Ecclesiastes 5:10-20, Luke 12:13-21: Enjoy All in Christ

In the realm of wealth, we listen today to an expert.  The teacher is Solomon, the wealthiest king of Israel.  To put his life in modern terms—he owned cars, houses, yachts.  Personal chefs, women, entertainment, the best food, an enormous wine cellar, gardens, and vineyards all occupied his life.

In Ecclesiastes, he writes his report, encircled by the cushions of luxury.  Unlike what we often think, he found affluence and power to be empty, a chasing after the wind.  All your labor and toil, and some other fool will end up enjoying the benefits.  The economic bubble bursts and everything you worked so hard for and planned to be part of your life is gone.  Like the blowing breeze, poof—vanity and emptiness.

So, wisdom, sulking in the depths of depression, concluded: A man’s life does not derive from the number of his possessions.  So also taught Jesus—and when He does promise life in abundance, He doesn’t mean wealth here, but in eternity.

Early in life, we learn to idolize money.  Today, we don’t need to build bigger barns, like the rich man in today’s parable.  No, we can collect our cash in a bank account or purchase stock in a company.  The beauty of our banking system is its reliability, as far as we measure such things.  Though we may not earn much interest these days, at least our currency won’t rot and become moldy, as can happen to grain in storage bins.

So, we grow up envying the kids with more cash and cooler toys.  A coveting stirs inside us, with no end to the items we want.  Soon, we mistake the abundant life for a surplus of stuff, whether a robust portfolio, a substantial house, or a fancy car.  The cost is massive, and I don’t mean money.  For Solomon is warning us— the pursuit of all this will leave you empty.

Are we listening to him?  Though our eardrums echo from with his words, inside, we rebuff him.  “Old man, all your striving amounted to nothing.  Give me my shot, for I’m sure I can appreciate such fortune better than you.  Hey, I want to try!”

So, two brothers approach Jesus, fighting over their inheritance, wanting Him to be a mediator.  In His wisdom, He directs them elsewhere, “Man, who made me judge or arbitrator over you?”

Many families rip apart when someone demands his fair share after someone dies.  So, our Lord uses the reality of this as a warning to His disciples.  “Be careful!  Guard against all greed.”  Oh, the polite, often secret sin of the heart, which craves for what one does not own.  Soon, this obsession for something unbuckles you from God.  The stuff you desire begins to own and possess you, not the other way around.

The Scripture calls this yearning for what you don’t own as “idolatry.”  These false gods are born from within us, from our desires.  Human hearts are factories for phony gods—containing a capacity for a neverending production line.

A counterfeit god is where you place your confidence, your security, as you rely on your funds and accumulated capital, and the Almighty gets but a passing nod.  After eating from the forbidden tree in the pristine Garden, this became part of the human condition.  Now, we will do almost anything for money and what such wealth can bring.  A large-enough amount will show this to be true.

So, a storytelling Jesus unpacks a parable.  A prosperous farmer harvested a sizeable, bumper crop.  Spot what He says—the ground yielded the bountiful harvest.  Like most riches, the man didn’t generate what the land produced.  No, God blessed him with abilities and being in the proper place, at the ideal time.

Still, this excess creates a crisis for him.  How odd.  What will he do with this surplus?  So, the farmer embarks on an ambitious building program, which often happens when you fall into sudden wealth.  Down tumbles the old barns.  Up goes the bigger ones to store “my grain and my goods.”  Catch what the man reveals about who owns what.

After he finishes constructing and storing, he can retire and enjoy life.  Next year, he’ll quit working and frolic in some unfettered fun.  One small problem.  A little blood vessel in his head will burst at 4:00 in the morning, ending his life.  All he labored over, worried about, and prepared for will wind up before a probate judge.  How tragic and portrayed all too often—the wealthy person receiving so little joy in his prosperity.

Perhaps, someone plans for a retirement, which never arrives—cut short by cancer, a heart attack, or some accident.  The preacher of Ecclesiastes says, your fretting and striving are vain and empty, like trying to catch the wind.  A different way, a better alternative, does exist for you.

The apostle Paul uncovers more for us in Colossians 3.  In Christ, those baptized into Him, are now risen and glorified—so sure is the resurrection to come.  So, we died to this life in the sin-cleansing waters, long before our final breath.  In Baptism, the Spirit buried you in your Redeemer’s death, which points forward to you rising from the grave on the Last Day.  Here’s what this means.  “Raised with Christ, set your hearts on what is above, where Christ is, seated at God’s right hand” (Colossians 3:1).

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”  In Jesus’ purity and perfection, everything finds its proper order, which Jesus explained as “and all these things will be provided for you” (Matthew 6:33).  Focus on what endures forever, which becomes real for you in the Father’s Son.  United to Him, you perished in the baptismal waters.  Now, you’re dead to a sin-fallen world.  All your things are not your life, but only stuff.

The true you, the genuine life as God created and intended, is concealed with your Savior, Paul further expounds (Colossians 3:3).  So, you can’t perceive this life as you can the trees and rocks around us.  Another must tell you of this, or you will be clueless.  The faith you receive comes by hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17).

The abundance of your life is not in the profusion of material prosperity, but in the wealth of days before the heavenly Father in His magnificent presence.  For if you collapse dead this afternoon, all will still be well.  Though real and vibrant in Jesus, your actual life is unseen—and when He vanquished death, everything changed!

Don’t misuse what God entrusts to you.  Hold your possessions with a relaxed hand, which is the open hand of faith.  For something clasped and clenched demands energy and will keep you in a prison of your own making.  So, you buy a brand-new car, all shiny, with a shimmering overcoat.  Now, what do you fear?  Some idiot will scuff your new pride and joy with a grocery cart in the parking lot.

So, you park your shining set of wheels, way off in a corner somewhere.  To avoid the beat-up looking junkers, you scan the pavement.  After shopping, you discover a ding now mars your car’s former flawless finish, and you roil inside.

Hey, let’s purchase a pre-dinged car.  Now, your anxieties may wither away.  For you are free to drive and cram your vehicle into any old parking spot.  Don’t make an idol out of something.  Otherwise, you must be unceasing, watchful and vigilant, all to safeguard your newfound acquisition.

Rare is the person who polishes a rental car.  For when you rent one, you view its function, its purpose—to go from one place to another, to return when finished.  Every item you own is like this.  For an unknown amount of time, you use the various things in your life, not as mini-gods to subjugate you, but to serve their purpose.  For a while, they are yours, and later they are not.  Gone like a gust of wind, poof!

Do you remember your birthday?  Of course, you do!  Not identified to you, however, is the day of your death.  So, why waste this day—a sliver of time God gives to you, worrying about the things you own.  For Jesus tells us the well-to-do farmer, who agonized over his barns, lived like a fool.

Here’s why.  Despite the man’s knack for calculating and planning, he didn’t prepare for something unknown to him—the day he will die.  So, he’s polishing his Rolls Royce, unaware this luxury item will be in an estate sale the next day.  Soon, the resplendent car will suffer a crash by some irresponsible person, texting as he drives.

The story of idolatry.  For when your belongings dominate you, they consume you, your time, your joy, and they will always leave you empty and deprived.  So, hold on to what is yours with a dead hand, drowned by the water and the Word.  For someone who earlier died loses nothing because a deceased man owns nothing.

Ah, the freedom you enjoy when living in baptized forgiveness, as someone killed on the cross with Christ.  Like Him, you now use what is in this world, unbridled from sin.  Doesn’t Jesus do this with water, by using bread and wine?

The wise Solomon regretted the many foolish choices he made.  “A person can do no better than to enjoy food and drink and find satisfaction in his toil.  For this also is from God for, apart from him, who can eat or find enjoyment?”  (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25).

The secret is out.  Without God, no one can delight in something for all his days.  Without Him—and bereft His Son, who redeems and makes you new—no lasting pleasure will remain with you.  Only in Christ does happiness become eternal.

In this life, everything around us struggles against decay.  Hidden in your saving Lord, nothing rusts, what you eat satisfies, and you never run out of redeeming light.  Stay attentive to what awaits you, anticipating the life to come, which changes what you do, today!  The future before you is so real you cannot live otherwise.  So, enjoy your food, your work, and your drink.  Recognize they are gifts from God—but hold them, untethered in your hands, for the best is still ahead!  Amen.

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