6-19-22 Trinity 1

June 19, 2022
Passage: Luke 16:19-31
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Abraham was a very rich man. But he didn’t trust in his riches, he didn’t love them. When he and his nephew Lot had too much, so many animals that the land couldn’t hold them all, Abraham told Lot to take the better land and Abraham moved to the not so good land. Who cares? Money isn’t worth fighting over. It’s not worth destroying a relationship with family. God will provide. It would be better to give up money, to be cheated even, than to let it come between you and another Christian. Your love for your brother is worth more than money can buy.

When rival kings from the north came and captured the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, and with them Lot and his family and all they had, Abraham trusted in God, risked his wealth, armed his servants, put his own life on the line, and fought to rescue Lot. Because that’s why God gives money. To help our neighbor, to do good with it. Why else would God give Abraham all this wealth, except to help Lot in his time of need? Why else would he give you money, except to use it to help the people in your life?

When God gave Abraham the victory, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah offered him more wealth, all the spoils of war, and Abraham refused. He wouldn’t take a cent. Because he would not have people say that a bunch of unbelievers made him rich, that his blessing came from the heathen. No, his blessing came from God, every good thing he had, including his money and possessions, and he’d rather have no money at all than have God’s name blasphemed among the heathen because of him.

When Abraham sends the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah away, another king comes to him, the King of Salem, Melchizedek, which means, King of Righteousness. And this king is very obviously a different sort of king. He comes to bless Abraham in the name of the Lord. And in response, Abraham gives a tenth of his wealth to him. This is called a tithe, a giving of a tenth of what God gives you back to God. Abraham does it far before God commanded it to His people through Moses on Mount Sinai. Abraham gives a tenth of what he has because he’s confessing with his actions what he believes in his heart. It’s not as if Melchizedek needs his money. God certainly doesn’t need his money. Abraham gives it without any command from God forcing him to do it, because he isn’t hiding anything, he sincerely doesn’t trust in his money or love it. He wants the greater things God has to give, his promise, his blessing, his fellowship, his love. And this is the only reason we should give money to God’s church, not because God commands a specific amount or a specific percentage, He doesn’t, but because we’re not fake, we’re not acting, the word of forgiveness, the instruction of God’s word, the body and blood of Jesus once given for us and now given to us here, is so far and above greater than anything else in all the world, we would give up all our wealth to have it. And yet God gives it freely, at His cost, not ours. So our offering is a thank-offering, a confession-offering, like Abraham’s.

St. James says that we see that Abraham was justified by his works. Abraham is justified, declared righteous, by faith in God’s promise. That’s what the Holy Spirit says, “And Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness.” Just the same as when you believe God’s promise, that your sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, God counts Christ’s righteousness to you. Not because of your works. Only because of Jesus’ work. This is the center and core of all Jesus teaches. But James says you see that Abraham was justified by his works. Because you can see by his works that he trusted in Jesus. You can see it, because his aim in life is clearly not to get more and more money. You can see it, because he uses his money to help his neighbor. You can see it, because he refuses money rather than dishonor God. You can see it, because he happily gives his money to God. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t sin or make stupid mistakes. He most certainly does. Hagar’s a big one. But it does mean that he doesn’t live his life for money or for the pleasures of this world. He lives it in the hope of the Gospel. And you can see it by his actions.

When Jesus calls us Christians the light of the world, when he calls us a city set on a hill, he’s pointing to this same seeing. People should see it from us as they saw it from Abraham. But what do they see? They see families torn apart because of money. They see brother sue brother fighting over an inheritance. They see husbands and wives fight and say horrible things to one another and divorce, all over money. They see people give almost nothing to the church while spending loads of money on toys and selfish pleasures. They see people pursue a career with absolutely no thought to whether it will lead them away from a good church or away from daily devotion to God. They see parents raise their children as if their main goal were to make them successful in the world instead of making them lifelong Christians. And they see it all from Christians. And they’ve learned from this that Christians maybe don’t mean what they say, that we like them really just worship money, that the Kingdom of God and His righteousness are what we speak at church, but our lives tell a different story.

This has become some sick sort of normal among American Christians. And it cannot be normal among us. If the light of the Gospel shines in your heart, and the joy of the Gospel has captured you, that God has so loved you that He laid down His life for you, let it shine in your home and in your life. Jesus was not pitching us some unrealistic ideal, some unreachable perfection, when he said we are the light of the world, that we are a city set on a hill, that we are the salt of the earth. He said it as a matter of fact about his Christians. He didn’t misspeak when He said, “You cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve God and money.” It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor or anywhere in between. Work hard, seek good advice on making and saving money, thank God for the money He gives, take care of yourself and your family, and use your money to help your neighbor and give it generously to God. Never make your love for money or your worry about it the source of fighting here at church or at home. Give money and career up rather than pursue it at the expense of your family or your time at church or your time in God’s word and prayer. It’s not worth it. And you know it, so live it, not because God thunders from Sinai requiring it from you, but because you live in the Kingdom of God and in the Kingdom of God it makes no sense to love money, because we have Jesus, God among us, our Creator and now our Brother, who has given us all we have, and Him we love, because He has so loved us. Money we use for Him.

Abraham was afraid the night after all his victories. And he was very clearly not afraid because he was worried about money. He just refused a bunch of it and there were no regrets. He just gave a bunch of it away to God, and there were no second thoughts. He was afraid because God had not fulfilled His promise. He looked at all he had, victory in war, more wealth than a man could need, a beautiful wife, the respect of kings, and none of it satisfied what he needed, to be right with God, to be forgiven of sin, to have a clean heart, to know for certain that God loved him and was with him and would give him eternal life. God had promised this all to him. God had told him that through his seed all the nations would be blessed. He promised him a child and through that child a Savior. But there was no child. Abraham’s heir was his servant Eliezer of Damascus. Abram was too old and his wife too old to have a child. God’s promise was impossible. That’s what kept Abraham up. That’s what worried him. That was his concern. Because everything depended on it. If God does not fulfill that promise, Abraham may have wealth on this earth and all sorts of enjoyments, but it is all vanity, it will all fade away, and worse, God is an enemy, unreconciled, and unreachable, unreliable. But when God promises to send a Savior and then does it, everything is right, everything is beautiful, even if the world rage around us.

When you make this your number one concern, your top priority, all else will fall in place and you will see it in your life. Not that life will be perfect or you’ll not sin or there will be no crosses or doubts or fears – God knows Abraham had his trials. But because everything else in life flows beautifully from this. Your nature, as a human being, before any of your appetites or physical and emotional needs, your nature is to be in fellowship with God, to be right with Him, to obey Him. God created you in His image, to know Him, to love Him, and until this happens your soul, your life is restless.

And you have an enormous advantage over Abraham. The promised Seed has come. The promise is fulfilled and it is greater and more beautiful than Abraham could have imagined. God gave Abraham Isaac and Sarah laughed in delight when from her old and dead womb she gave birth to a boy. And through the line of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Judah God fulfilled His promise and He sent His only Son into human flesh, born of the blessed virgin Mary, to bless all nations. And so we should laugh with joy at His birth for us. Because here the concern, the worry, the dread of Abraham and everyone of all nations, of me, of you, finds perfect answer. Here is God reconciled. Here is God with us, Immanuel. His descent to us to become one of us, to bear the awful load of our sin, to suffer and bleed and die for us, and rise again, this is certainty. God is for us. We loved money and chased after it. He loved us and chased after us. And He did it not just to forgive us, but to free us from slavery to sin, from love of money, from constant worry about the things of this world. To give us a life worth living on this earth and a life forever in heaven.

Jesus tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus to show the Pharisees they are nothing like Abraham. They were rich like Abraham, but the rich man in the story ends up in hell and Abraham is the symbol of heaven itself. What Abraham hoped for is here, all Moses and the prophets point to Jesus, and He is here, but the Pharisees don’t see it. Because they love money. And it blinds them to true happiness, to the Kingdom of God, to reality. And this is written for our learning. So let’s see it. Look at the misery of this rich man. He’s worse than an animal. Very literally, the dogs are better than he is. He pleases only himself. He knows Lazarus is outside in need and he actually enjoys himself while his brother is in misery. The dogs lick Lazarus’ wounds while he ignores them. The delight of his soul should be to help his neighbor, to feed him, to nurse him back to health, to see the smile of thankfulness on his face and the tears of joy that God has finally answered his prayer. This is such a beautiful thing to see, when a man loves his neighbor! But he blinds himself to his brother. The rich man’s life is so short – covered in two verses, he lives sumptuously and then he dies. Done. That’s God’s perspective of this short life. The rest has to do with eternity. And the rich man spends it in hell.

I wouldn’t wish the misery of the rich man on anyone. And I’m not talking about the hell part, I’m talking about his life on earth. I would rather be Lazarus in pain and in hunger, than to live like the rich man. No sumptuous meal, no purple robe, no nice house can compare to the joy of having the Gospel and knowing the love of God in Christ Jesus and feasting in faith on the body and blood of the Savior. As David, another rich man, confessed: I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. No pleasure money can give you could compare to the heaven of loving your neighbor for Jesus’ sake. It is heavenly. Abraham is the symbol of heaven and all he does is love and comfort Lazarus, what the rich man failed to do all his time on earth. Heaven on earth is not what the rich man had, feasts and the best clothes and the most popular friends and a pretty house. If we can speak of heaven on earth, it is here, where Jesus comes among us and we know it and He gives us all He has and forgives our every sin and pities us and spurs us on to love God. And it is in our homes when Jesus’ word is read and prayed and sung and discussed, when fathers hand it down to their children as their heritage, their wealth, their inheritance. And it is among us when we love one another and have mercy on one another. Abraham received these riches, the true riches of heaven, because he trusted in Jesus. He valued Him far above all else and it showed. Let it be so among us. The world seeks after wealth and all that Mammon offers, yet never is content, though gold should fill its coffers. I have a higher good. Content with it I’ll be. My Jesus is my wealth. What is the world to me? Amen.

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