Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 – “Wealth and its proper use”

Every morning – Monday through Friday – I have a routine.  The alarm goes off, I pretend not to hear it until Penny gentle nudges me and quietly tells me the alarm is going off and it is time to get up.  Then I turn over and go back to sleep until she not so gently nudges me and says “David, Get Up!”  At which point, I get up, take a shower, get dressed, and then turn on the news while I go through my email.  Now lately I’ve been hearing one word again and again, SEQUESTER.

It appears that on March 1 we went over the proverbial fiscal cliff and the federal government began cuts that are intended reduce total federal government spending $1.2 trillion dollars over the next ten years.  Now I don’t want to get into arguments about the merits of the different sides in this battle, or who was right and who was wrong.  What I’m more interested in is how we got here.  You see, I don’t believe that either side desires to hurt the economy, and I do believe that each side wishes to do what they believe is best for our nation.  However, each side has a fundamentally different view of what to do with the wealth of the United States.  But what each have in common is an agreement about what the wealth of this nation is, and I believe both are in error.  When each side considers the wealth of the US, they think of currency, exchange of good and services, business, and income.  In short, when they think of our wealth, they think of the economy and this is where they go wrong.

You see, the word from which we derive our word economy is oikonomia, which means the law of the household.  The oikonomia is not the management of the household’s wealth, rather it represents the ways and means by which the true wealth is preserved and maintained.  And what is that wealth of the household?  It is the members of the household itself.  Not the trapping of the household or how those things are employed, but the lives of the people that make up the household. Those lives are the true wealth of the household.  In this morning’s Gospel text, Jesus makes this point quite clear, and yet in our translation, we miss it entirely.  We read, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.”  But this isn’t quite accurate.  What Jesus actually said was, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of what you have.’ So he divided his life between them.”  You see, in this parable, Jesus tells us about two sons who just didn’t get it.  They completely disagreed about what to do with the wealth of their father, but each of them shared a common understanding about what that wealth was, and they both were wrong.

The younger son thought that his father’s wealth should be used to bring himself pleasure.  The younger son took that wealth and had a good time.  No, he had a VERRRY good time.  He spent it until it was all lost, and nothing was left.  The elder son, rather thought that his father’s wealth was to be protected, preserved pure and untouched.  The elder son did not spend it, did not use it in any way.  He just worked to maintain it, preserve it, but never use it.  One son thinks the father’s wealth is there to be spent on himself, while the other son thinks that the father’s wealth is not to be spent at all.  But both of them agree about what that wealth is.  And both of them are wrong!  They thought the father’s wealth consisted of the things the father had in his possession: his property, his goods, and his money.  But these are only tokens of the father’s wealth.  The father’s wealth was his life.  His property, goods, and money, these we’re only signs of how he spent his life.  Neither of his sons understood that they were his wealth, far more than any of the trappings of his estate.  His life – passed to him through his parents – he passed on to his sons.  He did not squander it on himself on the pursuit of pleasure as its own end, neither did he keep it locked away untouched and unlived.  No, he passed on his life to his sons and had always intended that all of his life would be given away to his sons who were expected to use their lives and pass them on as well.

In chapter 12 of Luke we read our Lord’s words, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  But do we even understand what our treasure is?  If we cannot grasp just what our treasure truly is, how can we understand where it is?  Where is the wealth of God?  Is it the works He made, this creation?  No.  Is it His law for His creation – the ways and means by which His creation is to be managed and preserved?  No.  It is His life! We read in the 1st chapter of John that “in Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”  This does not simply mean that Jesus was alive, rather all life resides in Him.  All that lives, lives through He who said, “let there be light!”  The wealth of God is life!  And how did He spend that life?  He came in the flesh, and suffered and died for our sake, freely giving away His life for us.  As a free gift, the Father gives us His wealth – eternal life – through faith in Jesus Christ in whom all life resides and who laid that life down for us.

So how are we to spend our wealth, the wealth that has been given to us by our heavenly Father?  Do we spend it on ourselves?  Do we go and give ourselves over to our own pleasures, living day after day as if this eternal life is truly ours and not given to us by God, paid out through the blood of Jesus Christ?  Or do we hold onto it, leaving it untouched, preserved pure and unspent, continuing day after day hidden away in our churches not spending any of the eternal life entrusted to us as if we might somehow run out; as if there is not enough to share?  No!  You must follow the example of the father in this parable who gave it away heedlessly, even recklessly; and you must follow the example of God the Father’s eternally begotten Son, who spent His life, pouring it out for you through His blood on the cross.  You have been entrusted with eternal wealth, and you are called to spend it.  You are called not to hold onto it for fear you might lose it or you might not have enough.  You are called not to spend it on yourself, but to spend it on your neighbor who has not received this gift of eternal life.  You are called to spend your wealth.

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