Posted by: mikebackup | August 5, 2010



Luke 12:32-40 (New International Version)

 32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


 35“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. 39But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him

These verses follow on well from Ecclesiastes 1.2, 12-14; 2.18-23, which spoke so honestly about the meaningless of life when we focus on our possessions. These verses then take those thoughts a step further, challenging us to make changes now not only in ourselves, but to present that challenge to the world. The conclusion from Ecclesiastes was that we needed to look for meaning in the right place. Jesus got meaning by living simply and giving himself to others. Jesus promotes this way of living in verse 33. We see this instruction didn’t go unnoticed as we read in Acts 4.32-35.

 32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

Earlier in Luke we again read the dangers of focusing on our possessions. This time the focus is not on the meaningless of it, but that they lead us away from God.

19And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘

 20“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

 21“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

Compare this to the story of Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5.1-5.

 1Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

 3Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

 5When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.

Paul, throughout his letters challenged the powers of his day, and, by extension, their equivalents today. For most of us, opting out of the power of, say, financial institutions is not an option – we have to pay our mortgages, gas bills, etc. – any more than Luke and Paul’s first readers could opt out of the power of imperial Rome. But they could, and did, challenge its power in the name of Jesus Christ as the true Lord; and by the time Luke’s Gospel was written many had paid a high price under Nero’s persecution (source

The reversal at the heart of today’s reading is that, when the master of the house finally arrives home late after a wedding reception, he does not expect to be waited on. Instead, amazingly, he puts on an apron (a fair translation of v. 37) and waits on his slaves! In the Roman empire of Luke’s day such a thing would be unheard of (source

Jesus and Paul were brilliant at flipping power relationships, something that was so engrained at the time. It was immensely powerful to those that first heard it. What are the ways we can turn round the way people think about things? As far as possessions are concerned we can move them away from being about showing off, to simply being tools which enable service. In our time and place, some possessions are important and enabling. If we follow to the letter exactly what the first Christians did we wouldn’t get many outside followers because everyone around us are attached to their possessions. In fact we would probably become isolated and be viewed as one of those odd religious sects. We have to remember Paul’s approach of being all things to all people. We live in a time when possessions and accumulation is the way people live their lives; we are not going to change that any more than Paul or Jesus could change the Roman Empire. What we can do is work with it and change the way possessions are viewed.

Would Jesus or Paul if they were living here and now in this country have a mobile phone, a reliable car, a computer, internet access, a television, a facebook account? Yes they probably would, but not over the top examples, but good enough examples to enable their giving and service. I could not do my ministry in my time and place without those things. I couldn’t get here, I couldn’t communicate, I couldn’t see what was happening in the world, I couldn’t do my college work.

 The focus here is not on what possessions do for us, but on what they help us do for others. If everyone thought like that the world would be a far better place. Possessions are seen selfishly, they are marketed on what they can do for us. What Christians are able to do with possessions is firstly relate to people that have similar items (it helps start conversations). We can then explain what we use them for. We are able to explain our service for God in a way that doesn’t put people off. The meaning is not put in the possession itself, but what doors possessions open in our work for God. So for example if you can’t use a computer, put your name down on our forthcoming computer course. Computers, the internet, email and social networking help us relate to others and speak of our faith. Don’t be afraid to buy things if they will actually help broaden and deepen your discipleship. When that focus is what those tools can do for God’s work, we are ready and watchful, which is the focus of verses 35-40.  

Of course we are still asked to give what we can. ‘The Giving Pledge’ is getting a lot of attention at present. It is an effort to invite the wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to the philanthropic causes and charitable organizations of their choice either during their lifetime or after their death. Investor Warren Buffet and Microsoft founder Bill Gates have started the campaign. Buffet who is worth $47 Billion is giving away 99% of his money to charity. That is God at work in the world and that giving pledge can be applied to all people. All those family rows about who will get what would become thing of the past.

By default what money or possessions we have are normally passed onto the family. But if the family doesn’t need them, give them to charity. If a few thousand pound left to any member of your family would just be money to blow on a holiday or a new car, make a Christian statement, change your will and give it to charity.

So seriously look at what you have and what service they do for God now. If need be go out and buy some new things if they enable more service. Then look at everything you’ve got and think very carefully how it is past on. We come in with nothing and go out with nothing, but what we do with what we accumulate whilst we’re here and what we do with it afterwards says an awful lot about closely we’ve walked with Jesus.

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