Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

Luke 12:32-40
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 14–Sunday Between August 7 and 13 Inclusive)
analysis by Steve Kuhl

32″Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, and unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

DIAGNOSIS: Thin Treasures

Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: Begrudging
“Possessions,” “purses,” and “treasure” (v. 33) really refers to that which preoccupies the postmodern American mind more than anything else: money and, more basically, the economic means of making money. Money has been viewed, then as now, as the foundation of a secure life and certain future; and the economy has been praised as the means of securing that life/future (see also Proper 13). Nevertheless (and unique to this text), our experience with the economy is that it relinquishes its precious booty only sparingly, begrudgingly. Only as we give “slavishly” (v. 37) the best hours of our day, the best days of our year, the best years of our life –that is, our total attention!–are we able to eke out a living. Moreover, there is no guarantee that we will not be the next expendable cog in the down-sizing process. True, by national standards most of us do manage a pretty good living. Still, quite disturbingly, that usually occurs at the cost of the “least of these” among us: those neighbors for whom the economy has no room, those vulnerable ones who especially need our alms, (v. 33) but find them not forthcoming.

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: Fear/Misplaced Hearts
Underlying all the attention given to this economic activity is a basic fear and anxiety about life and the future. Probably no one would deny that. But this fear also belies our “hearts” (v. 34). The fear is a sign that not only our physical livelihood depends on the economy –that is true enough– but that we have actually placed our “hearts” there. The “heart” refers to more than biological existence. It refers to our total being. The danger rampant in such a fiduciary faith is that it has downsized life itself, reducing it to the abundance of possessions (cf. Lk 12:15). This misplacement of the heart makes money into our god and the economy into our religion. These become, then, the all-determining factor in our life and our future.

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: Defaulted/Locked Out
The problem with placing our hearts (our being/livelihood) in the hands of the economy is that in spite of whatever riches we may manage to obtain, we will have earned no interest to carry us into the “kingdom,” which is biblical talk for a truly viable future. The mounting debt before the Father –our sin — is not something that the economy can satisfy (7:41; 11:4). The result: we have defaulted, and we are locked out of God’s future (vs. 35ff). The “Son of Man,” the end-time auditor, is the One who controls entrance into God’s future.

PROGNOSIS: Treasures in Heaven

Step 4–Initial Prognosis: Pleased to Give
To begrudging people, who have misplaced their hearts in a begrudging economy (one that could never deliver the interest they need for a viable debt-free future anyway), the good news is that the Father is “pleased to give you the kingdom,” that is, a real, viable future. Indeed, he has sent the end-time judge, the Son of Man, ahead of time in the person of Jesus Christ, precisely to secure it for us. His death and resurrection is not only down-payment, but full-payment, the enactment of a new kind of economic system based on generosity, the forgiveness of debt/sin. Here, Jesus the Christ, Son of the Father, alias the Son of Man, comes stealthily, like a thief in the night, not to foreclose on us, but to rob his Father blind and give us the riches of the kingdom. Amazingly, the Father doesn’t mind! Indeed, the Father is actually pleased at the Son’s resourcefulness (16:1-13), pleased that he has made a way for these riches to be made available to us.

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: Have No Fear
And available they are. Have you ever noticed how anxiety-relieving a new found solution to a problem can be? This news of Jesus’ accomplishment is such relief. Positively stated, it is faith inducing. In his death and resurrection Jesus Christ has opened up a new kind of portfolio for us to invest in wholeheartedly. That investment is transacted by faith (v. 34). If there is any anxiety about the future, any fear of the coming Son of Man–here is a deal for you, straight from the mouth of the Son of Man, the end-time auditor. “Have no fear,” he says “trust me,” he says, the future is secure. Invest your heart (your whole being, your livelihood) with me and treasure of the kingdom is yours.

Step 6–Final Prognosis: Giving Alms Happily
Investing ourselves wholeheartedly in the kingdom–and the future it promises–also has payoffs in the present. Our worldly possessions, while still a regular part of our daily living, lose the kind of “necessity” they once had. Their importance and our reasons for accumulating them–as we still do! –has changed. They become, so to speak, invested with the “interest” of the kingdom. As the Father is with the riches of the kingdom, so we become with the riches of this world. We become eager to give them away. Whatever the riches–whether it be in the form of our vote, our purse, our standing in the community, our intellect, our influence–it is now, happily, at the service of the least of these. What’s more, as we invest our wealth with the interest of the kingdom, that stingy old economy, to which we and our wealth are still connected, cannot help but be affected as well. For it is not only the Son of Man who enters the world stealthily, but also we who believe in him wholeheartedly.


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