Sermon for Sunday, November 12, 2017: “Serve Your Neighbor.” (Text)

Video to follow.

November 12, 2017 – Stewardship Sunday                       Text:  Exodus 20:17


Dear Friends in Christ,


Coveting is desiring something to which you have no right, something that belongs to someone else.  Covetousness is rooted in our basic human selfishness.  We want what we want, and we don’t care who gets hurt or left out in the process.  Happiness is our right, and we will get it.  In the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote that each person had inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of possessions.  In subsequent reviews, the wording was changed to the pursuit of happiness.  Yet our society has indeed come to identify the pursuit of happiness with the pursuit of possessions.  We think we will be happy if we have one more thing.

Some religions try to shut off all human desires.  It’s the solution offered by ancient Stoicism and Buddhism.  But God built desires into our very being.  Ambition is not evil.  Scripture urges us to “eagerly desire the greater gifts” (1 Cor. 12:31).  St. Paul urges the Romans to “never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor” (Rom. 12:11).

You should have ambition, no matter how young or old you are – it gives you energy and purpose.  It is not sinful to be rich, but work for it.  Don’t desire to get what you have not earned or worked for or what you have gotten in a dishonest way.

It is Stewardship Sunday and with the 9th and 10th commandments before us, we ask the Holy Spirit to lead us to . . .


Our Gospel lesson is the parable of the rich fool.  The farmer was not wrong to produce a huge harvest or build big barns to store it in.  He was wrong to call them “my crops,” “my barns,” “my grain,” “my goods.”  God had blessed him with the crops and the goods.  God trusted he would use these blessings properly.  They weren’t given for selfish enjoyment but they came with responsibility and accountability.

The rich man thought only of himself.  He didn’t think of the needs of others or God’s kingdom.  He wanted to eat, drink, and be merry.  The Lord wants us to be happy and He offers heaven to us, but we don’t get there through things or taking life easy.  Jesus said, “Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life.” (Jn. 6:40)

Paul reminds us in Romans that we have “all things” right now through Christ.  We have no right to them because we have rebelled and disobeyed.  We have coveted and not served our neighbor as we should.  Yet the guilt we feel over that has been nailed to Jesus’s cross.  He rose in victory, and he takes you to be His own now and for all eternity.

The man was wrong to covet and to think he had a right to these things.  He was focused on the wrong goal.  As Luther explains in the Ninth Commandment, “We should fear and love God so that we do not scheme to get our neighbor’s inheritance or house, or get it in a way which only appears right.”  And the Tenth Commandment, “We should fear and love God so that we dot entice or force away our neighbor’s wife, workers, or animals, or turn them against him.”  As in the other commandments, the accent is on the positive attitude of serving one’s neighbor, “help and be of service to him,” and again, “urge them to stay and do their duty.”

What do you eagerly desire in life?  Where is your focus?  Where are you looking for happiness?  Do you live for others?  What is your ambition in life?  Are you directing your energy toward helping and serving others?

A student at a Bible School in the Philippines was unhappy because the men’s rest rooms were always in bad shape and seemed to get skipped over in the cleaning routine.  Seeing no improvement he went straight to the principal with his complaint.  A short time later the student saw the problem being corrected, to his amazement the man with the mop and pail in his hand was the principal himself!

Later the student commented, “I thought he would call a janitor, but he cleaned the toilets himself.  It was a wonderful lesson to me on being a servant and, of course, it raised a question in my own mind as to why I hadn’t taken care of the problem.”

Where can you serve your neighbor?  Where are your skills and help needed?  Today we vote on our boards for 2018 and looking at the list we are lacking the Lord’s servants that our needed.  Young, old, new member or veteran, we desire your service.  It is great for the soul.

Lord, in the grace and hope that you shower upon us through Christ our Savior . . . help us… serve our neighbor.