Personal Pronoun Abuse
The Rev. Dr. John Judson
August 1, 2010
Francie was in love. She had met Frank and fallen for him. He was good looking, honest, and hard working. His job kept him on the road a lot but he was around enough to date and eventually marry. Soon there were two children and a move from Florida to Texas. Francie loved Frank and her new hometown of Dallas. Without blinking an eye two more children arrived on the scene along with some disturbing information. The disturbing information was that her husband had another family…that he was already married when they had wed. along with this horrible new however came some slightly better news. Her husband’s name was not Frank…it was H.L. Hunt and he was the richest man in the United States. She agreed to go her own way and not make waves as long as Hunt agreed to take care of their four children. They reached an agreement which lasted until Hunts death when Hunts other eight children…four by his first wife and four by his other mistress whom he adopted sued in court to keep Francie and her children from gaining what Hunt had left to them in his will. So here is our morning’s multiple choice question in honor of all of those who sat for the bar this week. A) does Hunt’s money belong only to his eight children whom he publicly recognized? B) does it belong to all 12 children because they were in his will? C) neither of the above?
The answer? It depends on who you ask. If you ask the state of Texas the answer is B. If you ask Jesus the answer is C. Yes that’s right for Jesus the answer is C because the money was never Hunt’s to begin with. It was God’s. Let me explain. At the heart of our morning’s story from Luke we are faced with an almost identical problem. A young man comes to Jesus and asks Jesus to serve as judge and jury in order to get this young man his inheritance. Now we are not sure if the young man had a legitimate claim or not…and Jesus does not inquire. Instead Jesus begins to tell this very strange story about a successful farmer who upon having a banner year builds bigger barns and looks forward to retirement. Yet as soon as he is about to retire God calls the man a fool and calls him home to heaven…a very disturbing story to say the least. In fact of all of Jesus’ stories his one has caused more angst over my 25 years of ministry than virtually any other story. People ask if Jesus has something against success, prudence, hard work or frugality? They also wonder what the story has to do with the man’s desire to get what was his. The answer is Jesus has nothing against success, prudence, hard work or frugality. What Jesus has something against is personal possessive pronoun abuse…which is what binds the man’s request and the story together.
Now when I say Jesus has something against personal possessive pronoun abuse I am not suggesting that Jesus is the grammar police. What I am suggesting is that Jesus objects when people use the possessive of my or mine when it comes to things. Consider how Jesus tells this marvelous story. Look at the number of times in which the farmer uses the terms I and my. What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops? The he said, “I will do this; I will pull down my barns and build larger one, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. I will say to my soul…” you get the point. The man in the story just as the man who had come to Jesus believes that things ultimately belong to him…meaning the man who comes to Jesus essentially says, “Jesus tell my brother to give me my cut.” While this may not sound odd to us…it did to Jesus because Jesus understands that everything we have is not our possession…it is God’s and we simply have it on temporary loan. I realize that many of you will find such a statement suspect so let me explain.
Let’s begin with a question. How many of you have actually created something? Now by that I do not mean created something from what already existed. I mean how many of you have created something from nothing? Exactly, meaning that we as human being are not creators but manipulators. We manipulate what God created. We simply take what God has made and do something else with it. And in the end, to rephrase and old saying, what we have manipulated we can’t take with us. In other words all we have is God’s and it is only on loan for us to use. And if it is God’s on loan then the question we ought to ask ourselves is not what ought I to do with my stuff…the question is what would God want me to do with God’s stuff. If we rephrase our use of pronouns in this way our whole world is changed. We no longer fear losing what we have been loaned because we will lose it sooner or later. We no longer let what we have on loan from coming between ourselves and others because we are using according to God’s desires and not our own. We no longer fear giving away some of what we have been given because it is not ours. We will become those who do not store up treasures for ourselves but are instead rich toward God…and in that there is freedom.
This morning we are blessed in that we are given the ultimate example of that appropriate possessive pronoun use. We come to the table which Jesus set before he gave his life for the world. In the garden though he told God that he did not want to die, yet Jesus acknowledged that his life was not his own…it was God’s. And by Jesus offering up his life for us we have been released and restored to new life and hope. This morning then my challenge is for us to ask ourselves this, am I willing to change my pronoun usage and recognize that all I have is on loan from God and I will treat it as such?