Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Incomparable Wealth. . .

Sermon for the Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 24B, preached on Sunday, October 17, 2021, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich. 

    “Money can’t buy happiness.”  We all know this saying.  And most of us would agree with it.  But when we look at our lives, at how we treat money and wealth, how we pursue the stuff of this world, we act as if money can buy happiness.  It’s like that country song says, “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy me a boat.” 
    We say money can’t buy happiness, but we wish it did.  And we live as if it can.  How many of us have wish lists of things that we want and are saving up for?  Maybe it’s a new kitchen upgrade, or the latest Apple product, or maybe it’s that specific tool needed for that one project that once you’ve finished you’ll never use again.  Or maybe instead of stuff on your list, you’re saving up for a European.  And how many of us have convinced ourselves that once we’ve saved enough and gotten those things on our lists that we’ll be satisfied?  Let me be the first one to raise my hand.  But this is foolishness.  We’ve convinced ourselves of a lie.  The truth is we’ll never be satisfied with any amount of wealth or stuff. 
 The wisdom of Scripture says, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity” (Eccl 5:10).  Earthly wealth is vain because it can’t satisfy, it can’t do what we want it to do.  But this wisdom goes completely against everything we believe.  You’d be hard pressed to find someone who’d say money is vain.  From the time we’re old enough to understand the concept of buying things, which is pretty young by the way, we’re focused on getting money so we can buy whatever we want.  We look to money as the very source of our satisfaction.  Money buys the things we want, and when we have the things we want, then we’ll be happy.  That’s what we believe.  That’s how we live.  And that’s idolatry.  It’s false worship.  We’ve turned money and wealth into gods.  We fear, love, and trust in it more than God our Father.  
No matter how much money you have in your bank account, no matter how much stuff you have, you’ll always want more.  True life bears this out.  Take the tv show Shark Tank for example.  Those “sharks” have more money than many of us could ever dream of, and you’d think they’d be satisfied.  But what’s the whole point of them being on the show?  It isn’t just to “help” the upstart entrepreneurs.  No, it’s for them to make more money.  And if that example is too far removed from you, simply look at your life.  Don’t you wish you had more money?  Isn’t there always something on your wish list?  Of course this is and of course you want more money.  We all want more, because our sinful selfish greed can never be satisfied.  And what’s more, the money and the stuff we desire, it’s finite, it’s limited, it does us no good when we’re dead.
Again, the wisdom from Scripture says, “As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand” (Eccl 5:15).  Today we say it like this, “You can’t take it with you.”  And again, this is something we say we agree with, but we live contrary to it.  We keep acquiring more and more as if we can take it with us.
The sad reality though is that many times the wealth that is left behind is a source of nasty fighting amongst family members.  At a time when families should be coming together to support each other, they’re divided by sin and greed, not satisfied with what’s been given to them.  And that’s the problem.  Because of our sin, we’re not satisfied with what’s been given to us.  We’re not satisfied with the good gifts our Lord gives.  And I’m not just talking about the material blessings He gives.  I’m talking about the blessing of everlasting life He gives in Christ.  This is the true wealth we should desire.  This is the true wealth that satisfies.  But more often than not, we’d prefer cash.  
    Money and the material stuff of this world, in and of itself isn’t bad or evil.  Money is just an inanimate object, and its value is what we place on it.  And there again lies the problem.  Because of our sin, we value wealth too much, valuing it more than our Lord and the everlasting life that He promises in Christ.  This is why Jesus said to His disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! … It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Mk 10:23, 25).  Wealth can be such a hindrance to our faith because we make it our god.  We put it in God’s place, expecting it to give us life, but it can’t.  For those who put their trust in money, they’ll fail to enter the kingdom.
The context for Jesus’ words today is the Gospel reading from last week.  The rich man had just asked Jesus what he must do to be saved.  Christ answered by reiterating the commandments, and the rich man assured Christ that he had kept all those commands.  So Christ told him what else he should do: sell all his possessions and give it to the poor, and then he’d have treasure in heaven (Mk 10:21).  Do you remember how that rich man responded to Jesus’s words?  He was disheartened and went away sorrowful because he had a lot of stuff.  That man valued his stuff more than the treasure of heaven.  But that heavenly treasure, the gift of everlasting life, it’s more valuable than anything else in the world.  Life in Christ is wealth that is beyond compare.  
    There’s nothing like the life that you have in Christ.  This life is a free life.  It’s free from slavish worship to our false gods of wealth and money.  It’s free, graciously given to you because of God’s love for you and not because you’ve earned it.  It’s free from sin and death because Christ has overcome sin and death. 
Life in Christ is free, but at the same time, it’s costly.  It’s costly not in gold and silver, but in the holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death of Jesus on the cross.  The free everlasting life you have in Christ was paid for with His blood, a bill He was willing to pay for you, so that you would enter the kingdom of God.  
    The life you have in Christ is a free life, and it’s a rich life.  But before you get any ideas of a prosperity gospel, thinking Jesus wants you to have all the stuff on your wish list, the rich life in Christ has nothing to do with money. 
    Jesus promised His disciples: “there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mk 10:30).  Those who have life in Christ are rich.  They’re rich in the kingdom of God, blessed with a heavenly home, blessed with uncountable brothers and sisters in Christ.  Those who have life in Christ are rich in grace, in the forgiveness and love of Christ.  But those who have life in Christ won’t have it easy.  There’ll be persecutions and struggle and strife in this life.  But being rich in Christ with the promise of everlasting life, we endure these times, trusting in our Savior, and not the money in our wallets. 
    We pursue the wealth of this world.  We worship it, believing if we just have the right amount of stuff life will be perfect.  What vanity!  What idolatry!  Let us repent of this.  Let us instead seek life not in the wealth that doesn’t satisfy and the stuff that doesn’t last, but in the very gift of life that we have in Christ, life that is rich in grace and love, life that is rich in forgiveness, life that is freely given.  In Jesus’ name...Amen. 

No comments: