Proper 13C Sermon (2001)

Proper 13 (July 31-August 6)
Texts: Luke 12:13-21;
Col. 3:1-11; Ecc. 1-2

PRAYER IN CHRIST AS ANTIDOTE TO GREED

Linking word in Second Lesson and Gospel today: “greed”

What is greed?

  • Wanting too much stuff, an overabundance of possessions; wanting more than our daily bread.
  • In terms of relationships: Greed is wanting what others have. St. Paul links it with idolatry.
    • Worship: To want what God wants. Pray: Thy will be done, thy kingdom come.
    • Idolatry: wanting what other people want

“Greed” translated as “covetousness” — good biblical word — 10 commandments

  • Notice the structure of 10 commandments, the importance of the first and last:
    • 1st commandment: idolatry
    • 10th commandment: greed, covetousness
    • Same as St. Paul who lists covetousness last and ties it to idolatry
  • Notice, too, how covetousness is defined: via neighbor. In other words, coveting is wanting what other people want.
  • When we fall into envy and rivalry, wanting what others want, what begins to happen? Lying, stealing, adultery, murder.
  • The choice is clear: worship God, want what God wants; or make idols of each other, wanting what others want.

What’s the antidote for greed, covetousness? Worship, prayer

  • Look who the rich man in the parable is talking to: himself. He’s not talking to God. He’s not living a life in prayer, so he lives a life of greed.

Will any old prayer do? What about if the rich man stopped talking to just himself and at least prayed to God about having bigger barns, etc.? Would this be an antidote to greed, or would it be praying greedily? Praying might be an improvement. The man might have actually taken a moment or two to try to listen to God and heard something different. But there’s also a danger: praying to God in greed might become a justification for the greed. We might come to feel that this is truly what God wants, that God wants us to have more than others.

Have you seen or heard about this new phenomena, The Prayer of Jabez?
Here’s the prayer:

Jabez was honored more than his brothers; and his mother named him Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from hurt and harm!” And God granted what he asked. (1 Chr 4:9-10)

Praying for a bigger slice of the pie? Isn’t this praying greedily?

We are not Jabezians; we are Christians. We learn to pray in the name of Jesus Christ, not Jabez. We learn to pray as Jesus taught us to pray: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” How is it in heaven? St. Paul is talking about that, wanting to focus on what’s above. Keep our eyes on that. Pray for that. What’s it like? No Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no rich or poor. None of the divisions that happen because of greed and idolatry. Why? Because God wants all of us, every single one of us to know and enjoy the abundance of his life. Jesus came wanting not what other people want. Jesus came wanting what God wants. Jesus came wanting us to know God’s abundant power of life for everyone, the same life that he knew and trusted when he went to the cross. He could go to the cross trusting in God’s eternal power of life. He wants that for you and me, for everyone.

So greed and idolatry is wanting what others want.
In Jesus, we learn to want for everybody else to have what we have.
Greed: wanting what others want.
Jesus: wanting others to have what we have, abundant life.

Paul J. Nuechterlein
Delivered at Redemption Lutheran,
Wauwatosa, WI, August 4-5, 2001

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