Introduction: It may seem jarring to go from studying righteousness by faith in Galatians and Romans to studying stewardship! Stewardship is not my favorite topic, but I cannot recall ever teaching the subject in any detail. It is, however, an important issue and a study in which we can all learn more about God's will for us. Let's dig into the Bible for our first lesson in our new series on stewardship!
Dead, Rich and Worry Free
Read Luke 12:13-14. Jesus says that no one made Him a judge in this dispute over an inheritance. Why do you think this fellow asked for Jesus' help? (Jesus was an authority figure. If you truly understood Jesus' message, He was God.)
Jesus essentially says, "I'm not going to intervene." Do any of your prayers seem to ask Jesus to do something like this?
Read Luke 12:15. Instead of trying to solve this dispute, Jesus talks about greed. Why is greed relevant? (An inheritance generally involves family. Jesus apparently thinks that this kind of dispute between family members reflects more concern about money than concern about family relationships.)
Is Jesus calling the man greedy? (No. Jesus just says "watch out!" Perhaps this is a call for the man to consider whether he is putting money ahead of family relationships.)
What lesson is Jesus teaching? (The matter of possessions and greed is something that we should carefully consider.)
Read Luke 12:16-18. Does this seem like a reasonable business decision to you?
If you are a Christian, and you follow God's leading in your life, should you expect to be successful? (Read Deuteronomy 28:1-4. If you follow God's commands, you can expect to be blessed in "the crops of your land," like this farmer.)
Read Luke 12:19. Is this a reasonable reaction for a successful farmer? If you make enough money that you no longer need to work, is it appropriate to retire?
Read Luke 12:20. Why is the farmer a fool? No one knows when they will die. This fellow was hoping to live for some time on what he had saved, but now someone will inherit his money. Perhaps the fellow who asked Jesus for help with an inheritance problem will inherit from this farmer!
As you consider all of the elements of this story, do any of them strike you as being improper? Are there any sinful decisions that you can spot?
Read Luke 12:21. What does Jesus say is the moral problem with this farmer? (He was not rich towards God. He was only thinking of himself.)
Why is this story the logical result of the fellow asking Jesus for help with his inheritance problem? (That fellow was not thinking about his relationship with the other family members (a priority for Christians) and the retired farmer was not considering anything other than preserving his money.)
Read Luke 12:22-24. If I were to ask you to compare the farmer to an old person who had made no provision for retirement other than being like a raven, who would you say is the fool?
There is no doubt in my mind that God intends for us to consider these three stories all together. So, let's finish what Jesus has to say about worry. Read Luke 12:25-26. Was the farmer worried about dying? (Jesus seems to say that he should have been more worried.)
What was worrying the farmer?
Read Luke 12:27-31. Did the farmer seek the kingdom of God? (That was Jesus' specific criticism of the farmer - he was not rich towards God.)
With regard to the flowers and birds story, what is Jesus' main point? (Not to worry. God will take care of our needs. Worry does not cure any problem.)
Let's see if we can find a common thread or teaching that goes through these three stories. First, think about how would you connect the story about the inheritance to the story of the farmer. What common teaching do you find between those two? (Both the inheritance fellow and the farmer should have been more concerned about promoting the will of God. Both were focused on the financial side of life.)
How would you connect the farmer's story to the story of the birds and flowers? (The farmer should have been more concerned about not being "rich" towards God. Since the bird and flowers story is about not worrying about financial things, these people are also more worried about finances and not trusting God.)
Would it be fair to look at the farmer's story and the birds and flowers story and conclude that we should not save for retirement?
Is there a difference between being prudent and worrying? (Read Proverbs 6:6-11. God is not the author of laziness or poor planning. The farmer's problem was not earning and saving, it was doing this without being "rich" towards God. Recall that Luke 12:16 says "the ground" produced the abundant crop, not the skill of the farmer. The farmer was looking at his future in this world only and not his future in the next world.)
How would you connect the farmer's story with the birds and flowers story when it comes to putting God in the picture? (They both had this in common: worry comes from not considering what God is doing for us. The farmer's greed came from not considering what God required of him. Both failed to adequately consider God's role in life.)
Read Luke 12:32-34. How does this relate to the three stories we just studied? (I think it is Jesus' summary of the three stories.)
Is Jesus telling us to sell all our possessions? (No. He does not say sell "all" of your possessions.)
How much of our possessions are we to sell and give to the poor? (Jesus does not say.)
If Jesus does not say, then what are we to do? How should we understand this? (Notice that Luke 12:32 tells us not to be afraid. This is the point of the birds and flowers story.Luke 12:33 tells us that we can transfer money to our account in heaven by giving to the poor. This is the point of the farmer's story - he was getting ready for retirement on earth, when in fact he was headed (we trust) to heaven. He failed to put his money in the right place.)
Focus on Luke 12:34. What does this mean? (It seems to me that all three stories are about our focus in life. Our heart, in Jesus' statement, is the seat of our being. What we do with our assets reflects who we are.)
What does your asset allocation say about you?
Read Luke 12:35-37. In the previous stories Jesus seems to be talking about money and wealth. What asset is Jesus addressing in this fourth story? (What we do with our time.)
Do you think that when Jesus was talking about inheritance, the results of farming, and the flowers and birds story, that His conclusion also covered how we use our time? (They say that "time is money." If this is true, and I think it is, then the use of our time also reflects our focus in life, the true priority of our heart.)
Re-read Luke 12:31 and Luke 12:37. Our study is about materialism. Is poverty our goal? (Hardly. Both of these texts say that God will give us the things that the materialists pursue.)
If you agree with this conclusion, what is the point of our four stories in Luke 12? (God wants our heart and our minds focused on Him and advancing His kingdom.)
Remember in the introduction I suggested it was "jarring" to go from our studies on grace to a study on stewardship. Is that really true? (No! Grace is being focused on our relationship with God rather than our works. Turns out that stewardship is the same - putting our focus on God!)
Friend, will you put your focus on advancing the Kingdom of God? What not ask the Holy Spirit today to help you with your focus?