November 26, 2008
Text: Luke 12:13-21
Dear Friends in Christ,
Some with short memories might ask, what is there to give thanks for this year. It has not been a good year. Now for our young people, like our confirmation students, this is understandable. This is certainly been the worst economy that they have experienced in their lives. But for those my age and older, I just say, remember 1979? There was a time in my life when I knew of no one under age 35 that had a full time job. I remember stagflation. Normally, when a country goes into a recession, it also experiences deflation. Stagflation is when you combine a recession with inflation. Stagflation never occurs as a natural economic cycle. This is why so many people didn’t know what to do in 1979. Stagflation only occurs when government types try to control the economy and then make catastrophically bad decisions. But no, at the moment, we are at the beginning of a moderate recession and just as there is supposed to be, there is mild deflation. So long as the government types keep their paws off the economy we won’t go into stagflation. It is as Ronaldus Magnus said, the government is not the solution, the government is the problem. Now considering the bad decisions that have been made, we should be thankful our economy is as strong as it is. This teaches us that power and industry of American workers and entrepreneurs still greater than the power of government to screw it up. That alone is something for which we should give thanks.
Our text reminds us that we should be on our guard, lest we become consumed by things. Many today act as though he who dies with the most toys wins. But it is in reality the opposite. If we are consumed with our things, we lose. It is fine to benefit from our possessions, as do from a sound house or a medical device. Certainly, God intends this. It fine to enjoy our possessions. Many of us take pleasure from a good book, a hunting rifle, a fishing rod, a boat, pleasant furnishings and the like. There is nothing wrong with this in itself. But if we allow ourselves to become consumed with the getting of these things we are in violation of the Tenth Commandment. And in the end, what value are these things? They will be of no value or comfort to us in heaven or in hell. These things are only of value for this life. That makes them of temporary value.
In further understanding our text, we must ask ourselves: What is an inheritance? An inheritance is a gift. It is not the fruit of our labors. God intends that we benefit from the fruit of our labors. In fact that is an image of heaven used throughout the Old Testament. Hell is to labor and have it stolen from us. That not only includes foreign raiders, but also excessive taxation. Heaven is to plant and sow, reap, harvest, and finally eat. In contrast, an inheritance, is a gift. We do not labor for it. We do not earn it. We have no right to it. In case of the two brothers, they are both covetous. The brother who did inherit should be generous with the gift he received from their father. But the brother who didn’t inherit has no right to ask for it. He did not earn it.
In this life, God does bless our labor and industry. It is blessed by the fruits of our labor. It is blessed by creating opportunities to help our neighbor. It is in our vocation, in our jobs, that we most greatly serve our fellow man. I have often noted that a hospital would not operate without clerks, cleaning people, maintenance people, and food service people . They serve the patients just as much doctors and nurses. We make a terrible mistake to overlook our own honest labor as a service to our fellow man. Our charitable work, special projects and the like, are generally God pleasing, but our greatest service to God and our fellow man, for most people, is in their employment. You might say, I was just a factory worker, or just a farmer. How can this be pleasing to God? I can only say in response to this, you misjudge your value, sir. My life, and the lives of all of us, depend upon farmers and factory workers. It is in that honest labor which God has given us to do, that we please God. And in this we must see the opportunity to labor, as a gift from God. For in this honest labor, be it ever so lowly, we please God and we are kept from great sin and vice.
Tonight we celebrate our day of national thanksgiving. We have much to be thankful for. We have peace and security at home. Our war efforts in Iraq are winding down. Only time will tell in Afghanistan. That nation has been a thorn in the side of many nations in the past, and likely will continue to be troublesome in the years to come. We have economic concerns but, still on the whole, we are very prosperous. We have family. We have access to unprecedented medical care. And as Christians we have an inheritance given to us by our heavenly Father. He gives us forgiveness and life. He makes us His son and heir. And that is an inheritance that will not perish, but will last forever. So yes, indeed, even in these wary times, we have much reason to give thanks to God.