Our Spiritual Contentment in a World Focused on Personal Gain.
- God will provide material things: we should focus on our faith & relationship with him.
Opening remarks: In this passage, we will observe different degrees of contentment,
• The discontented man who asked Jesus to be an arbitrator with his brother in a dispute over their inheritance.
• A contented rich man with this achieved by his reliance on material things.
• Jesus, in his teaching the disciples where their real contentment lay – what I have termed our Spiritual Contentment.
Reading. Luke 12:13 - 26.
• Note the context of this passage in Luke’s gospel account of Jesus ministry,
• Large crowds of people continued to follow Jesus attracted not only by what he said in his teaching but the wonder of the of what he did in performing miracle’s.
• At the end of the previous chapter 11:53 & 54 we are told that the religious leaders of the day continued to provoke him seeking to catch Jesus out in something he might say.
• In chapter 12 our Lord begins to teach on various attitudes for followers of Jesus.
• A warning to beware of hypocrisy like that of the Pharisees (Luke 12:1-3).
• Not fear persecution, rather fear God’s judgement (Luke 12:2-5).
• Realise your great value to God, just like the sparrows (Luke 12:6-7).
• The importance of a good confession of your faith (Luke 12:8-10).
• Not to worry about what to say – relying on the Holy Spirit (Luke 12:11-12).
• We then come to the passage we read tonight where Jesus illustrated that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.
• Possessing things is not wrong, it is how we use these possessions toward God that is important.
• We should not be anxious – God will provide the material requirements & it is our relationships & faith with him where we should focus.
• As Christians where does our spiritual contentment lie & how is this witnessed to others.
Tonight’s message focuses on contentment – what should we focus & rely on to achieve this.
• Have you ever been in a situation where you have personally been aggrieved?
• This could be over dividing of the family finances or not getting the recognition at work that you believed you deserved.
• Jesus in the passage we read found himself in this situation when asked to arbitrate by the man in the crowd & used it as an opportunity for further teaching,
• For both the crowd – in the form of a parable - also his own disciples as to where their true contentment & approach to possessions should be focused.
• Let us now study in more detail the various parts of this passage & as we do so seeking to draw personal application for each of us individually.
• The Discontented Man’s Request – Luke 12:13-15 (5 mins).
• It started with someone in the crowd making a direct request to our Lord,
13: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
• Recognising Jesus as knowledgeable & teacher of the Old Testament Jewish law he was seeking to engage our Lord in his discontentment & an ally against his brother.
• He could have been referring to “The right of the firstborn” to have a double portion – perhaps he wanted an equal share – effectively he was asking Jesus to take sides with him against his brother.
• Jesus seemed unconcerned & refused the man’s request to arbitrate in the family dispute – yes, he had come to judge but not on domestic issues such as this.
• “being rich toward God” did not appear to come into the man’s thinking.
• The man’s focus was on his possessions but Jesus used the question to illustrate true contentment.
15: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
Application: Perhaps not an obvious illustration but we are often challenged by our non-Christian friends quoting scripture – how should be respond to them?
• I would suggest by knowing the context of the scripture quoted & doing so humbly but sensitive as to why they are asking the question.
• What challenges do you personally have at present & how prayerfully are you addressing them?
• The Parable – Luke 12:16-20. (5 mins).
Jesus then illustrated his point in v15 by telling a parable.
• I remember my Sunday School definition of a parable - ‘an earthly story with a heavenly meaning’.
• In our bibles, this is referred to as ‘The Parable of the Rich Fool’.
• Here Jesus was taking an everyday event to illustrate his teachings.
• In v16-18 I would suggest there was not an issue with the man’s actions & work ethic.
• The man had been blessed with a good harvest for which he needed additional storage for his crops.
• Remember the parable of The Talents (Mathew 25:14-30) – the servants were judged of what they did with the talents they were blessed with & for not turning them into greater possessions.
• Again, note the context of the parable & what Jesus was seeking to illustrate.
• In other parts of scripture (Solomon in Proverbs & Ecclesiastes) we are encouraged to work & not be slothful – Paul in a number of his letters referred to his physical work efforts to support himself rather than rely on the believers.
• The key part of Jesus teaching - illustrated in the parable - was where the man’s focus & mind was when he acquired the additional wealth.
19: And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”
20: “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
• His focus was all wrong – he saw contentment in relaxing & enjoying the fruits of his endeavours – but our Lord referred to him as a fool.
• That evening he would die & then what benefit would his possessions be to him.
Application: Remember the story of Lazarus a few chapters on from this – Luke 16:19-31
• Despite the luxury & riches he had enjoyed every day whilst living on earth the rich man ended up separated from God & in Hell.
• No amount of pleading for him or his brothers still alive could overcome.
• This is an awesome warning – now is the time to get our relationship with God correct & not lose focus in the contentment of our earthly comforts.
• It is the sole pursuit of riches & possessions which separate us from God.
• They can deflect our focus in our relationship with Him.
• Are you currently or have previously been in this state of mind?
• Where everyday activities – job, family etc. – have affected your relationship with God.
• I have!!
• In his concluding comments on the parable Jesus indicates where our correct focus & pursuit of Spiritual Contentment should be focused.
• Managing our Possessions for God’s Glory – Luke 12:21 (10 mins).
21: This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.
• I would suggest that this verse, in the context of the parable,
• Could be viewed as Jesus application to the parable story he told.
• Does not say acquiring riches & possessions thru honest hard labour is wrong.
• It is how we use them under the Lords guidance & for the glory of His Kingdom.
• Observe how Jesus is very definite when he says “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves”.
• A clear warning of the outcome when only objective is to acquire possessions for our own contentment & enjoyment.
• Mathew Henry views it as the description of a worldly man.
• He lays up treasure for himself, for the body paying no attention to Gods desires.
• Rightly the man is termed ‘the Rich Fool’ – pursuing the wealth of this world more than that which is for the soul & eternity.
• What was our Lord meaning when he used the term “rich toward God”?
• Can I suggest three practical ways this can be demonstrated,
• By sacrificial giving to those in need – we focused on this as one of the Building Blocks of our recent series – Jesus touches on this later on in this chapter,
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys (Luke 12:33).
• By not allowing the pursuit of earthly riches to keep our focus away from going after heavenly riches – as one commentator puts it ‘most of us are afraid of poverty; we should also be afraid of wealth,
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and wealth (1 Timothy 6:9).
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Mathew 6:21).
• By prayerful management of our possessions, – I would emphasise the importance of prayer in this - seeking the Lords guidance in how we live & use the resources he blesses us with – a couple of examples of this are,
• John Wesley said “you should earn as much as you can, save as much as you can and give as much as you can”.
• A number of years ago a relative of Pat’s, who was a believer, sought his share of the inheritance from his father – he immediately went into the town & gave it to the poor – and then went to Canada to become a missionary.
• Jesus Teaching his Disciples on being Anxious – Luke 12:22-26 (10 mins).
We now come to the final section of our passage for tonight where,
• He turned to them, I believe, rather than the gathered masses to provide teaching.
• The disciples were at that time like us concerned about having sufficient to live on.
• Remember, after his death Jesus found they had returned to their day jobs as fishermen, with bodily welfare no doubt uppermost on their minds.
• In their specific case Jesus, would be mindful of the ministry(s) the disciples were about to embark on.
• Let us also observe what application Jesus teaching has for us as believers today.
Jesus commences by encouraging his disciples,
22: Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.
Again, I appreciate that great linking word ‘Therefore’ which we often see in scripture.
• In his teaching,
• Jesus focuses on three everyday aspects of daily living,
• I also believe he is also pointing out that it is God who controls our life span.
• Just as He had done in the parable of the Rich Fool.
• We should not be anxious about material things but rather,
23: For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.
• For the disciples & indeed ourselves this might have seemed utter madness!!
• Image today having to explain this to non-believers.
• But Jesus helps us by citing an everyday example.
24: Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!
• Whilst God provides the food & shelter for the birds they still have to go out & make it happen – an important practical thing for us to remember.
• We, as believers are very valuable to the Lord & he controls the very hour we were born & the very hour we will depart this world.
• What value do we see in ourselves as we seek to serve our Lord in the individual circumstances he has placed us?
• I would ask each of us to consider this question prayerfully with Him.
• Tonight, I am not making a case for ‘Prosperity Christianity’, but rather,
• As we see particularly in the lives of the apostles recorded in scripture, life may not be always rosy, but he can bless us in many ways & is with us every step of that way. Can each of us testify to that in our individual lives?
I will now insert a ‘Therefore’ as we move to the remaining verses of our passage,
25: Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life.
26: Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
Application: Jesus was speaking at that time to the disciples & today scripture can speak to us as believers,
• Yes, we should not be lazy & slothful but life is more than food & clothes.
• However, we also have eternal matters to consider & with the correctly balanced life God will provide the means for us to live and bless our efforts.
• That doesn’t mean I’m saying we should sell up everything & become missionaries or go to live in a commune!!
• Rather we should prayerfully seek his guidance to use our individual talents & resources in leading our lives as he would wish.
• Each of us are different - God will guide & provide differently.
• Can you & I see the hand of God in our lives in the past to where we find ourselves at present – and be thankful for it?
As I have sought to illustrate this gospel account of Jesus teaching on riches & possessions can be an encouragement with applications to us as believers,
• If we don’t remember anything else from tonight I would ask us - as we seek to lead lives of Spiritual Contentment - to commit the following verse to memory.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Luke 12:34).
• For the word ‘heart’ I would substitute contentment.
Referring back to the question we posed to ourselves at the beginning of the evening,
• As believers,
• What is our Spiritual Contentment in a world focused on personal gain?
• Are we content with what we have & in our current situation?
• How do we approach each situation that life throws up at us – managing our possessions & the everyday challenges?
My prayer tonight is that this message can be a reminder - as well as an encouragement - to us all in our faith & daily walk with Jesus & that we should adapt the approach summarised in the advice of the Apostle Paul in his epistle to Timothy, I Timothy 6,
6: But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7: For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
8: But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
If there is anybody here who wishes to discuss this more or who has not made that commitment of faith, then I believe Graham, other members of the leadership here at West Street or myself would be very happy to do so.
May the Lord bless each of us as we seek to serve & honour him in the coming week.
Prayer & Benediction.