Sermon for Sunday August 11th, 2019, the Eighth Sunday after Trinity

 

The Lessons: Psalm 33:12-21; Genesis 15:1-6; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12:32-40

The Text: Luke 12:32-34

The Topic: Your heart is where your treasure is

INTRODUCTION

A sailor, shipwrecked on a South Sea island, was seized by the natives, carried shoulder-high to a rude throne and proclaimed king. He learned that according to custom a king ruled for a year. The idea appealed to the sailor until he began to wonder what had befallen previous kings. He learned that when a king’s reign ended, he was banished to a lonely island where he starved. Knowing he had power of kingship for a year, the sailor began issuing orders. Carpenters were to make boats. Farmers were to go ahead to the island and plant crops. Builders were to erect a sturdy home. When his reign finished, he was exiled, not to a barren isle, but to a paradise of plenty.

– pp.27-28, Leslie B. Flynn: Come Alive with Illustrations. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1987. [1]

In today’s Gospel Lesson, the Lord Jesus Christ shows us how we can store up treasure in heaven.

LUKE 12:32-34: THE PRIORITY OF GIVING TO HELP OTHERS

Our Lord’s words, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you his kingdom” (Luke 12:32, KJV), are more meaningful in view of the preceding command, “ But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. ” It is to his disciples that the Lord is speaking, to those whose first priority is the kingdom of God (Luke 12:31; Matt. 6:33). The necessities of life God gives to those who love Him most of all, but not necessarily all the material wealth which so many people hope to achieve through their life’s labor. By seeking God’s kingdom or dominion in our lives, we receive it as God’s gift, given by his good pleasure. There is therefore no need for us to fear either that we shall lose God’s kingdom, since it is God’s gift of grace to all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, or that God will not provide the daily necessities for living. Faith in God that he will certainly meet the needs of his followers is vital if we are to obey the command that the Lord Jesus gives next.

Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.

 

(Luke 12:33, KJV)

If we do not have faith in God’s provision, we shall be more reluctant to sell our possessions and give alms. Some Christians have taken the Lord’s command here literally, selling all their possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor, as St. Francis of Assisi did in the thirteenth century. Others have gone so far as to maintain that the Lord here teaches that it is wrong to own property, an error which Article XXXVIII of The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion of the Church of England condemns, although it emphasizes generous alms-giving:

XXXVIII. Of Christian Men’s Goods, which are not common.

The Riches and Goods of Christians are not common, as touching the right, title, and possession of the same; as certain Anabaptists do falsely boast. Notwithstanding, every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his ability. [2]

What we should realize concerning the Lord’s command here is that Christians are called to be generous in giving to the poor. One of the original purposes of the alms basin, which we pass around during the Offertory, was to collect alms for the poor. [3] The Greek word for “alms” in Luke 12:33 conveys the idea of showing mercy and generosity to the poor. To forget the poor and not to give to them runs counter to an essential element of the Christian way of life. It was so important that Ss. Peter, John and James commanded St. Paul to remember the poor (Galatians 2:10) in his mission to the nations of the world.

In returning to Luke 12:33, we see that the first half of the verse is really the key to understanding the second half. Christians, in parting with at least some of their wealth and helping the poor, in this way provide for themselves purses or wallets in heaven that never grow old, and treasure in heaven that never fails, and is not susceptible to theft or deterioration. In interpreting this verse, some believe that this treasure is to be enjoyed only in the next life. I believe that this treasure is all of God’s grace, and the more generosity to people we show in this life, the more we can expect from God during any times of need we may face in our own lives. When St. Paul expressed his gratitude to the Philippians for their generous financial gift delivered by Epaphroditus, he stated that God would supply all that they needed from the glorious riches of the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:19). In the Book of Proverbs, there is a promise that God will repay the one who is generous to the poor:

He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.

 

(Proverbs 19:17, KJV)

Again, in Proverbs 28:27, we read that the one who gives to the poor will not be in want, and in Proverbs 22:9 (KJV):

He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.

 

These verses are testimony from the Bible that God rewards generosity to the poor. The generosity of the faithful is more than repaid by God. We have only to reflect on all the generosity of God, and his love for us in giving his only-begotten Son, so that all who believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Not only is this so, but there is that never failing treasure waiting in heaven to be given by God to his generous people.

CONCLUSION

Finally, the Lord assures his disciples, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34, KJV). This is a test of where our loyalties lie, and what our priorities are. If your treasure, or wealth, is primarily in this world, then that is where your priorities lie, but if your wealth is in heaven because of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, your Christian way of life, including your generosity to those in need, then your devotion to the Lord is clear.

Where is your treasure?



[1] p.347, Robert J. Morgan: Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007.

[2] p.610, The Book of Common Prayer, 1928.

[3] 2nd Rubric, p.73, The Book of Common Prayer, 1928.

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