When I was a young man in college, one day the professor of a class I was taking came in and said, “Remove all books and papers from your desk.” He proceeded to write one question on the board, saying – “this is a quiz; you have the entire class time to complete this quiz. You are required to use only one page of paper. You may use the entire front and back of the page but no more than front and back of the page. When you finish you may leave.”
I read the question and inwardly smiled saying to myself I got this one. I used both sides of the paper and turned in the paper with 40 minutes left in the class. The next week when I got the quiz back, scrawled over the top of the front page in large red letters were the words – Brilliantly Done. Smiling as I turned the page over to see my grade I saw in large red letters the words – But you missed the point.
It was just a quiz but later in my life I realized that statement was profound. What is the meaning and purpose of our lives – and what if we miss the point of why we were created?
One week you should make psalm 139 the focus of your daily prayer. One of the newer translations of the bible translates verse 16 this way: “in your book is written all my days and the good deeds you have prepared in advance.” That verse haunts me, for it tells me that each day of my life God has some good deed that is ordained for me to accomplish for the kingdom of God. It could be anything from something simple or something requiring us to go beyond our comfort levels. The key is God has a plan for each of us daily and it is ours to accomplish or to ignore.
Today we have examples in the gospel story of two individuals who missed the point of life. Jesus as usual was teaching the crowds of people to be aware of the teachings of the Pharisees. Implying the Pharisees was by their teaching on strict adherence to the law leading them away from God’s plan for salvation. He says we need to be more concerned about displeasing the one who has the power of the final judgment. He adds, “…everyone who acknowledges him before men will be acknowledged in heaven, but those who deny him before others will be denied by him in heaven” (Lk. 12:8-9).
After hearing all this from Jesus, one man seeks Jesus’ help with an issue of the fairness of the law. You can tell Jesus’ response to him that he was disappointed in the man because he had completely missed the point of the teaching Jesus just gave. He admonishes that crowd and that man about being concerned about self and greed. Then he tells them a parable about the farmer and how he stored his abundant crop of grain. Jesus is telling us not to miss the point of how his death and the gift of salvation impacts how we should live our lives.
Are we going to repeat the mistakes of these two in today’s gospel? The truth is they did not sin by the things they were doing. In fact, the parable of the farmer could be a business school case study about resourcefulness. Jesus is not against us being resourceful with our assets; in other passages in the scriptures he praises resourcefulness. He was telling us to use those same qualities of resourcefulness to seek the kingdom of God.
When I hear this parable, I always recall those words of my professor – brilliantly done but you missed the point Mr. Farmer. What Jesus is talking about today is not how well we follow the law or how well we treat others. This gospel has nothing to do with wealth or possessions it has everything to do with our ability to understand God has a planned event for us each and every day of our lives.
This gospel is a reminder to “seek first the kingdom of God and then all will be added.” This gospel reminds us to find a way to minister God’s grace and love each and every day of our lives. We should be passionate about the things we do and the things around us. We should have a zeal for health, for family, for education, for jobs, for kids, for financial security. That zeal is also to be lived in a way that shows our love of God and our desire to do his will in our lives.
While we go about our daily lives let us not miss the point of life – which is to discover God’s plan for each and every day we live. Oh we can do lots of things but only one thing is God’s desire for us each day. That is why Jesus in his teaching tells us to listen to his voice not ours. This is why Jesus tells us that apart from him we can do nothing.
That day in class I learned a valuable lesson about my own life. I could live it brilliantly and possibly gain financially, be recognized by others or one day become a famous preacher. I could also daily do God’s will and know that God will know how I lived that day according to his will and not mine and recognize me before his father in Heaven.
Today’s gospel challenges us to consider if we are listening to teachings that lead us to a good life or are we listening to the things that lead us to a disciple’s life. Jesus told the disciples as he ascended, “go and make disciples of all the nations.” That should give us a clear indication of the life Jesus desires us to live.