Saturday, September 22, 2018
This Sunday, I begin a new sermon series at Christ United Methodist Church, focusing on Abundance. Jesus told his disciples, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10b) But, what does Jesus mean by “abundant life”? We begin our series by exploring this question.
What is an abundant life? In his parable of the “rich fool,” Jesus provides a negative description of abundant living. That is, he uses the parable to demonstrate what is not abundant living:
Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21)
In his reflections on this passage, Alan Culpepper, a Biblical scholar, observes several problematic attitudes which the rich farmer displays throughout the parable:[i]
1. Preoccupation with Possessions. Dr. Culpepper notes that the rich farmer is completely preoccupied with his riches and does not think of God, until God interrupts his reverie to pass judgment at the end of the parable.
2. Greed. The rich fool has no sense of responsibility or connection with others. It never occurs to him that he might be able to alleviate hunger, suffering, and perhaps even death, by sharing his surplus crops with the poor and needy around him.
3. Security in Self-sufficiency. In the parable, the rich farmer does not need anyone else. He is completely self-sufficient. He does not need family, friends, or a community of support. He believes that he can provide for himself through his farming. And, he takes full credit for his skill at farming. He does not recognize that his bountiful harvest was dependent upon additional factors beside his skill, such as rain, sun, and the rich soil.
4. The Hollowness of Hedonism. The rich fool’s vision of a good and happy life is limited to indulging his desires and maximizing his own pleasures. It is a vision centering on individual consumption of goods and services.
5. Practical Atheism. While the rich fool may claim a deep faith and acknowledge God’s existence, he lives his life as though there is no God. God makes no discernible difference in the way he leads his life.
We can extrapolate from Christ’s negative description of abundant living in the parable of the rich fool, by focusing on the opposite of the five attitudes delineated above.
A. Satisfaction with Sufficient Possessions. Rather than being preoccupied with what we own and have, in a genuinely abundant life we are satisfied with sufficient possessions and resources needed to keep us comfortable and healthy.
B. Generosity. For Jesus, the abundant life is characterized by generosity and care for those who have physical needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare. When we give with glad and generous hearts, then ironically our own lives become even more abundant.
C. Security through Depending Upon Others. Instead of relying only upon ourselves for security, Christ’s vision is that our security and support comes from our families, friends, community of faith, and God.
D. Focus on Authentic Abundance. Psychologists and other social scientists who study abundant living have developed significant research, indicating that gratitude, positivity, strong inter-personal relationships, a strong sense of meaning, and helping others are critical for abundant living.
E. Deep Commitment to Discipleship. Rather than living our lives without acknowledging God, as the rich fool did, Christ calls upon us to place God at the center of our lives and commit ourselves to faithful discipleship of seeking God, acting inclusively, serving others, and doing justice.
For Christ, the above attitudes form the five keys to authentic abundant life. Through his life, teachings, death, and resurrection, Christ has demonstrated what we must do in order to live life abundantly.
If you live in the Lincoln, Nebraska area and do not have a place of worship, then I invite you to come and join us at Christ United Methodist Church this Sunday, September 23rd, as we begin our exploration of Abundance. Christ UMC is located at 4530 “A” Street in Lincoln, Nebraska. Our two traditional Worship Services are at 8:30 and 11:00 on Sunday morning.
Come, join us. We are committed to acting inclusively because God loves us all.
[i] R. Alan Culpepper, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke in the New Interpreter’s Bible, vol 9, (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 2002), CD-ROM Edition.