Distracted? No, delivered!
Luke 12:13-21 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” 16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
I wonder if you’ve seen a series of gripping commercials about the issues of texting and driving. One begins by showing the word “yeah” on the screen. Below the word is a line that says, “This is the text message nineteen-year-old Ashley was reading when she flipped her car and died on impact.” Then Ashley’s sister is shown holding the sign with the word “yeah.” The commercial closes by saying, “No text is worth losing a loved one.” That ad grabs us. It’s shocking. It’s heartbreaking.
Another commercial shows the words, “where u at.” The line below says, “This is the text message eighteen-year-old Mariah was reading as she drove her car into oncoming traffic.” Again, the commercial ends, “No text is worth dying over.” Powerful, isn’t it?
These heart-rending commercials make a very clear point that distraction is dangerous and deadly.
Distraction is dangerous. It can be deadly. And that’s even more true when distracted from what’s most important in life – our relationship with God. That’s the point that Jesus is making in Luke 12. He wasn’t talking about the dangers of distracted expressway driving. He was directing people’s attention to distractions on the road of faith and life. He was very serious about the devastating results.
In Luke 12, Jesus is surrounded by a crowd of many thousands. Jesus talks to them about the dangers of false teachings (Luke 12:1). He mentions that they should not be afraid of those who kill the body, but rather fear the one who can throw you into hell (Luke 12:4-5). He teaches them the danger of rejecting the Holy Spirit’s work in their hearts (Luke 12:10).
Jesus is speaking about matters of the soul. He’s talking to this huge crowd about trusting God during persecution. He’s teaching about confessing faith boldly while facing opposition. He even warns that distraction from the things of God is dangerous, even eternally deadly!
Yet, in the middle of this conversation on eternal matters, Jesus is interrupted by a man who is distracted by earthly wealth. Someone in the crowd says to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” You can imagine how perturbed Jesus must have been at this intrusion. Jesus says to him, “Who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then He says to the crowd, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
What kinds of distractions are in your life? These might be good things; healthy things; even godly things. But are they are getting in the way of time with God, your faith in God, your worship of God?
Perhaps a distraction is work. Work is a good thing. You need a job to provide for your family. But when you are so exhausted from your work that you need to sleep in on Sunday mornings, then work is a distraction that can have eternal consequences.
Perhaps a distraction is your children’s athletic activities. You want your child to be active and healthy. But when your week is filled with a myriad of practices and your weekend is covered by the divide-and-conquer method of two parents going to separate activities, that isn’t healthy. Athletic activities become your god instead of the true God of heaven and earth. Then athletic activities can have eternal consequences.
Perhaps a distraction is your retirement fund. You know how expensive health insurance is. You must save for rising health care costs. You know there might come a time when you will be in assisted living, which is not cheap. Knowing all this, it is difficult for you to increase your gifts to the Lord’s ministries at Epiphany and beyond. You feel like your first duty is to yourself and your family. Your church, school, and synod come later. And so, you forget St. Paul’s encouragement, “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11). Then even something as godly as saving money for retirement can have eternal consequences – if not for you, then for others.
Distraction from the things of God can be dangerous, even deadly. Jesus drives this point home to the man in the crowd with a parable about a rich fool. Jesus ends the parable with God saying to the man, “‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”
God called the man foolish for several reasons. He forgot where his riches came from. He took credit for the crops and barns and growth, which were all gifts from God.
But the fool’s worst distraction was that he let all the blessings of this life disconnect him from the very God who made life possible for him, now and forever. These were good, healthy, godly blessings, but he allowed them to become a deadly distraction to his eternal soul. Jesus summarizes how deadly this is by saying, “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
Does this sound familiar? How often do you feel frustrated because you can’t give attention to what is truly important? You don’t have time for your kids. Time for conversation and friendships seem to be overtaken by your busy schedule. You can never get around to exercising or eating well. You don’t have time for rest, for prayer, for meditating on God’s Word. For just being quiet. You’re busy! Your calendar is full. But are you busy with what is really important?
Or are you busy with distractions?
Don’t allow the devil to distract you with money, possessions, work, vacations, retirement accounts, or athletic activities. Those things can be good, healthy, and even godly. But they are all earthly. They don’t have any lasting effects. That’s why Jesus warns, “What good it is for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul” (Mark 8:36)?
Now, we might try to cut back, work less, have our kids involved in fewer things. But then we so often end up filling our time with other distractions.
To overcome our deadly distractions, we need real deliverance, not just our best attempts at a solution. That deliverance comes only through Jesus. Jesus isn’t just trying to streamline your life or clear your calendar or hone your attention skills. He wants to direct you to His grace, to an undistracted life that comes from His cross and open tomb. There is only one thing that is necessary in this life – and that is salvation in Jesus Christ alone. Anything, at anytime, anywhere, that gets in way of that truth in your life is a distraction that needs to be discarded and repented of. Then you can know a truly delivered, undistracted life of faith in Jesus.
Nothing distracted Jesus from accomplishing our salvation through His life, death, and resurrection. Satan tried to tempt Him away from redeeming us. His hometown friends sneered at Him. His own family thought He was crazy. But in the face of all those distractions, St. Luke tells us, “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). Jesus would not be distracted. He would not be confused by anybody else’s plan. He would not be seduced by the promise of material gain. He would not be disoriented by the criticism of others. He would not be overpowered by the pain of torture and death on a cross. He led a completely undistracted life that was focused on only one thing – your salvation.
Now Jesus wants you to focus on this salvation that He has won for you. Remember your baptism when Jesus clothed you with His righteousness and promises. As you are filled with Christ’s righteousness, you won’t feel the need to fill up your life with so much other stuff. Read and hear His Word so that you can be renewed in both mind and soul. As you are renewed with the things of God, then you won’t want to waste your time with the things of this world. Receive Christ’s body and blood at the Lord’s Table so that you can taste God’s grace on your lips. As you taste and see that the Lord is good, you won’t want to taste all those other things that are merely OK. Hear Christ’s words of absolution which forgive you of all your distractions. As you are refreshed by this forgiveness, you won’t want to go back to those deadly distractions. Instead, you will want to go towards Christ, His Words, and His Sacraments.
When you are delivered from all these distractions, then you will want to empty your life of busy schedules, past failures, and present worries. Then you will want to fill up your life with the one thing needful – faith in Jesus Christ and the reception of His salvation. Then you will be rich towards God.
Being rich towards God means receiving all of God’s good, healthy and godly gifts, and then using those gifts to do the Lord’s ministry here on earth. That’s what the rich fool in Jesus’ parable missed. He kept everything for himself. The soul won by Christ lives differently. The soul won by Christ then lives as a soul won for Christ.
Money should never be at a standstill, never to be put in barns for our convenience or to rot from non-use. Money is to be used to put food on our tables, heat in our homes, and clothing on our children. But all those things are secondary for the Christian. We can always do with a little bit less – eating smaller portions, turning the thermostat down a degree or two, wearing older clothing. The primary service for the Christian is to use our money first and foremost to share God’s Word with others through the ministry of our church, schools, and synod.
I’m sure you’ve seen all kinds of distracted people while they’re driving. I’ve seen men shaving and women putting on their make-up. I’ve seen people eating meals, reading the newspaper, holding their dogs. While we were in Seattle, we saw a vehicle decorated like a circus wagon. The driver was dressed as a clown and his right hand was covered with a puppet monkey that he was pretending to have jump around his vehicle and wave to passengers on the freeway. With the rise of smart phones, the distraction level has reached an all-time high. And for many, the consequences have been devastating.
Distraction is dangerous. It can be deadly. And that’s even more true when distracted from what’s most important in life – our relationship with God.
As God’s delivered children, don’t let your life be filled with distractions. They can be eternally deadly – if not for you, then for those around you. Instead, spend your life on showing Christ’s love in your relationships. Use your gifts and monies, empowered by God’s blessings through Word and Sacrament, to flow into people’s lives so they, too, might be delivered from deadly distractions. Then we can all be rich toward God. Amen.