Luke 12:13–21 13Someone from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14But Jesus said to him, “Man, who appointed me to be a judge or an arbitrator over you?”
15Then he said to them, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed, because a man’s life is not measured by how many possessions he has.”
16He told them a parable: “The land of a certain rich man produced very well. 17He was thinking to himself, ‘What will I do, because I do not have anywhere to store my crops?’ 18He said, ‘This is what I will do. I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and goods. 19And I will tell my soul, “Soul, you have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy. Eat, drink, and be merry.”’
20“But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your soul will be demanded from you. Now who will get what you have prepared?’
21“That is how it will be for anyone who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Julie is a college freshman. Her parents are very proud of her since she is the first of her family to go to college. But behind the pride, Julie can sense her parents’ apprehension since they took out some big loans to pay for her education.
Julie is taking an overload of credits to finish school sooner. She is working every weekend in the campus bookstore to make some money to help pay bills. With her education and work schedule, she has no free time for clubs, sports or student organizations. She hasn’t been able to develop any new friendships.
On top of all this, Julie’s high school sweetheart broke up with her.
Julie feels alone, separated, isolated.
Julie does have Maria, a friend from high school, who is attending the same college. Maria invited Julie to come with her to her WELS campus ministry worship services on Sunday mornings and Bible studies on Thursday evenings.
After several weeks, Julie felt comfortable confiding in the pastor. She told him she felt alone, separated and isolated.
The pastor responded by teaching her the Lord’s Prayer.
That seems kind of odd, doesn’t it?
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he taught, “Our Father in heaven …” (Luke 11:2). If it were up to us, we would begin our prayers, “My Father in heaven … Give me my daily bread.” We would be focused on ourselves and our needs. We would isolate ourselves – even in our prayers.
Have you noticed that we are living in a time of great technological advances and even greater seclusion? We can communicate with people around the world in an instant. We can get in a vehicle or plane and visit people within hours. But isn’t it ironic that in a time of mass communication and rapid transportation, we feel more alone, separated and isolated?
That’s why the campus ministry pastor taught Julie the Lord’s Prayer. When we pray the words of the Lord’s Prayer, we are reminding ourselves that we are never alone, separated or isolated. Even when we are praying by ourselves, we are part of a Christian family in our home, part of a Christian family in our church, and part of the Christian family of saints who are now in heaven. We have prayed and continue to pray the Lord’s Prayer together.
Our culture encourages us to think of ourselves as independent entities. It is inherent in our American experience that we are autonomous. We believe that we are alone and are quite accomplished at taking care of ourselves. But with all our advances in technology, we lead increasingly lonely lives.
That’s why the “Our” in “Our Father in heaven” is so vital to our lives as Christians.
Think about the words you use in your personal prayers. Do you find yourself using lots of “I” language? “Lord, I’m feeling …”, “Lord, I need …”, Lord, I want …” Because we are sinful people, we are inherently self-obsessed. We think and pray about ourselves.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us quickly to move beyond “I” language to “You” language. We learn to build our prayers on God’s sure promises in his Word instead of on our flimsy emotions and changing desires.
Notice how Jesus teaches us to pray for God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will before we ever get around to praying for ourselves.
We might be inclined to pray, “Lord, I need a new car,” or “Lord, please take care of Aunt Gertrude in the hospital.” We’ll get to your Aunt Gertrude and maybe even your new car. But those come later in the prayer. That’s not where Jesus would have us begin. God’s name comes first.
“You” before “I.”
To move us from the “I” language to this “You” language, Jesus gives us the words of the first petition. “Hallowed be your name.”
What is a petition? A petition is a formal request. It is coming to God with our requests. We do not pray so we can get things into our hands. Rather, we pray so we can learn that everything comes from the hands of our Father in heaven.
This comes out very well in Martin Luther’s explanation of the First Petition in his Small Catechism.
Hallowed be your name.
What does this mean?
God’s name is certainly holy by itself, but we pray in this petition that we too may keep it holy.
How is God’s name kept holy?
God’s name is kept holy when his Word is taught in its truth and purity and we as children of God lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But whoever teaches and lives contrary to God’s Word dishonors God’s name among us. Keep us from doing this, dear Father in heaven!
Jesus’ first petition is only four words, but one of those words is pretty unfamiliar. What does “hallow” mean? “Hallow” is an old English-y term that has fallen out of use in modern language. It means “to make holy.” However, we can’t make God’s name holy any more than we can make water wet or the sun bright.
So how is God’s name kept holy among us?
Luther gives the answer in his Large Catechism: “’When both our doctrine and life are godly and Christian.’ Since we call God our Father in this prayer, it is our duty always to act and behave ourselves as godly children, that he may not receive shame, but honor and praise from us” (Large Catechism, Part III, The Lord’s Prayer, par. 40).
God’s name is kept holy among us in two ways – true preaching and true living.
“God’s name is profaned by us through our words or in our works,” when we preach or live contrary to God’s Word (Large Catechism, Part III, The Lord’s Prayer, par. 41). When you invite your co-workers and neighbors to church and they reply, “I never would have guessed that you go to church” … that is not a good witness of God’s name.
When we insulate ourselves with the word and ways of the world, we then change God’s Word to fit what we want to do and how we want to do it. We mold God’s Word around ourselves instead of the Holy Spirit molding us around God’s Word.
When we isolate ourselves from God’s Word, our sinful nature is let loose. It will want to do everything that is opposed to God’s Word. We live for ourselves instead of for God.
In these ways, we dishonor God’s name among us.
Jesus tells a parable about a man who isolated himself from God, his Word and his people. His independence and natural selfishness led God to call him a fool.
“The land of a certain rich man produced very well. He was thinking to himself, ‘What will I do, because I do not have anywhere to store my crops?’ He said, ‘This is what I will do. I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and goods” (Luke 12:16-18).
It is not immoral to build bigger barns for your crops. It is not sinful to work hard and earn more. But Jesus explains the foolishness of this man was in his attempt to find comfort and security for his soul in his stuff. The man said, “And I will tell my soul, Soul, you have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy. Eat, drink, and be merry”’ (Luke 12:19).
But God responded, “You fool, this night your soul will be demanded from you. Now who will get what you have prepared” (Luke 12:20).
We become like this fool when we work hard to make a good name for ourselves instead of making God’s name holy.
We want the good things God gives and we work hard in our vocations for a better life. It is the fools who strive for all this, though, so they can have a better life now. Where do Christians look for a better life? In Christ. In Christ alone. In Christ alone.
“Therefore, because you were raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).
Jesus Christ is your life. The true life. The only life that matters. The only life that lasts.
If you don’t have Christ, you are a fool. You are already dead. The way you rob God of his glory and dishonor his name in your life will lead you to the grave. What good will all your wanting and working for a better life do you then? “This is vapor. Totally vapor. Everything is just vapor that vanishes” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).
But with Christ, your hard work in your vocation is done to God’s glory. Your striving for wealth is blessed for increased giving for God’s name to be shared through your church and church body. Your imperfect living is perfected as Christ covers your unrighteousness with his righteousness. No one will question whether you are a Christian. They will see it, hear it, and praise God’s name for it.
How can this happen? Because Christ, the Son of God came down from heaven and became poor for our sake (2 Corinthians 8:9). Christ took our poverty of sin and made us rich in his righteousness. He emptied himself of outward glory, laid aside earthly wealth and walked to the terrors of the cross for you. He paid the purchase price of salvation with his holy, innocent blood. He forgave you all your sins. The devil no longer has command over you. Death no longer has a claim on you. The world no longer has control over you.
The benefits of what Christ won on the cross and in the grave was given to you in your baptism. When the pastor poured God’s Word over your head with the water, you had God’s holy Triune name written on you. You became a part of a much larger family. You are no longer apart, alone or isolated. You are a member of a countless family of believers.
As part of this family of baptized believers, together we pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” With those words, we are asking that the Word be seen in our lives. That people know we are God’s children by our words and our actions. We are praying that God would act toward us according to his merciful nature and not according to our sinful merits.
We keep God’s name holy, even when our culture and nature teach us to live contrary to God’s Word. We keep God’s name holy as we teach and live according to his Word. “To hallow means the same as to praise, magnify, and honor both in word and deed” (Large Catechism, Part III, The Lord’s Prayer, par. 46).
Holiness is what happens when you keep Christ and his Word at the center of your life. Holy living will follow. Amen.