"Hearts in the Right Place"

Date Sunday October 15, 2017
Author Pastor Jean M. Hansen
Previous Sermon "Let the Whining Continue!  "


19th Sunday after Pentecost

Text: Luke 12:13-21, 32-34


     Bible commentator Katie Savage and her friend Val were holding a garage sale when a woman in a chic outfit and a tiny dog walked by and lingered nearby, even though she was completely uninterested in anything that was for sale. For no reason that Katie could discern, the woman said, “I live in a 6000-square foot house just a few blocks from here.” Perhaps she just wanted to start some conversation or make a connection with a neighbor? But then she continued her rather precise description by saying, “We are in the process of building one that is 14,000 square feet.”

     Katie was at a loss for words, but her friend Val, who seems to have spontaneous conversations a lot, was not. Val is kind, but blunt, Katie writes, so her response to the woman was not a total surprise, “See,” Val said, “I just don’t get that.” (During this exchange, Katie was still trying to wrap her mind around 14,000 square feet.) The woman looked a little bowled over, but responded, “When you have money, what else do you do with it?” To which Val said, “Not buy a 14,000-square-foot house!” (1)

     There’s no indication in the story concerning whether the dog walker was offended, although she did spend some time listing her charitable contributions. For some reason I wondered, who would Jesus have been perturbed with in that account? Would it have been Katie for saying nothing, or Val for being rude and judging, or the woman with her mansions? I suspect the answer is that it depends…. Where are their hearts? You see, today’s Gospel lesson is not about the size of the barns, but rather the location of the heart.

    When I read Jesus’ story in Luke 12, I always struggle with the fact that the rich man could be seen as a wise and responsible person. His farm is thriving, the land has produced abundantly, it’s clear that he does not have enough storage space, so he builds larger barns to store his grains and goods. What’s wrong with that? He has ample resources for the future; he has worked hard and saved wisely.

     Yet, Jesus calls him a fool. Why?? It’s NOT because he is wealthy or because he saves for the future, but because his focus appears to be only on himself. The land has produced abundantly, yet he expresses no gratitude to God or to the workers. He has more grains and goods than he can use, yet he seems to have no thought of sharing it with others, and no thought of what God might desire of him.

     He’s a fool because he missed out on an abundant life by focusing on his own accumulation of abundance. And, now, there is no time for him to make amends because his life is coming to an immediate end, which no amount of accumulated wealth can keep from happening.

     Let me quote Pastor David Zersen’s summary to the situation: “The whole of life is an opportunity to draw closer to God and grow in his kind of life-style for us. If we miss that opportunity by allowing ourselves to be possessed by possessions, by committing ourselves to the things of this world, then we will have missed the point of life…. There is a question which the parable puts to us today. What would fulfill me more, free me more, establish me more as a person – acquiring more things, or sharing myself more with others. (2)

     Or, to ask it another way, where do you want your heart to be?

     As a “side note”, this is a question that matters also when, especially when, what we possess is threatened, as has been the case for many, many people whose lives have been laid bare by hurricanes, floods and fire. At such a time, where do we want our hearts to be?

     Today’s reading skipped over Jesus’ well-known words about being free from worry about life, about what to eat and what to wear, for life is more than food and clothing, he says. Instead, strive for God’s kingdom, our Lord tells us, and the rest will come.

     Then we come to the closing verses of today’s reading. Let’s share them again: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

     Did you notice that Jesus is telling us what makes God happy? It's giving us the kingdom. The kingdom comes when God’s will is done, creating a world which is as God intended. The amazing thing is that God uses us to make that happen. So, Jesus invites us to make giving a characteristic of our lives, to put our treasures where we want our hearts to be.

     Here’s an interesting thing about the last verse of today’s text: Jesus is saying that if people adjust their priorities, their hearts will follow. Or, to put it a bit more bluntly, quoting Pastor Mark Sargent, “Jesus says that you get people’s wallets right and then the hearts will follow. Where do you want your heart to be? To whom do you want to belong? Put your money there.” (3)

     Yikes! That way of looking at how we use our resources offends some people, as if the things of “the world” have nothing to do with what is termed “spiritual”. But, that’s not the case, our “stuff” has an impact on our relationship with God, for the positive or negative. Those who are greedy and anxious about stuff have hearts that are squeezed and hurting, and those who are wanting to be free from a preoccupation with stuff have hearts that are expanded. Our hearts will be where our treasure is.

     One of the reasons I believe praying about, and completing, an estimate of giving card is an important spiritual practice is that doing so gives us a concrete way to carry out this principle of putting our treasures and our hearts in the right place, which is where Jesus wants them. Those of you who are members here at FLC received those cards in the mail this past week; please pray and complete them, and bring them next Sunday to return during worship. We’ve been having fun with our 500 More Theme on this 500th anniversary of the Reformation; keep turning in your prayer requests, your selfies with Martin Luther and liking the video of our kids sharing their faith. Also, pray about maintaining your 2017 giving levels, and consider giving $500 more to the general or building & grounds fund, or a special project.  I cannot emphasize enough that doing so is a spiritual exercise for we who want our hearts to be in the right place.

     After all, we’d rather not be a fool in God’s eye s… a loved fool, but nevertheless, a fool.  AMEN


       (1)   A Plain Account: Luke 12:13-21 by Katie Savage, July 25, 2016, www.aplainaccount.org 

(2)   “A Sermon on Luke 12:13-21” by David Zersen, August 1, 2004. www.predigten.uni-goettingen.de

(3)    “On Stuff” by Mark Sargent, August 8, 2004, www.day1.org