned to be rich in finances, but he was not rich towards God. He was earthly minded. And very, very short-sighted.
The problem the man had is not in being wealthy.
Here is his error: he placed his hope and security in his wealth, not in God.
One author said,
“He morally mismanaged his wealth, giving no thought to the needs of others or thanking God.” (Darrell Bock, BECNT)
This was not a financial mismanagement. This was a moral mismanagement. The world will praise him for—perhaps even be jealous of— his success. But God calls him a fool and will take his soul that very day.
Now Jesus gives the lesson of the parable. The outcome of the life that yearns for earthly wealth is truly bankrupt. Bankrupt toward God. Bankrupt towards eternal things. Bankrupt towards kingdom thinking. Remember the command here from Jesus in vs. 15?
“Be on guard against all kinds of greed.”
Why? Because one’s life does not consist in the quantity of one’s possessions. When our lives become consumed with accumulation, there is no room for anything else, not even God. And God will call us, “Fools.”
What should we do then? We will look at some application after we read the next passage, which is also about money.
Jesus is now finished with that lesson for the larger crowd. Now he continues on the topic of money, but speaking just to his disciples. Whether this is just the Twelve apostles or the group of all who believe in him, we don’t know.
So Jesus’ language is different here. He speaks of their Father in heaven. This is crucial language.
The topic now switches from greed to anxiety. The two topics are related. One author said this:
“Greed can never get enough, worry is afraid it may not have enough.” (William Arndt)
There is no contentment in greed. There is no peace in worry.
22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.
23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.
24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!
25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?
27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!
29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.
30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.
31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.
34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Let’s look in more detail.
Jesus says don’t be anxious about food and clothing. He doesn’t say we shouldn’t pay attention to such things. We ought to work to earn income to buy such things. His point is, Don’t worry about it all. Don’t be anxious. Don’t be afraid.
Most of us have far more than the basics. We might have a closet full of clothes and a pantry full of food. Yet we can still be worried about having enough. Having enough to pay for college. Having enough for the next car. Having enough for medical expenses. Having enough for retirement.
We can be very creative about the things we can worry about. Jesus emphatically says, “Don’t go there.”
At this point, I want to address at least one reason WHY we get anxious. WHY we worry.
All subjects of our various worries deal with uncertainty and control.
We are uncertain of the future. So we are driven to take control. But the illusion is, we simply don’t have that much control.
One author said,
“Central to worry is the illusion that we can control things.”
That statement woke me up. When I am anxious, typically it is because I want to control something, and I become consumed with trying to gain control or realizing I have no control.
Of course, we worry about non-financial issues, too.
- My health.
- Safety when we’re traveling.
- Economy and inflation.
- War in Ukraine.
- My children and grandchildren getting a disease.
Anxiety and control are two sides of one coin. When we can’t control something, we worry about it.
Jesus is certainly not unsympathetic toward real problems and genuine concern. But he does not allow worry and fear over such things.
He does much more than simply saying, “Stop worrying.” He now launches into the rationale for no anxiety. He gives us multiple important reasons why we not only shouldn’t be anxious, but we do not need to.
The first reason not to be anxious Jesus says is to “Consider the ravens.” Consider the birds flying around outside this morning. They can’t plant crops nor harvest them. They don’t have bank accounts or food pantries. Yet God provides for them.
Then here’s the clincher: “You are so much more valuable than birds.”
This sounds so simple. Too simple. But its simplicity is its beauty. Jesus actually intends us to think about this. To consider it. And to come to the same conclusion he does: You are infinitely more valuable to God than a bird. You have been made in the image of God. A glimpse of God is in you. This is glorious. Plus, God sent his own Son into this world to die for you, not for birds. How much more valuable can you be? Do we really believe the Lord doesn’t care for us?
At this point, if you’re like me, you might be tempted to say, “Well, yeah, I get all that. But I’m really afraid and worried. My needs are great. My future is unknown. I mean, I can’t really NOT be worried, can I?” I’ve felt that way before.
But Jesus is not offering a theoretical psychological solution to worry. He is not offering an unproven solution to anxiety and fear.
He is calling us to have a simple, childlike faith. To be heavenly minded. And to believe that our heavenly Father loves us deeply.
It’s going to take meditating on the Scriptures to think this way. It’s going to take prayer and conversation and dependence on the Holy Spirit. It’s going to take some work to consider all that Jesus is saying. But in the end, if God provides for a stupid bird, you can trust…you can have faith…that he will do the same for you. And you need not worry.
Jesus gives a second very foundational reason we can and should stop worrying: Can you add hours to your day by worrying? Well, of course, we have to answer, “No.”
So since this is true, why are you anxious?
Essentially worrying is useless. It does nothing for us. We may nod our heads and say, “Yeah, I know that.” But again Jesus wants us to really get this. He wants to gently wake us up that we would say to ourselves, “This anxiety of mine is not profitable nor faith-filled. I need to get serious with God about this and deal with it.”
Now a third reason to stop worrying.
God spreads beautiful flowers all over the fields, making them more beautiful than King Solomon was. Solomon was one of the wealthiest men ever to live, but the beauty of his clothes and his palace is nothing compared to how God clothes a field with flowers. If God clothes fields so beautifully, won’t he clothe you so much more?
Jesus then is blunt, “If you are anxious and do not believe this, you have little faith. You are doubting God.” It’s helpful to hear this so plainly: When I am anxious and fretting, my ultimate problem is not financial or health. My ultimate problem is faith. Trust.
This is crucial for us to catch this this morning. In my anxiety, I am saying, “God, you are not completely trustworthy here. I can trust you for my eternal salvation through Jesus, but I’m skeptical about this trial I’m encountering.” I mean, Lord, I might lose my job. I might flunk my exam. I might get cancer. I might not have enough for retirement. I might give the worst sermon the world has ever heard.
Our anxiety over money and many other things is simply a lack of confidence in God. We must recognize it. Admit it. And confess it.
Jesus is gently and firmly calling us to use our minds and our hearts. Consider the ravens. Consider the flowers in the fields. Consider that you cannot add an hour to your life.
We truly can walk in peace, not in anxiety. You can trust your heavenly Father.
Don’t seek after what you are to eat or drink. He means, Don’t worry. Don’t fret. Why? The pagan nations seek after such things. They worry.
But…here is one of the most important things Jesus says: Your Father knows what you need.
Remember Jesus is now speaking to his disciples. And what he says here is critically important: You have a Father in heaven.
Listen, Christian: If you have believed in Jesus, then God is now your Father. And he has forgiven you, saved you, and adopted you, and made you his son and daughter. I don’t know what kind of earthly father you had. But even the best father in the world cannot begin to compare with your heavenly Father. He is attentive. Powerful. Loving. Caring. Providing. Loyal. Dependable. He will never leave you. He will never forget about you. He can never die. He is wealthy beyond imagination. He is generous beyond comprehension. He has power beyond explanation.
Let me say this plainly: Worry and fear fade away as we get our eyes on our heavenly Father and see him for who he truly is. That God is your good, tender, gracious, powerful Father will make all the difference in the world when it comes to your anxiety.
Look, Jesus doesn’t say this to merely make us feel good. He is not throwing out an option, as in, “Try this, and see if it works.” He expects us and calls us to believe this simple but most profound truth, resulting in new and peaceful hearts and minds.
To meditate on these truths and believe is hard work. There is no Easy Button to push. It takes time and thoughtfulness and prayer. But by his grace and in the power of the Holy Spirit, God wants to open our eyes to see him and love him.
So now instead of all that anxiety and fear that is crushing us…Instead of endlessly fretting and seeking after earthly security and control… Here is what we are to seek: God’s kingdom.
We are to actively and aggressively and wholeheartedly seek after God our King. And to seek after things that matter in his eternal kingdom. Things that are not perishable. Things that will last forever.
We seek after pleasing him.
We seek after pointing souls to Jesus.
We seek to know him.
We seek to store our treasures in heaven, not on earth.
We seek to help other people who are suffering and in need.
This is a constant NT principle: We not only are to turn away from sin, but we are to actively pursue heavenly things.
In this passage, Jesus commands us to turn from anxiety and in its place, to seek after the King and his kingdom. What is important to Jesus? Seek after those things.
Verse 32 is my favorite in the entire passage:
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Such tender, loving language: “Fear not, little flock.” Jesus is our Good Shepherd, carefully watches over us, his helpless but beloved sheep. And his Father and our Father watches over us with great attention and care. And he has given us a share in his glorious, eternal kingdom. When we think we are all alone and God is not paying attention to our needs, Jesus tells us that your Father in heaven is watching over you carefully.
Again, I want to emphasize that Jesus is not offering a mere suggestion. He is offering a powerful, life-changing word of hope and promise. And he expects that by faith we will embrace this, and our lives will change.
Annette and I listened to a remarkable audiobook over the weekend. An autobiography of a 21-year old Pakistani woman had believed in Jesus Christ. Because she turned to Jesus, her Muslim father sought to kill her, so she ran for her life with no food, no extra clothes, and just a small amount of money. Over and over, she found herself in a position of great stress and fear and anxiety. But just as often in her new faith, she found her good, gracious heavenly Father to be enough. He cared for her and provided for her.
I was humbled listening to her story. Her stress was far greater than mine, but she walked by faith in her heavenly Father. She found Jesus to be very real, and her Father to be very attentive to her needs.
Thousands…even millions…of Christians have gone before us in many trying circumstances, and they have found their God to be faithful and kind. We can imitate their faith, even in our very stressful circumstances.
One aspect of seeking God’s kingdom (vs. 31) is to look outward, not inward.
To look for needs around us, and go meet them. Hunger needs. Financial needs. Health needs. Soul needs.
We see them, and out of love for our heavenly Father who watches over us more than we watch out for ourselves, we go and offer his deep love to others. We give money away. Possessions. Our time. Our energy.
By doing so, we make our treasure in heaven, not on earth. And this sets our hearts in heaven, not on earth, and so our heart is enlarged for the King and all that concerns him.
Both passages present difficulties of walking as a disciple of Jesus concerning money. One difficulty is wrestling with greed, while the other is being consumed by worry.
In a way, both passages are dealing with security in this life.
Why would we have our lives consumed with greed when real life consists of so much more than that?
Why would we waste our days fretting about things out of our control when we have a heavenly Father who loves us so?
Jesus’ solution for both is heavenly mindedness Kingdom mindedness. Being God focused. And others’ focused. He calls us to a life of simple faith in a great God.
So we’ve looked at Jesus’ challenging teaching here. What do we do now? What is some significance for us today from Jesus’ words here in Luke 12??
I want to offer us a simple Game Plan to go forward. A simple approach to deal with our anxieties and fears. Here I’m not focusing on the topic of greed, but you may find some application for that, too.
(this came from author and counselor David Powlison, Seeing With New Eyes)
We need a game plan to walk in peace, not anxiety. To walk by faith, not fear.
As you go through this Game Plan, I highly recommend writing out your thoughts. Get them out of your head and onto paper.
You may find this a difficult assignment, but I believe you will find it freeing. And it will move you toward peace. To walk in peace and courage, not in anxiety, is not a one-time event. We walk by faith in God one day at a time, one trial at a time. Today we remember how faithful and kind he is, but tomorrow we might forget.
So we go back to him to remember him and trust him.
So here is game plan.
CAUTION: This is not a formula. It’s just a simple process we can walk through to help us day by day.
- Name the pressures.
I might feel overwhelmed by an apparent 20 things, but writing them down or talking about them, I may find only one or two primary things.
- Identify how you express anxiety.
For example, obsessive thoughts, irritability. Write that down. Or perhaps I have outbursts of anger. I withdraw into my cave. Loss of appetite….or, a greatly increased appetite. Or I turn to alcohol, spending, gambling.
Write down your tendencies.
- Ask, why am I anxious?
Ask yourself this: What is it I want deep inside?
What do I want, need, crave, demand, or lust after? Identify the earthly treasure I am seeking.
As an example, I lost my wallet on Monday. One of my responses was anxiety.
Why? It took me a day to realize why. Part of my anxiety was because I was embarrassed. I don’t like losing things, and I feel stupid and embarrassed when I do.
Why are you anxious? Write it down.
Am I anxious because I am craving the approval of my parents and my boss? Am I anxious because I crave security? I didn’t have it as a kid, and I made a vow to never be in that position again.
Write that out. Reasons like these drive our worry.
- Find a promise from Jesus that speaks the most to me.
For me, vs. 32 is my favorite in this passage:
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
My heavenly Father calls me his little lamb. He loves me, feeds me, and cares for me. He gave me his Son. He sealed me with the Holy Spirit to guarantee eternal life. And my inheritance will be sharing his kingdom with him. What a promise!
Our faith is built upon such promises from God. So find one. Memorize it. Write it down. Post it on the bathroom mirror. Do whatever it takes to remember that God always keeps his Word to you..
- Go to your Father in prayer.
Talk to him! He cares for you!
1 Peter 5:7 NIV Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Pray. Write out your prayers. Trust that he hears and he cares for you.
- Do something constructive.
Give. Meet a human need. Show your faith through your deeds (James 2). Even if it’s a small thing, give of yourself and show that your heavenly Father will meet your needs.
A passage I mentioned 3 weeks ago points to this:
2 Timothy 2:22 Flee what is evil and pursue what is right.
Fleeing anxiety is one step, but pursuing something good is an important step. Yes, we must rid ourselves of evil thoughts and actions. But at the same time, we must fill ourselves and we seek after Christ through godly thoughts and actions.
This game plan is not a magic formula. It is not a quick fix. It is simply a plan to help us think more clearly. To think less earthly and short-term. To think more heavenly and eternal.
If you want to talk more deeply about a game plan like this for yourself, give me a call. I would love to help.
These two passages have a common theme of money. Of stuff. Possessions.
Clearly Jesus calls us away from something harmful and unholy: greed and anxiety. Both these qualities are traps and can bring harm to our lives. They bring no benefit.
And just as strongly, Jesus calls us TO something.
To remember life is not found in having an abundance of possessions.
To think more about heaven.
To remember there is an eternity.
To consider how valuable we are, made in his image.
To dwell on God as our good, gracious, kind powerful Father who has given us his Son, that we might live forever and ever in his kingdom.
And he is calling us to faith in a God who has proven himself countless times to be trustworthy.