Luke 12: 32-40 Acquiring Awareness
We who live in America today are alive in one of the most difficult times and difficult places in which to truly follow Jesus. Why is that? It is because we live in a culture that values the material more than the spiritual. In fact, we live in a time in which people only think about the spiritual when they are in trouble or have a need that money cannot meet.
There is a quote by Gordon Dahl which I used to have posted in my office. It stated: “Most middle class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play, and to play at their worship. As a result, their meanings and values are distorted. Their relationships disintegrate faster than they can keep them in repair and their lifestyles resemble a cast of characters in search of a plot.” (Gordon Dahl. Work, Play, and Play in a Leisure-Oriented Society. Minneapolis: Augsburg-Fortress, 1972.) What is the most important value in our current culture? How much does it cost!
Thus the passage today is a hard one for our Western culture. Verse 32 starts out with the exhortation, “Do not be afraid”, but that is what we are, afraid. Afraid we will not get our way. Afraid we will not get our share. Afraid we will not get what we want. We are afraid to be embarrassed. Afraid we will not be liked. Afraid we will be found out for what we are. Yes, our culture, our churches are full of people who are afraid. We are afraid to walk in faith.
Sadly, most do not have a clue of what the next part of this verse means: “for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom (NIV).” Even if we know, it is hard, very hard to live the life in the Kingdom. So many spiritually shallow and commitment lacking folks come to “church” to create an illusion of Kingdom living, even those called to ministry.
What is this Kingdom that God gives? Is it the insurance policy against going to Hell? Is it the “God wants you healthy and wealthy” sales pitch of the TV preachers? Is it being able to get together and join in the latest Christian craze? No, the Kingdom which God has chosen to give His little flock is the hope, the assurance, the values, and promises that our lives are in His hands and that He has chosen us.
This Kingdom is not valued by many in this world. It is not marketable. It does not give immediate gratification. You cannot manipulate it, buy it, threaten it, or deceive it. It is a Kingdom of responsibility and accountability. It requires patience, endurance, and commitment. It rejects childishness and demands child-likeness. It seems to be paradoxical, but in reality is providential. It is not a Kingdom in which material resources count for much unless they are joyfully given to the work of Jesus. It is a Kingdom that deals in the currency of the heart.
Look at verses 33 & 34. Is Jesus telling us that it is wrong to own things? No, he is not. He is telling us it is wrong to live for things. He is telling us not to be encumbered, enmeshed, or enslaved by possessions. He is telling us to not sell our souls. Folks, again our hearts are insecure. Our hearts harbor fears. The heart creates desires to try and fill the emptiness that is there caused by our separation from God. We are warned in James 1:15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death (NIV). The Writer of Ecclesiastes speaks to us about this futility as well in 2:10-11 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun (NIV).
The only counter to this spiritual absolute is to change our hearts from conceiving desire, to obtaining delight. Not the delight of what we perceive, but the delight which comes from the Kingdom revealed and lived. Psalm 1:2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart (NIV).
Now in verses 35-40 Jesus tells two stories. These stories are intended to teach a primary principle, an implicit imperative, a discipline we must develop if we are going to be spiritually successful in overcoming in our own lives the sickness our culture has created. This discipline is the value, the skill, the power of awareness.
In the two stories, Jesus reminds us we are servants. As, Folk singer Bob Dylan points out, “It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but your gonna have to serve somebody” (Slow Train Coming, 1979). If we are God’s servant, we live in the time of waiting. We live within the flow of time between the curse and the consummation. We are under continual attack from both within and without. We have a sin nature that pushes us toward selfishness-what I want. We live in a world in which we struggle “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12 NIV). These forces include money, power, and abuse of our senses and thoughts. If we do not train for awareness, we will be overcome in this struggle.
How, how do we stay alert, aware? First and foremost, we pray for the Lord to help us, convict us, and forgive us when we are not aware. Second, we read God’s word as often as we can for it continually reminds us of the facts of this life. Third, we do the things God has told us we must do. We make a commitment to a local church, not as spectators but as participants. Fourth, we pray for those whom who we encounter about their relationship with Jesus and we tell them what He is doing for us. And fifth, we find ways to be reminded that our enemy is a thief and will steal our joy, our faithfulness, and even our hearts if we are not on our guard.
Folks, find Bible passages and hide them in your heart that help remind you of your need for the Lord and your commitment to him and memorize them. Keep a journal of your prayers. Make a list of those whom you know need Jesus and pray for them. Look at your checkbook and see if the Lord comes first. Make it a point to pray for those you love (if possible pray with them) every morning before you go out into the world. Be intentional about your duties and they will become your delight. Then the delight will be the source of your desires and the power of sin will grow weaker while the Kingdom will become stronger. Folks, there is a vacuum in our souls. It is the vacuum created by our separation from our creator. Something is going to fill that vacuum. In a church, if a room is not used for service it quickly becomes filled with storage. It is the same with our lives. If you are not alert, if you are not aware, your heart and life will be filled by trash and not treasure.
Folks, the days we live in are critical. This is not the time for the church to be asleep.
A minister dies and waits in line at the Pearly Gates. Just ahead of him is a man dressed in sunglasses, a loud shirt, leather jacket, and jeans.
The Lord addresses this man, “Who are you, so that I may know whether or not to admit you to the Kingdom of Heaven?”
The guy replies, “I’m Joe Green, taxi-driver.”
The Lord consults his list, smiles and says to the taxi-driver, “Take this silken robe and golden staff, and enter into the Kingdom. There is a mansion for you at the end of the lane.”
So the taxi-driver enters Heaven with his robe and staff, and the minister is next in line. “And you sir,” the Lord asks. The minister states his name and is given a cotton robe and wooden staff and told he may enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Oh, by the way, turn left down the alley and there is a wood hut down by the trash dump ”
“Just a minute,” says the preacher, “that man was a taxi-driver, and you issued him a silken robe and golden staff and a mansion. But I get wood and cotton and a hut? How can this be?”
“Up here, we go by results,” the Lord said. “While you preached, people slept. While he drove, people prayed.”
This is one of the church’s biggest problems. Too many people in the church are asleep unaware or are caught up in a fantasy-full dream that one is serving God by seeking to be entertained or by engaging in self-centered desires. Jesus says be awake, be aware, be ready for you don’t know when the Lord will come.
This is not just dealing with the end of time. It has to do with each situation, each circumstance that comes our way every day, every hour, every minute, every thought. It is a struggle, but if you give into it we will lose. In Romans 7 the Apostle Paul goes into detail about how he faced this struggle. Only through the grace of our Lord do we overcome. Paul writes: Romans 7:21-22 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law (NIV). Remember to be aware of your treasure. In Jesus we are given the Kingdom. In Jesus, we are God’s little flock.
In Matthew and Luke, Jesus encounters a wealthy man who asks how he obtains eternal life. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments. Then Jesus told him to sell his possessions and follow Him. The Scripture says the man when away sad because he had great wealth. If we could talk with that man today, I have no doubt he would tell us this was the greatest mistake he ever made. He was not aware of what he was being offered. He kept his worldly trash and lost the greatest treasure. What choice would you make? What choice will you make? Are you growing in awareness? Today you have a chance. Today you have a choice.