“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12: 32 – 34 NRSV
The reading for today begins simply enough, “Do not be afraid…” It’s good advice, if easier to say than to do. It’s sometimes said that the phrase “Fear not,” or a similar equivalent, is found 365 times in the Bible, one for each day of the year. Which sounds nice but isn’t exactly true. Even so – “Do not be afraid…” is good instruction for us, the little flock of Jesus.
Do not fear – even though this life and this world are difficult, troublesome, worrisome, wearisome. It’s easy to worry about finances, security, and peace – easy to be anxious about paying for medication or for the kids to go to college. When we hear the news, it is easy to be distressed about wars and rumors of wars. But still, Jesus tells us, “do not fear…”
Do not fear because it is God’s good pleasure to give us the eternal kingdom of peace and joy. That is what he wants to do. He does not give the kingdom begrudgingly or reluctantly. Our Father wants to give us the peace, and hope, and joy of his kingdom. He delights in the giving. He gives prodigiously - wastefully, wonderfully.
He is not like a stingy employer counting out the pennies to pay his employees, looking for ways to cut costs. He isn’t looking for us to do more and more to earn it. It’s not a matter of being obedient enough, or having right and perfect doctrine. It is our father’s delight, God’s grace, to give. This is his character.
These words come in a chapter full of Jesus’ thoughts on the place of wealth in the world. Earlier in the chapter he told a parable of a wealthy man – who gained even more wealth – who hoarded his resources and his increasing financial empire. His sin, his error, his foolishness was not in being wealthy, but in refusing to share that great wealth with others. He died, and what could he do with his great wealth then? Jesus concludes the parable with advice to be “rich toward God.” (Luke 12: 16 – 21)
Jesus talks about God’s provision for the flowers and the birds, because life is more than food and the body more than clothes. He promises that God will provide. (Luke 12: 22 – 31) “All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above. So thank the Lord, Oh thank the Lord for all his love.” (Schwartz)
So “do not fear, little flock,” because God wants to give us the Kingdom, he wants to provide for us, he wants to give to us. And we, in turn, are to sell and to give to others, and we find joy in the giving. Jesus instructs us to store up treasure in heaven, treasure that can’t be stolen or destroyed. This “storing up treasure in heaven” is very similar to the earlier instruction to “be rich in the sight of God.” We are rich when we share, when we give, we are a blessing to others.
There is an old story of a man who had a vision of hell. In this vision he saw hell as a magnificent feast, a luxurious table spread with cooked meats, fine vegetables, rich deserts, the finest wine and the smoothest coffee. And all those souls in hell sat down at the table to eat this glorious spread – only to realize that they had no elbows. They could not bring any of this wonderful food to their mouths and so they were tortured for all eternity by the sight of it. The man then had a vision of heaven. And in this vision he saw heaven as a magnificent feast, a luxurious table spread with cooked meats, fine vegetables, rich deserts, the finest wine and the smoothest coffee. And all those souls in heaven sat down at the table to eat this glorious spread – only to realize that they had no elbows. They could not bring any of this wonderful food to their mouths, so they fed each other. They shared with their neighbors and each one enjoyed the feast for all eternity.
Heaven is in the sharing and the serving.
I have quoted the founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth before, and I will share this quote again and again. He said, “Making heaven on earth is our business” (Booth). And heaven is made in the sharing. Do not fear – even though we know the world is difficult. In this life we will have trouble (John 16:33) but we should not fear, instead we take joy in sharing with others – just as God, our father, delights in sharing the kingdom with us.
Booth, William. “Don’t Forget” 1910.
Schwartz, Stephen. “All Good Gifts.” Godspell, 1971.