Seward United Methodist Church
Saturday, September 19, 2020
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God at the Center

Luke 12:22-40

People have been known to ask preachers, “Why do you talk so much about money?” I’m sure there are some preachers out there who do talk too much about money. But I don’t think I’m one of them. I normally use the lectionary texts when I preach, and so I only preach about money when it comes up in the lectionary, which is usually only a couple of times a year. Maybe the truth is that some people think that if the pastor ever preaches about money, then that is too much!

The better question might be, “Why did Jesus talk about money so much?” And we see that especially in Luke’s Gospel. Luke includes more of Jesus’ teachings about wealth than any of the other Gospels. And, by the way, this year in the lectionary is the year of Luke’s Gospel, so I guess I’ll be talking about more this year than normal. What I’ve heard over the years is at least a third of Jesus’ teachings and parables deal with wealth or possessions on some level. So why did Jesus talk about it so much?

I think for one thing, it’s because we use money practically every day. It’s part of lives. We can’t avoid it. I tried to check it out in my own life, and the conclusion I came to is that I use money in some way at least 20 days a month.

And we also have a tendency to turn wealth into an idol, to worship it, to build our lives around it. And maybe especially in our society, we are obsessed with wealth and possessions.

This section of Luke that we’re looking at begins with Jesus’ parable of the rich fool, which we looked at two Sundays ago. The parable of the rich fool is a warning against greed, materialism, and a way of living that is self-centered and built around life in this world, with no thought to God or eternity.

But there’s more to say about wealth. It’s not just the wealthy who can trip over wealth. The poorest person can also view wealth in the wrong ways. Jesus tells his disciples, “Don’t worry about everyday life.”

Worry is a near-universal human experience in regards to wealth. The poor worry about how they will make it day to day. The middle class worry about how they will “keep up with the Joneses.” The rich worry about how they will preserve what they have. Everyone is tempted to worry about money.

Even the church, it seems. Most churches, in my experience, worry too much about money. I just recently heard about a church, and I don’t dare say what church it is, that has about $700,000 in the bank, but they are still worried about money. They’re afraid to spend money on anything because they fear running out of money and having to shut their doors. I find that quite troubling, but I think many churches, maybe most churches, do the same thing, if not to the same degree.

What does worry say about our relationship with God? Well, it says that either we really don’t know him or we really don’t trust him. Either we don’t know that he is good or we worry that he will not take care of us. But the truth is that God is good, and he will take care of us. He will supply our needs. Maybe our problem is not that we worry that God won’t supply our needs but that he won’t supply our wants, which is not something that God promises he will do.

“If God gives food to the birds and clothes the flowers with splendor, then how much more will he take care of us?” Jesus asks. This is the classic Jewish method of making a point called QAL VAHOMER, from the Hebrew words that mean “how much more.” If God does this for birds and flowers then how much more will he do for us?

“Can worry do us any good?” No. In fact, we know it does a lot of harm.

Instead of worrying, trust. Trust God will take care of you. Trust that he will meet your needs if you put him first. Jesus calls us to see life from a different perspective. Rather than being like the world, obsessed over material things, we are to put God in the center and be free from anxiety.

The question for us is, “Are we putting God in the center?” Are we making him the priority? Do we really build our lives around God? Or do we build our lives around something else and then try to stick God over here on the side? We want him there, yes, but at the center?

Jesus didn’t prohibit possessions, but he did emphasize priorities. Put God first in all things, including money. Bend all of life toward obedience to God.

I think Jesus is also telling us that we should not confuse ends with means. Money is not an end in itself. Many people treat it that way, but it is not. People are ends. God is an end. Well, God is THE end, the end of all things. We should use money as a means to an end.

If we don’t need something, we should sell it, and do good with it. And I’m pretty sure we all have things that we don’t need! When we do this, we lay up treasures for ourselves in heaven. And treasures laid up in heaven are secure.

“Where your treasure is, there is your heart.” Jesus is just stating a simple principle of life here: Where you invest your wealth is what you will care about. If you don’t own any stocks, then you’re not likely to care if the market goes up or down. Well, if we invest in God and people, then we will care about God and people. And of course, Jesus said the two most important commandments are to love God with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself.

The last word is this: Don’t be slow. We don’t know when we’ll face the Master. It might be tempting to think, “I’m busy living for me right now, going after the things I want. But I’ll give God attention later.” There are no guarantees. We don’t know when we’ll face the Master, so we must be watchful. I found someone’s definition of watchfulness, and I’ll conclude with that, “To be watchful is to live a life of consistent obedience so as to be prepared at all times to give an account to the Master.” Obedience is difficult. Consistent obedience, even more so. But Jesus never told us it would be easy to follow him.

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