Family service - Luke 12:13-21
Now I want to begin this morning by asking for three volunteers to tell me what they would most like in the world, if I could give them anything. (Ask volunteers) There are certainly some interesting things there! And I guess all of us have dreams of one sort or another. Some of us (Acetate 1- car) maybe dream about having a very expensive and flashy car. Maybe others of us (Acetate 2- house) dream about having a state of the art house. Maybe some of us (Acetate 3- yacht) long to go around the Greek islands on our own boat. Or maybe (Acetate 4- island) we want to own our own desert island where we can disappear for weeks at a time away from all the stress of life. And I guess all of us have sometimes thought to ourselves 'if only I had a little bit more, then life would be a little easier and more enjoyable'.
Well this morning I'm going to tell you the secret of being very rich. And to help us as we think about how to be really rich, we're going to look at a story that Jesus told about a man who was very rich. Jesus (Acetate 5- Jesus) is actually telling this story to show how we can be really rich. And he often told stories to people to help them understand something he was saying. So we'll look at this story together, and when we've looked at the story, I'll give you two top tips on how to be really rich. And you can follow the story in Luke chapter 12 vv 13-21, and if you have a Bible open at the passage, that will help you understand it.
Well Jesus' story begins with a man who was a farmer, and for the sake of argument, we'll call him farmer Giles. Now life for this farmer was very good. (Acetate 6- Farmer). He was a very rich farmer. He had everything he could ever want. He had lots of land, and a beautiful house. And if he had been a farmer today, then he would have won the Farmer of the Year award, he'd have had tractors and lorries and he would even have built a swimming pool in his back garden. And he'd be the sort of farmer to listen to the Archers and smile and their misfortune. Well that year, things got even better for Giles. His wheat harvest was a bumper harvest. The rains had been very good, the sun shined brightly, and the snow had stayed away. And his barns and lorries were just full of his crops, so much so that they were bursting at the seams. And Giles sat back one evening, (Acetate 7- Farmer with cat) looking at the beautiful sunset setting over his miles and miles of fields, and he said to his cat, Jess, 'I am very lucky, aren't I Jess?'
But then a thought suddenly struck Giles. (Acetate 8- Farmer being selfish) He suddenly began to think about the future. And he thought to himself: 'I have enough food to last me ten years. I am doing really well.' And he began to mull over in his mind what he could do with all his food. Maybe he could sell some off. After all, his plans for the new helicopter landing pad were behind schedule. Or maybe he could build a three story apartment building for his cat Jess with lift and sauna. All these thoughts rushed through his head. And all he was thinking was me, me, me, my money, my crops, my pleasure. (Acetate 9- Farmer thinking about crops) And he began to worry. 'Well if I have got enough grain for ten years, then where am I going to put it all? And he thought and he thought. But then suddenly he had a great idea. (Acetate 10- Idea) It had been a long time since he had had any good ideas. But this one was an absolute gem, the sort of idea that the farming magazine Farmer's World would want to write abut for years to come. (Acetate 11- Barns). His idea was to tear down all his old buildings and build bigger ones. So in these new buildings he could store all his massive amounts of crops and live off the fat of the land for the rest of his life. It was a terrific plan. (Acetate 12- Enjoyment) And farmer Giles began to think of all those bottles of champagne he could drink and that new tractor he could buy. 'Life is terrific,' he thought. 'I've made it'.
But there was one thing that Giles had not taken account of in all his planning. And that was what God thought about al this. You see Giles' biggest problem was that he had given no thought whatsoever to God. God never featured in all his planning. Not once he had given God a second thought. But who was it that made the sun shine? God. Who was it that made the wheat grow? God. Who was it that made the rain fall? God. Who had given all these things to Giles? God. But had Giles stopped to thank God, even once? No. Had Giles thought whether he could uses his riches to help others? No. Had Giles wondered what would happen when he died? No. Giles made a fatal error. He forgot about God and he thought he could simply enjoy his life and ignore everyone else including God. But it was not to be. (Acetate 13- God) Because what did God say to Giles? 'You fool! Tonight you will have to lose your life, and then who will get all your crops and goods.' Giles was so worried about his life on earth, that he had not given any thought to what life is all about it and whether he should be thinking about God. And so that very night, farmer Giles lost his life and lost everything he'd lived for.
Now why do we think then that Jesus told this story? (Acetate 14- Jesus' point). Well Jesus actually tells us in verse 21. When Jesus finished telling the story about Giles, Jesus said: 'This is how it will be for anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God.' Jesus told this story to teach us how we can be rich. But he doesn't mean how to be rich in the sense of having lots of things that we want, but rather how to be rich in God's eyes. Because in the Bible, the person who is really rich is not necessarily the person who has everything they want in life, but rather the person that knows God and loves God and has forgiveness and is living their life with God as their Saviour and King. That's what it means to be really rich in the Bible. It's not about having lots of possessions. And Jesus isn't telling us that possession are bad, rather that this is not what life is all about. There is something more to life than possessions. Do you remember what Jesus said at the start of the reading in verse 15? 'A person's life does not consist in the abundance of their possessions. Life is not about having as much as we want. It's about living life as it was meant to be lived, in friendship with God.
So how can we be really rich? Well let me give you two top tips from this story as we finish which will help us to see what Jesus means when he says that we are to be rich towards God. Two top tips on how to be really rich:
1) Remember that God is our true King
(Acetate- 15- Titles- 1) And the first top tip to being really rich is to remember that God is our true King. And this was the mistake that Giles made. He thought that life was all about pleasing himself. And God said to him 'you fool.' He was a fool, because he'd missed what life was all about. Now at this point I need a bit of help from the children. Because what I want you to do is while I am talking briefly to the adults, I want you count up how many times farmer Giles the words 'my' or 'I' or 'me' in the story in verses 16-20. Can you do that? I'm sure a Mum or Dad will help you if you get stuck. And I'll give you a clue- it's over ten times! You see this farmer's biggest mistake was to think that there was no God and to live as if he was God. And of course, the Bible's claim is that there is a God who created you and me, and who is interested in us. And one day we will have to stand before that God and give an account of how we have lived. This farmer believed he had all the time in the world. But the reality was, he life was asked back from him that night. And all too often we treat God as if he wasn't there.
When I was a student, I used to work in a psychiatric hospital and my job was to clean the wards. Now as you can imagine it wasn't a great job and there was much cleaning to be done. And often I'd go in at 8am on Monday morning and the ward would be a tip. There would be rubbish everywhere, ashtrays piled high with cigarette buts, dirty cups littering the tables, and that was just the staff room! And so I'd get to work cleaning floors, emptying rubbish and doing everything that needed to be done, until the whole ward was sparkling clean. And off I'd go for my lunch break satisfied I'd done a good morning's work. Until that is I returned half an hour later. And more often than not it would be a heartbreaking scene. The dirty cups were back, the rubbish was beginning to pile up, and the kitchen would look as if I had never been near it. And then I'd see some patient drop tea all over the nice clean floor and then walk all through it trailing footprints down the ward. It was infuriating. And most annoying of all is that no-one ever thanked me for clearing up and no-one ever said sorry for making a mess. I was taken for granted!
Well if can imagine how I felt, then you can imagine just a little bit of how God fells when we ignore him, the one who gave us everything. And the farmer's problem was just that. So let's go back to the children and find out how many times the word me or my or I comes in this story? Any guesses? It's about 11 times. Farmer Giles was more concerned about himself than he was about God, the true King. And God told him he was a fool for ignoring God and living life the way he wanted. Instead the way to be truly rich in God's eyes is to remember that God is our King.
2) Remember we are to live for him
(Acetate 15- Titles 2) But there is another top tip and that is to remember that we are to live for God as the King. Because some of us might think God is there and he is the King, but still we might ignore him. Well the second top tip is to actually live for him. For that is the only way you and I can be truly rich, not in terms of having all the possessions we want, but in knowing God and being friends with him again. And that is what Jesus meant when he said we need to be rich in God's sight. It means to live our lives with God as the King, no longer pleasing ourselves, but living whole heartedly for him in every area of our lives, whether it be our words, our actions, our attitudes. And it doesn't matter whether we have lots of possessions or very few possessions, the way to be really rich is to be friends with God again. And to begin to live life with Him at the centre which is his rightful place. (Acetate 16- Cross) And of course that is possible through something that Jesus himself did for us. He died in our place on the cross so that we could be forgiven for going our way and so we could have the chance of a fresh start. And even today that fresh start is possible.
So today we have seen from Jesus' story about farmer Giles how to be really rich. It is not about getting lots of things for ourselves and living life the way we want, whether or not we'd say we are rich or not. God says we're fools if we try that. Rather the two top ways to be really rich in God's eyes is to remember that God is our true King and to remember that we are to live for him. So let's pray now that each one of us would do just that.
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