Too Rich to Be Afraid

Luke 12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”

You have heard of it, but have you ever read the Guinness Book of World Records? I had my own copy as a kid. One record that made an impression on me was the record for most miserly. An elderly woman worth millions saved scraps of soap in a tin box.   

Maybe you have heard stories of people who didn’t know that they were sitting on top of great wealth. They stuffed valuable stocks and bonds into the chinks in their shack to keep the drafts out. They tore pages from a rare book to use as kindling to keep the house warm. You may know that one of the oldest manuscripts we have of the New Testament was rescued from a monastery where its pages were being used this way.

Sometimes we find ourselves in a similar position spiritually. I may be a Christian minister who handles God’s priceless promises every day. That doesn’t prevent me from harboring my own fears and anxieties. I may let worries about church finances distract me from my work. Friction between member of the congregation or declining membership can leave me feeling defeated and hopeless. Doubts lurk in the back of my mind about the survival of the institution I serve.

The people I serve come to me with their own concerns: strained relationships, insecurities about their employment, divisions that plague our politics and government, bad news from the doctor. God has never withdrawn his promises. They haven’t stopped being true. Still, we struggle to apply them properly to the cold and drafty episodes in the stories of our lives.

Take a moment to note the juxtaposition of these words in Jesus’ promise: “Do not be afraid…your Father has been pleased to give you a kingdom.” Are we spiritual millionaires worried about few scraps of soap? Are we living like beggars, unaware that we are sitting on top of a gold mine? Our Father has given us a whole kingdom! What reason do we have to be afraid?

Jesus isn’t scolding us so much as he is helping us find courage and confidence in his promises. He doesn’t want fear to paralyze us. Fear erodes faith. It changes our view of God. It shrinks him in our eyes, makes him less trustworthy. It leads us to see him as small-minded celestial bookkeeper, to borrow a picture from Brennan Manning. We think that he is more interested in tracking our deposits of love and service to him, as though we were paying on a debt, rather than recognizing him as our great and generous Father who richly provides us all things for free. We then work like we are trying to save the scraps instead of investing the treasures we have been freely given.

Jesus assures us of where we really stand. God’s gift of a kingdom is past tense, not future. It is already ours. As Luther’s battle hymn, A Mighty Fortress reminds us, the future only holds this confidence: “The kingdom ours remaineth.”

Jesus reinforces our certainty that the kingdom is a gift. Our Father doesn’t sell us the Kingdom. He gives it to us by grace. He paid the purchase price with his own blood.

Jesus reveals that this makes God happy. The kingdom is not a begrudging gift. It pleases him to give it away. We need not fear that he is about to take it back. God’s grace has made us wealthy beyond belief.

Don’t be afraid to live and serve as though you have a kingdom of treasures that can never be exhausted, because you do.

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