Jeremiah 32:1-3, 6-15                   Luke 16:19-31



Listen to today’s Scripture!

Listen to God’s word.

Listen and you’ll hear the stories of the response of two men who listened to God’s word.

Jeremiah…and his Israelite brothers and sisters were in a bad way.  They were surrounded and about to be conquered by the Babylonians.  Jeremiah was held prisoner…held prisoner because he had listened to God and prophesied the downfall of the king who had imprisoned him and God’s punishment of the people because of their failures.

Jeremiah heard God speaking to him again.  This time God said his cousin was going to visit Jeremiah and offer to sell him some land his cousin possessed…land that had been a part of the family’s possessions.

We’ve all seen stories of people who have made great sums of money by buying land at the right time at the right price.  There is a number of people who are quite wealthy today because they have been successful in their property dealings.

My guess…however…is that very few of them got that way by buying land that was under control of a conquering army…at a time when that army was conquering their homeland…and likely to take them prisoner and take control of their lives.

Yet…that’s what Jeremiah did.  His long-lost cousin visited him…and Jeremiah took that to be verification of the word of God that he had heard…and to which he listened.  Jeremiah bought the land.

Buying that land was an act of faith…based only on the word of God and Jeremiah’s faith in God…and defying much of the logic of that day…defying much of the logic of this day.

When Jeremiah signed and sealed the deed he was banking on God’s ability to deliver on his promises.  By faith he was making an investment in the kingdom of God.  In his commentary on the book of Jeremiah…Derek Kinder wrote…”To buy land overrun by the world’s conqueror, and then to take elaborate care of the title-deeds was a striking affirmation, as solid as the silver that paid for it, that God would bring his people back to their inheritance.”  Even though Jeremiah would not live to see that day…he made sure the documents would be around to prove that God was faithful to his promise.

Do we have faith to act on God’s promises… even if some of them will not be fulfilled until the end of history?  Jeremiah had that kind of faith.  He made a major life decision based on what God promised.  Jeremiah listened…and acted.

Christians make the same kinds of decisions every day.  They do strange things because they trust the promises of God.  Some Christians get married.  How odd!  With the divorce rate so high, why would anyone want to get married?  Christians get married because God tells them to do it and because they trust his faithfulness for the future.

Some Christians raise families.  This…too…is becoming increasingly radical.  A Christian woman went to see her dentist…whose wife was expecting a baby.  The patient told the dentist how wonderful it was to raise children.  Afterwards…the dental hygienist told her she could tell whether or not people were truly Christians by what they said to the dentist about having a baby.  The hygienist said those who deep down inside were not truly Christians talked about what a nuisance it is to have children…but real Christians viewed them as gifts from the Lord.

Some Christians go to distant lands as missionaries…which is even stranger than raising a family.  They leave behind all the conveniences of American culture.  Why on earth would anyone do that?   They do it because they listen to God when he tells them to take the gospel to the ends of the earth and because they trust his promise that he will go with them.

The list goes on and on.  Some Christians move into the city…on purpose.  Some Christians feed the homeless or tutor the uneducated.  Others reach across ethnic and economic barriers to form friendships.  Still others give up one night a week to study the Bible and pray in small groups.   Some Christians even give away ten percent of their income…or more…for the work of the church.

All of these behaviors may seem strange to people in today’s world.  There is only one good explanation for the strange things Christians do.  They’ve listened. They’ve heard. They believe the promises of God.  They trust what they’ve listened to God say…and they act accordingly.

The wealthy man Jesus described…knew who the beggar was because he would later recognize him after both their deaths.  But…day by day…as the rich man passed through his gate wearing his fine purple robes…his perfumed aroma contrasted with the beggar’s stench.  Occasionally their eyes met…but with no recognition and feeling by the wealthy man.  The beggar was simply part of the landscape…an unpleasant site a person had to endure.

How could this rich man…who considered himself a son of Abraham and a blessed member of God’s people be so heartless?  He believed in God.  His spoken theology matched that of the leaders of the faith.

So…why did he have this total lack of compassion?  He might have heard the Holy Scripture…but he certainly didn’t listen.  God’s word through the prophets had been consistent about the need for mercy and compassion.

The rich man knew the Ten Commandments.  He knew that the last six Commandments prescribed how to relate to people.  He understood the rightness of compassion.  He simply did not listen…and did not act.

What do these two lessons have to say to us who live in the light of the Cross and the Resurrection?  We too have heard from Moses and the Prophets that we must love God and love others as ourselves.  Are we listening…and acting?

We have heard the witness of Christ who rose from the dead…and told us he would be with us always.  Are we listening…and acting?

We have heard the New Testament writings…including the Sermon on the Mount and the many ethical teachings of the epistles.  They tell us how to live in relation to others…including the use of our riches.  Are we listening and acting?

As with the rich man…our use of wealth in relation to the needs of our neighbors reveals our true spiritual state.  If we claim to be Christians…as the rich man claimed to be the son of Abraham…but our material wealth is gathered for our own pleasures…if we are not generous and compassionate in our use of our wealth…if we hoard our money…if we only give what amounts to crumbs to others…then we are not truly listening to God’s Word.

Listen to the stories of the response of two men to God’s word.

Listen to Scripture…hear God’s word…and act.