Luke 12:13-21
Galatians 5:22-23

Retirees have taken to texting with gusto; they even have their own shorthand:

BFF Show AnswerBest Friend Fainted

CBM Show AnswerCovered By Medicare

FWB Show AnswerFriend With Beta-blockers

LMDO Show AnswerLaughing My Dentures Out

GGPBL Show AnswerGotta Go, Pacemaker Battery Low!

BYOT Show AnswerBring Your Own Teeth

You don’t have to be a retiree to be familiar with IRA’s and 401K’s, which have what in common? And the answer is: ‘retirement planning.’

Some of you are already retired and enjoying the fruits of your labor. It is probably true that the rest of us are concerned about our retirement, about whether we have saved enough money to live comfortably through our final decades. We wonder: Are our IRAs flush enough? Are our investment portfolios diversified enough? And ultimately: Will we run out of money before we run out of life? Retirement planning is certainly a legitimate concern and an ever increasing profitable business.

But in today’s lesson Jesus points us toward what is in His mind, a much more important concern that we might call ‘expire-ment planning.’ This is a form of planning that looks at death, not life; it asks whether we are ready to expire, not retire. Jesus indicates that this everyman clearly should have done some expire-ment planning along with his retirement planning.

What might this sort of expire-ment planning look like?

Expire-ment planners realize that wealth does not equate with peace and happiness.

The acquisition of so much material fortune gave the man in Jesus parable a false sense of security and a false sense of peace of mind. His tone is self-congratulatory: “And I’ll sit back and say to myself, ‘My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ Clearly this man has yet to learn that wealth cannot buy peace and happiness.

He’s not alone. Many people but into the idea that if we only had more, we would be happy. Those who make $50,000 a year, convince themselves they will discover the bluebird of happiness once they reach $100,000 per year. If we are earning an annual salary of $100,000, we are convinced that all our dreams will not come true until we hit $200,000. The truth is that no amount of money can guarantee peace and happiness because it has been shown time and again that the more we have the more afraid we are that we are going to lose what we have. And the result of that is the more we have the less we are willing to share.

Recently, an Amish woman from Minnesota, Mary Lambright, was killed when a truck hit her horse-drawn buggy. The modern society she and her people shunned had taken her life. Her husband, now a widower, Mahlon Lambright, is a 43-year-old carpenter with 11 children to raise. Yet, when he was offered $212,000 from the insurance company as a wrongful-death settlement, he turned it down, saying that he was concerned that the money would threaten his family’s way of life, would cause more problems than it was worth, and that other members of the Amish community “would feel bad” if he took the money. Apparently, Mahlon Lambright was familiar with Jesus warning in this story.

Rudyard Kipling gave an address to the graduating medical class of McGill University in which he said, “You’ll go out from here, and very likely you’ll make a lot of money. Then one day you will meet someone for whom that means very little. Then you will know how poor you are.”

Expire-ment planning includes the realization that money can buy Boardwalk and Park Avenue apartments, but not happiness and peace of mind. “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

Expire-ment planners are intentional about being generous rather than hoarding.

‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Hoarding was the name of this man’s game. Jesus says it will lead to disaster.

A modern day hoarder prays:

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray my Cuisinart to keep.
I pray my stocks are on the rise,
and that my analyst is wise.
And all the wine I sip is white,
and that my hot tubs watertight.
That racquetball won’t get too tough,
that all my sushi’s fresh enough.
I pray my cellular phone still works,
that my career won’t lose its perks.
My microwave won’t radiate,
my condo won’t depreciate.
I pray my health club doesn’t close,
and that my money market grows.
If I go broke before I wake,
I pray my Ferrari they won’t take.

Dostoevsky tells a story about a woman who died and went to eternal torment. In her agony she cried out for mercy. After much time had passed, an angel answered, “I can help you if you can remember one generous thing you did while earth.” It seemed easy, but when she began to recite her good deeds, she realized every one of them had been done from a motive of self-interest. Finally, at the point of despair, she remembered a carrot she had once given to a beggar. She feared to mention it, because it had been a poor withered carrot that she would never had used in the stew she preparing anyway. The angel consulted the record that showed her act was prompted by generosity not great generosity or it would have been a better gift, but it did qualify as being generous. That same carrot was lowered on a slender string down through the space between heaven and hell. Could this weak thing bear her weight? Desperation made her try. When she grasped the withered carrot, she joyfully found herself slowly rising. Then, she felt a weight dragging her down. She looked down and saw other tormented souls clinging, also hoping to escape. “Let go! Let go! Let go!” she cried, “the carrot won’t hold us all!” But grimly, desperately, they held on. Again, she cried, “Let go! This is MY carrot, I tell you. It’s MINE, ALL MINE.” And with that, the carrot snapped in two. Still clutching half the carrot, the woman fell back into torment.

Paul writes that one of the fruits of the Spirit is ‘generosity’ (Galatians 5:22).

When we allow God, the Holy Spirit, to operate in our lives, we will not only bear the fruit of ‘love, joy and peace’ but we will also be ‘generous.’ When we allow God, the Holy Spirit, to operate in our lives we will refrain from choosing to bear one fruit over the other Oh, I’d much rather bear the fruit of ‘love joy and peace’ than ‘generosity.’ No, the fruit of the spirit is a package deal; it is a nine word description of all-around Christian character.

Christian who allow God, the Holy Spirit, to operate in their lives are people don’t hesitate when it comes to making decisions to be generous. They take very seriously Jesus counsel to put His Kingdom first in their lives, by practicing sacrificial, first-fruit giving of tithes and offerings; by keeping on the lookout for opportunities to be generous to people with whom we come in contact and who are in need.

The Marquis de Lafayette (Township named after) was a French general and politician who would have fit into the same social class as the rich man of Luke 12. He was a hero in our country for helping Washington win the Revolutionary War, then returned to France and resumed his life as the master of several estates. In 1783, although the harvest was a poor one, the workers of Lafayette’s farms still managed to fill his barns with wheat. One of his advisors said, “The bad harvest has raised the price of wheat, this is the time to sell.” Lafayette thought about the hungry peasants in the surrounding villages. “No,” he replied, “this is the time to give.” Lafayette had an opportunity to store up treasures for himself, but decided instead to offer his wealth to the poor. This act did not impoverish him, but instead made him rich; rich toward God.

Such generosity is good planning for anyone who wants to be prepared for the end of life.

Winston Churchill wisely said, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

A good expire-ment planner knows that resources should be shared, not hoarded. Abundant harvests invite gift-giving and profit-sharing.

The fruit of the Spirit is ‘generosity.’

Expire-ment planners are generous because they serve God rather than money.

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God” (vs. 21).

But wait a minute, is Jesus saying that it is wrong to gather any treasure on earth? Is it wrong to plan for retirement? Must all money-making be condemned? Are all of us, rich in comparison to the world, reprobates?

And the answer is no. Solomon wasn’t wrong in encouraging us to follow the wisdom of the ant who stored up for winter.

It’s not a matter of how much we have, but what we think of what we have for what we think of what we have will determine how we use what we have. And it all boils down to do I recognize that all I have belongs to God and that we honor Him by generously sharing some of what He has so generously blessed us with.

A man died and went to heaven and was met at the Pearly Gates by St. Peter who led him down the golden streets, passing stately homes and beautiful mansions until they came to the end of the street where they stopped in front of a rundown cabin. The man asked St. Pete why he got a shack when there were so many mansions. St. Peter replied, “I did the best with what you sent us.”

Am I implying that we will go to be with the Lord based upon how much we give; that we can buy our way into God’s Kingdom? Heavens no! We all know, don’t we, that the only way into God’s Kingdom is through faith in Christ. He paid the price for our ticket to heaven with His own blood. He is our Savior and our Lord.

So as we conclude I have two questions for you:

  1. “Is this the year we finally start to save more money?” The answer to that question may help in us in our retirement planning, but gets us nowhere with our expire-ment planning.
  2. Perhaps a better question is: Is this the moment when we decide to serve the Divine rather than the Dollar?

Jack London’s classic, White Fang, tells the story of the half dog/half wolf, as he survives his life in the wild and then learns to live among men. In one story in particular White Fang is very fond of chickens and on one occasion raided a chicken-coop and killed fifty hens. His master, Weedon Scott, whom White Fang saw as man-God and “loved with a single heart” scolded him and then took him back into the chicken coop. When White Fang saw his favorite food walking around right in front of him, he obeyed his natural impulse and lunged for a chicken. But he was immediately checked by his master’s voice. They stayed in the chicken coop for quite a while and every time White Fang made a move toward a chicken his master’s voice would stop him. In this way he learned what his master wanted; he had learned to ignore the chickens.

Weedon Scott’s father argued that you “couldn’t cure a chicken killer,” but Weedon challenged him and they agreed to lock White Fang in with the chickens all afternoon.

Jack London writes, “Locked in the coop and there deserted by his master, White Fang lay down and went to sleep. Once he got up and walked over to the trough for a drink of water. The chickens he calmly ignored; so far as he was concerned, they did not exist. At 4 o’clock he executed a running jump, gained the roof of the chicken house and leaped to the ground outside, whence he sauntered gravely to the house. He had learned the law.”

Out of love and a desire to obey his master’s will, White Fang overcame his natural, inborn desires. He may not have understood the reason but he chose to bend his will to his masters.

For you and I, life will always be full of chickens. What we have to settle is, whom will we serve?