Is Your Heart in the Right Place?
Everyone thinks their heart is in the right place, don't they? But is it when you hear this text? Let me give you a test. The test has only a few questions but it accurately shows where your heart is.
The first question is: Do you take seriously the commands of the Law found in this text. There are 4 imperatives or commands. The first command is to seek the kingdom of God. Seek God's kingdom not one of your own. Seek the kingdom where God rules not you. God doesn't command you to be rich, successful, or powerful, but to seek His kingdom.
You must seek God's kingdom, and His kingdom is not an earthly one. If it were an earthly kingdom, your seeking would have some of the nobility of a quest about it. If it were an earthly kingdom, you could build it and people would see it being built. People would admire its progress and praise its beauty. But a kingdom not of this world is not praised by this world.
This shouldn't surprise us. The kingdom we are commanded to seek has a king who is crucified in and by this world. It is a kingdom of losers says St. Paul. "Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are." Buddha is considered wise by the world. Allah considered powerful. Our God is crucified. His kingdom bears the sign of the cross.
Is your heart in the right place? Does it hear the command to seek God's kingdom, and does it hear the twofold command to sell your possessions and give to the poor. Did you catch that? Jesus doesn't here command us to give to His Church, to give to build His kingdom, or to give to missions, but to give to the poor. And it's not just the command "give to the poor" but "sell your possessions."
Your heart alright with that? I can give to the poor and I might even be able to sell my possessions, but selling my possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor breaks my heart. I feel like that rich young man whom Jesus told to sell his possessions and follow Him. Scripture says when he heard this "his countenance fell and he went away sorrowful." I'm very attached to what I have because like the fool from last week I think that my life comes from my possessions. Selling my possessions is selling my life and giving away the proceeds is giving away my life. Surely Jesus just means I'm supposed to give to the poor as much as I can. Okay, maybe I should give more than I do, a lot more, but He can't mean sell all my possessions and give it all to the poor? That's just not doable to my sinful heart, but that is the Law, and that is the whole point.
The main function of the Law is to show us where our hearts are to be and where they really are. Our hearts are to be on His kingdom and not on our possessions. Our hearts are to recognize that any treasurer we accumulate here will run out and is susceptible to being stolen by thieves or destroyed by moths. Therefore, if your heart is on what wears out, can be stolen from you, or is able to be destroyed, that is what will happen to your heart. For as goes your treasure, so goes your heart.
Is your heart in the right place? Does it take seriously the Lord's commands to seek His kingdom, sell your possessions, give to the poor, and to stand ready for your Lord's return? I'll bet you're better prepared for school to begin than for Jesus to return. I'll bet you have your fall clothes ready but not what you need to be dressed in to welcome Jesus. I'll bet you've got a flashlight lined up in case the power should go out yet you don't even known where your lamp to welcome your Lord is let alone have it burning.
Talk about foolish. The return of Jesus, which is when your soul will be required of you, is more certain than night coming or school opening, yet you think there is no need to make yourself ready. You get ready for school and night. You get everything ready to safeguard your possessions. Your thoughts are focused on tomorrow, even though your Lord has told you again and again, that you aren't guaranteed a tomorrow. What He does guarantee is that He is coming for you soon at an unknown time just like a thief would.
Is this where your heart is? Is your heart on the commands to seek His kingdom, sell your possessions, give to the poor, and stand ready for His return? Right now many of your hearts are here, and they will stay here. You will leave here thinking Christianity is about having your heart attuned to the Laws of God. You will think you're a Christian because you are determined to seek His kingdom, sell your belongings, give to the poor, and be ready for His return. If your heart is in this place, you're toast because you've made Jesus into a new Lawgiver, a Second Moses. Even though you don't and can't keep the 10 Commandments of Moses, you think adding 3 more from Jesus will help!
The right place for your heart to rest isn't in the commands of Jesus that show you how sinful you are, but in the promises of the Gospel that show you how merciful and forgiving God in Christ is to sinners. Hear again this text as the Lord means for you to. Let the Law plunge your heart to hell with its demands, but have the Gospel lift your heart to heaven too.
First comes the command "you must seek the kingdom of God." If you're honest, you fail miserably at doing that. But the very next verse is, "Don't be afraid little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." Say you've brought your spouse, child, or parent a real special gift. You can't wait to give it to them, can you? In fact, in some cases you give it to them early, don't you? In situations like this, should the person you're giving the gift to worry that you might not give it? Are you crazy? You can't wait for them to have it.
So it is with the kingdom that God purchased and won for you by the innocent life and holy suffering and death of His Son. The perfect obedience of Jesus, the fact that He always sought the kingdom, enables the Father to give us the kingdom we don't seek enough. The terrible, painful sufferings of Jesus paid for our ignoring the kingdom or trying to build our own. All of God's wrath against us sinners has been satisfied, and He gives the kingdom to us not grudgingly but with good pleasure.
Don't let your heart find rest in the commandments of God. Find rest in what Jesus did for you and gives to you. Take the command to stand ready for your Lord's return. How can you rest in that? If you try, you'll become obsessive compulsive about being ready. You'll become a Christian survivalist thinking that if you're not ready every second you might be lost. Would you do that to your child? When returning from a trip would you tell them unless they meet you at the door they don't get the gift you're bringing? You might do that if you wanted to show an arrogant child that he can't be as ready as he thinks he can. You would never do that to the timid child who confessed he was never ready enough.
Your heart is in the right place when you're resting in the Gospel. In the Gospel you're not waiting for a thief to take something away from you but for a Lord to return from a wedding banquet. Jesus could've said be like men waiting for their master to return from work, from court, from war, but He didn't. He said be like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet. How many wedding receptions have you returned from in a bad mood? Wedding receptions are usually good times. Little children expect their parents to come home happy.
You're waiting for a happy Jesus to return. He returns not from the agony of the cross or the damnations of hell, but from the wedding supper of the Lamb where angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven are celebrating. Moreover, not only are you expecting a happy Jesus, but you are expecting a Jesus who is happy with you. Jesus willingly kept all the laws you can't keep and willingly bore your sin and death. He doesn't return for you holding a grudge, but holding forgiveness, life, and salvation in His nailed pierced hands. How can we not but wait eagerly and peacefully for such a Jesus as this?
Is your heart in the right place? Is it resting in your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom and your Jesus happily returning for you? But even this isn't the sweetest Gospel in this text. The sweetest is the returning Master serving them! You know when you've hit on the Gospel when it's too good to be true. What I mean is that the disciples know masters didn't do this. They didn't have their servants recline for a festive meal, dress themselves to serve, and then wait on them. But our Jesus does just that every Sunday, doesn't He?
What else is the Lord's Supper? Doesn't He serve us at this table? Doesn't He give us His Body for Bread and His Blood for Wine? Doesn't He forgive our sins, restore our lives, and give us salvation? The Possessor of all things serves us. If this doesn't give us a different view of possessions and poverty, nothing can. What can I possibly lack if I return from this table with the Body and Blood of God in Me? I come away with a heavenly treasure here on earth that can never fade, be destroyed, or be stolen from me. Who on earth is not poorer than me?
Is your heart in the right place? It is when your treasure is what God gives to you and Jesus does for you. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Pentecost XII (Luke 12:32-40); 20070819