The Dangers of Being Dismissive (Luke 12:13-21)
Topic: One Mission: Through Many Tribulations Passage: Luke 12:13–12:21
I. The Other Extreme
This morning I think it's worth revisiting the question we thought about last Sunday. In light of the new 'coronavirus world' we live in, I asked, “How have YOU been responding to this crisis?
You may remember last time I talked about two extreme responses, responses that, no matter what crisis a person is facing, we should look to avoid. On one side of that spectrum, as we discussed last week, there was a response fueled by... fear; a tendency to maximize the danger in unhealthy ways; a tendency to maximize one's own fate. As the three young men from Daniel chapter 3 demonstrated for us in our last lesson, it is possible, by God's grace, in light of God's truth, through God's Spirit... to stand firm in the face of fear. Amen?
But what about the other extreme? Well, at the very same time some people are feeling desperate, others are feeling dismissive. In stark contrast to those who want to maximize the danger, there are those who want to minimize the danger. No, I'm not talking about those who are armed with the facts in the face of a contrived or constructed crisis (although many would claim to be in that camp today). No, I'm talking about those for whom being dismissive is a matter of wrong wanting not right thinking.
God's word speaks to this person, to this response, as well. Look with me at Luke 12.
II. The Passage: "This Night Your Soul is Required of You" (12:13-21)
Listen as I read from Luke chapter 12. This is verses 13 to 21. Luke writes...
Someone in the crowd said to [Jesus], “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”  But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?”  And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully,  and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’  And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’  But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’  So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Now at first you may be wondering, “What in the world does this have to do with our current crisis? Or any crisis for that matter? Isn't this about greed?” Yes, it certainly is. But there's another element at work in this parable. Let me very quickly break this passage down so we can see how the parts work together, and the message I believe speaks to us even today. Notice...
1. The Blessing of Abundance (vs. 13-17)
We learn from verse 13 that the occasion for this parable was a squabble between brothers over the family inheritance. But in verse 14, Jesus makes it clear he will not be drawn into some petty feud. Instead, as we read in verse 15, he will most certainly use the incident as an opportunity to warn this man, and everyone listening, about the dangers of materialism; the dangers of greed.
Now notice in the parable that Jesus proceeds to tell that the driving force in terms of the story's action is the reality of the character's abundance. That's the first thing we learn about the man: (v. 16) he has land... he is rich... and he is getting even richer. It's this abundance that poses the dilemma we read about in verse 17, “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?”
This leads us to another issue related to this abundance, specifically...
2. The Temptation of Abundance (vs. 18, 19)
How is the man tempted by this abundance? Notice he isn't simply tempted to sell it all, buy the finest clothes, then strut around like he's the king of the world. No, this man is tempted to build even bigger barns on his estate; bigger barns, full of more provision, that will mean financial security for years to come. Look back at the man's own words: (v. 19) “And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”
Now wait a minute. Temptation? Isn't this just good financial planning? Isn't this just enjoying a well-deserved retirement? Jesus is clear that this is a parable about a man's greeds, not his needs. The God-honoring response to the dilemma of verse 17 is not enlarging one's barns. It is enlarging one's heart in light of God and those in need. The man's harvest may have been plentiful, but he is sorely lacking in generosity, both toward his Maker and his neighbor.
It is this fact, this sad truth about the man's greed, that brings us to...
3. The Reality of Abundance (vs. 20, 21)
Verse 20 hits like a lightning bolt, doesn't it: “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’“ Now, think for a moment. Does God address this man's greed? Yes. “Your profitable estate, and your bigger barns full of crops... what good will they do you now? They will belong to someone else!”
But there's something else at work here. Notice the first three words of God's response, “Fool! This night...” I believe that is God directly addressing the man's boast in verse 19, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” You see, it wasn't simply that this man was greedy. It was greed combined with a dismissive spirit... a perspective, a mindset that dismissed the reality of death; the reality that not one of us is guaranteed a tomorrow. Greed and... pride were working hand in hand here. Do you see that?
We find that same pride described in another passage. This is James 4:13-16...
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"--  yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. >> What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that."  As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
Thus, if we go back to the parable in Luke 12, we understand it is the reality of death (along with many other realities) that should help us (that should have helped this man) understand the reality of earthly abundance. Is there such a thing as financial security? Yes, finances can be a great blessing, but in limited ways. Money/possessions cannot give us ultimate control of our lives, or over our final destiny. They cannot reveal the day of one's death, nor can they avert it.
But here's our tie-in: like death, there are many, many hard realities about life we'd rather avoid. That includes the reality of all forms of suffering, even... sickness; even... COVID-19.
Like this man in the parable, all of us can be tempted by a pride-inspired dismissive spirit. “Pandemic? Oh I'm sure it's not that bad. I'm sure I won't be a statistic.” But think with me for a few minutes about how God's word speaks to the subsequent dangers of being dismissive
III. The Dangers of Being Dismissive
First, in the face of this current crisis, being dismissive reflects poor stewardship of your own health. In Ephesians 5:29, Paul reminds his readers about a one of our basic defaults as human beings: “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church...”
A husband caring for his wife and Christ caring for the church are grounded here in the reality that God designed you to take care of your own body, to nourish and cherish it. That is a stewardship. God gave you one body. Don't waste it. Don't neglect it. Don't abuse it. Don't be dismissive when health concerns arise. Instead, “Glorify God in your body.” (I Corinthians 6:20)
Second, being dismissive about the COVID-19 pandemic amounts to a recklessness that can genuinely hurt others.
In Matthew 22:39, after establishing for his listeners the greatest of all commandments, that is, to love God first and fully, Jesus added something else. He declared, “And a second is like it [i.e., a second command is like the first]: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
A dismissive spirit can blind us to the fact that others can be affected by our neglect. And as you know, sometimes those consequences are deadly. This isn't simply a matter of 'my life, my choices, my consequences'. No. Others can suffer because of my recklessness, and that is quite the opposite of loving my neighbor. Genuine care means genuine carefulness.
The third danger of being dismissive is that you miss God-given opportunities to bless others. Beyond blessing my neighbor by being cautious, there are plenty of other ways to be a blessing in the face of the current crisis. Listen to what the Apostle Paul told Titus about the perspective and readiness of God's people: “And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” (Titus 3:14)
The church is God's crisis response team! No, you might not be delivering cases of masks and other medical supplies, or making decisions about a community's welfare.
But each of us can do errands for a vulnerable individual or couple. Each of us can send an encouraging note. Each of us can give a benevolence gift to help someone financially impacted. Best of all, each of us can pray and point others to the comfort and confidence available in Jesus. Amen? 'Social distancing' doesn't apply to keeping people close to your heart.
You see, being dismissive in the face of a crisis often means being dismissive of the divine appointments in which God wants to use you in a wonderful way, to bless others for His glory.
Finally, fourth, when you are pridefully dismissive, you miss opportunities to be changed.
So often, when we are dismissive, we simply are not submissive. But why is that? Well...
When a crisis is looming, the dismissive person is not usually the one driven by a firm grasp of the facts. They are often the person with a firm grip on 'business as usual'; the person with an unhealthy love of... comfort, and therefore, the person who convinces himself or herself that nothing is wrong.
Remember that idea of abundance? In the parable, Jesus spoke about an abundance of possessions. But what about the temptations that come with an abundance of comfort? What about those of us who make comfort an idol? Those of us who want things to stay exactly the same, even when God says it's time for a change?
Think about this: what if God wants to use COVID-19, not to break you physically... but spirit-ually? To humble you? To help you find rest in Him, not in your routine. To transform you, from pridefully dismissive to humbly submissive... submissive to a good and gracious God. Sure, we can cloak that pride in religious language: “I won't let fear paralyze me. I know God is in charge.” But some use that language to be dismissive; not because they love God, but because they love 'business as usual'. What about you? How might God want to change you through this crisis?
IV. The Most Important Takeaway
Of course, the most important takeaway is simple. Hebrews 9:27 describes it this way: “...it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment...”. One day, you will die. And maybe it is 'one day'. Or maybe it's... this day... or the next day. And yes, maybe it's this disease. Or it could be another disease... or a drunk driver... or a disaster of some sort. We don't know. And that's the point. COVID-19 is yet another reminder that we are, as James 4:14 put it, “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” We are so fragile, aren't we? At the mercy of the microscopic.
What should alarm us far more than the current crisis... is the cosmic crisis of death then judgment. Both are a given. We have to accept that. But think about what isn't a given: in that judgment, many will fall... but others will stand. But they won't stand because they've earned it. No. They deserve to fall like the rest. They will stand because of Jesus Christ... because Jesus stood in their place... paying their 'sin debt' and giving them the riches of his righteousness.
Jesus wasn't dismissive of our deepest need. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ makes forgiveness and eternal life possible... in the face of that crisis; which means, in the face of this crisis as well. Friends, don't miss this opportunity. Don't dismiss how God wants to get your attention. Yes, be sobered by this crisis. But more importantly, be sobered by the truth about sin, death, and judgment; but grace, love, forgiveness, and hope... forever. Let's pray.
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