The Man Who Was a Fool; sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s very late on the day we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday and year after year, I rarely find anyone who knows anything beyond the “I Have A Dream” speech. Hence, I began sharing excerpts from some of his sermons.  This sermon based on the parable of the Rich Man from Luke 16:16-21.  In the interest of brevity I will only share some excerpts.  In this sermon Dr. King showed extraordinary foresight into the future.  He describes how the rich man was a fool and how similar thinking continues to keep the United States in bondage to this day.

     The rich man was a fool because he permitted the ends for which he lived to become confused with the means by which he lived.  Jesus realized that we need food, clothing, shelter, and economic security.  He said in clear and concise terms: “Your Father knoweth what things you have need of.”  

The tragedy of the rich man was that he sought the means first and in the process the ends were swallowed in the means.  We can clearly see the meaning of the parable for the present world crisis.  Our nation’s productive machinery constantly brings forth such an abundance of food that we must build bigger barns and spend more than a million dollars daily to store our surplus.  Year after year we ask, “What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?” I have seen an answer in the faces of millions of poverty-stricken men and women in Asia, Africa and South America.  I have seen an answer in the appalling poverty in the Mississippi Delta and the tragic insecurity of the unemployed in large industrial cities of the North.  What can we do?  The answer is simple. We can store our surplus food free of charge in the shriveled stomachs of the millions of God’s children who go to bed hungry at night.  We can use our vast resources of wealth to wipe poverty from the earth.

In a real sense, all life is interrelated.  All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.  I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.  This is the interrelated structure of reality. 

The rich man tragically failed to realize this. He thought that he could live and grow in his little self-centered world.  He was an individualist gone wild. Indeed, he as an eternal fool!

May it not be that the “certain rich man” is Western civilization:  Rich in goods and material resources, our standards of success are almost inextricably bound to the lust for acquisition.  The means by which we live are marvelous indeed.  And yet something is missing. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.  Our abundance has brought us neither peace of mind nor serenity of spirit.  An Oriental writer has portrayed our dilemma in candid terms:

     You call your thousand material devices “labor-saving machinery” yet you are forever “busy”. With the multiplying of your machinery you grow increasingly fatigued, anxious, nervous, dissatisfied. Whatever you have, you want more: and wherever you are you want to go somewhere else . . . 

Like the rich man of old, we have foolishly minimized the internal and maximized the external.  we will not find peace in our generation until we learn anew that “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth”.   Our generation cannot escape the question of our Lord:  What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world of externals-airplanes, electric lights, automobiles, and the color television-and lose the internal-his own soul. 

 

An excerpt from Strength to Love, published 1963 by Martin Luther King Jr. 

Persecution in America?

I choose not to name the author of this article although if you are resourceful and search for the author, you will certainly find him.  I would not like to be deemed a plagiarist and the following passage is not mine but it did inspire me to write the passage that follows it called My Response. I include the reasons for my dissent and would like to hear how you feel about the matter.
 

Are authentic Christians in America about to experience orchestrated and intentional persecution?  Spiritually discerning people have been saying “yes” to this question for some time.

But the New York Times saying it?  Persecution – or the equivalent – is coming.  Soon.  To Christians.  Why?  Because of their refusal to accept so called homosexual “marriage.”  and again later . .  . I have a question.  Can this be turned?  Can persecution be avoided?

Yes, if we have a national spiritual renewal.  History affirms that  .  .   .   .  But what is “national spiritual renewal?”  it is, in part, when people start to act, think and believe in truly authentically biblical ways.  And that includes all places – including the voting booth.  (I am fully aware that a spiritual renewal touches all of life, but I would like, with your permission, to tighten the focus on the voting booth for now.)

And that is precisely what I want to ask you to do.  Please join with thousands of other pastors, Sunday, October 5th – teaching people how to think biblically on election day – in the voting booth – in November 2014. The link to the New York Times article I am adding here:

 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/02/opinion/sunday/the-terms-of-our-surrender.html?_r

 

My Response;

This letter caught me as I was reading Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (interesting timing). In contrast with the author, I’m not looking to avoid persecution.  I’m not looking forward to it either. I do recognize that it’s coming and that as long as the world is wrong, Christians will have to stand for what is right.  

 This fight unlike the straight-to-point anti-Christian persecution in places like Iran and Indonesia will encourage tension but these are early blows at the front of an escalating battlefront over lifestyles and the intersection where my rights meet yours.This is not new. America stands at one of its many decision points. It stands accused of the same spiritual infidelity that Israel was accused of.  Will this be a tipping point that takes us to the Day of the Lord or will we wait for another debacle? 

 Christ sits at the right hand waiting for His enemies to be placed underfoot.  No action taken by any elected official will make an iota of difference.  Our Christian elected officials will be placed in another precarious position but politics will not be a significant influence on America’s direction.  No one has ever been able to legislate right attitudes on the electorate. 

 Then again, some elected officials discuss being Christian but then they lobby and advocate for the wrong side of an issue.  Yes, I expect them to vote as proxy for their constituency, but I am opposed to “Christmas & Easter” Christians playing the “born again” card no matter who they are. 

 Some elected officials or appointees take on the role of scare-mongers. The information they bring seems to accompany an underlying message to “be very afraid”.  The messages are as irritating as the terror alert levels. The alert does more than provide information.  It tells us how much fear to have.  God has not given us a spirit of fear . .

  I’m not against people voting their conscience.  But that is not where our energy needs to be focused.  So I again quote Dr. King, who from the jailhouse in Birmingham said: “There was a time when the church was very powerful – in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed.”