Seward United Methodist Church
Friday, November 15, 2019
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Using Wealth

Colossians 3:1-11 and Luke 12:13-21

In first century Jewish culture, it was typical to ask rabbis or other religious leaders to settle disputes. So a man cries out to Jesus from the crowd, “Tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.”

We don’t know the situation. But I think Jesus’ response indicates that the real issue here is greed, not justice. “Beware of greed. Life is not measured by how much you possess.”

You know what? A lot of people think it is; that life is measured by what you possess. The most basic message of advertising seems to be, “To have more is to be more.” A variation on that is, “To experience more is to be more.” And I think that shows where we are as a society. We very seldom worry about what we need, so sometimes the focus shifts to luxury items, “having more experiences,” traveling more, doing interesting things, and so on.

Jesus responds to the request with the parable of the rich fool. The rich man has an abundant harvest, more than he needs. So his plan is to build bigger barns, so he can keep it all for himself. The focus is all on self in the story. “This is what I will do for my satisfaction.” There is no thought of God or neighbor. It’s just “How can I have the good life?”

The problem is not wealth. The Bible never condemns having wealth as immoral. It says, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,” not money itself. The real problem is wealth without perspective. In the parable, there is no perspective on God, no perspective on neighbor. That is his sin: Having great wealth and being a great fool with it. “You are a fool to store up wealth in this world without having a rich relationship with God.”

Turn back to that text from Colossians 3, because I think it has some insights to add to Jesus’ words.

Paul says, basically, “We are raised to new life, so we should focus on the things of eternity and not on earthly things.” We should make heavenly things a daily priority; which is not easy. We want to make daily things our daily priorities. It’s not easy to have an eternal perspective.

But we are to live in preparation for what is coming, not what is passing. If the old self is dead, then we have to put the old things to death. Things like greed, which is a form of idolatry, sexual sins, and the way of living that tears others down and lifts ourselves above them.

A couple months ago I was out on the river with a paddling friend. We were talking about Scouts, and I said about how Scouting has fallen on hard times in our area. Most units have folded, and the few that are still operating are low in numbers. He said, “You see that in all voluntary organizations: churches, Scouts, fire companies; all of them.” And I said, “Yeah, except sports. Sports are our new national religion. If it isn’t money, that is. Well, I guess they’re really one and the same.” Isn’t that the American dream? Become a sports star. Or some kind of star. Make millions of dollars. Find yourself a gorgeous trophy wife, or a least a bunch of girlfriends. Live in luxury.

Thing is, that is the world. The “world” is a way of thinking and living that has no place for God. If there is no God, then what is better than having it all in this life? And we shouldn’t be surprised when people of the world act like the world. That should be expected. The issue is when people of the Church act like the world; when we follow along with the patterns of the world.

Verses 9 and 10 use the imagery of changing clothes. “Take off that old stuff and put your new nature.” What people see in us, that is our behavior, should match what’s in our hearts, Jesus.

What should be our attitude toward wealth? There’s a book I read a while back called, “The Treasure Principle,” by a fellow named Randy Alcorn. His basic question is that if you knew the money you had right now was going to become worthless very soon, what would you do with it? If you were smart, you’d hurry and exchange it for a different currency, or you would buy things that retain value. Well, in a sense, that’s where we are. Our wealth in this world will have no value in the world to come. So we should use it to gain wealth that will not perish. “Lay up treasures in heaven,” as Jesus said.

I think the big point when it comes to wealth is that rather than asking, “How can I have it?” we should instead be asking, “How can I use it wisely?” How can I use the earthly things available to me now to lay up treasures in heaven?

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