Sunday October 21st, 2012
My friends, in January of 2012 Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world (2,723 feet) was completed in Dubai for a final cost of 1.5 billion dollars. In 1903 Orville and Wilbur Wright were the first human being to fly, their plane cost $1000 dollars to build which would be the modern day equivalent of just over $26,000. History tells us that there is nothing man can’t do especially if they have money. It so often seems that with man and money all things are possible; Jesus speaks differently today.
It seems everything would be okay, if there was just enough money. This sentiment dominates the cultural and political climate of our day. So often we are lead to believe that if there was just enough to go around for everyone that all would be well. But increasing or decreasing taxes, minimum wages or obliterating glass ceilings does little to address the problems we humans have been facing since The Fall. Money… the lack thereof or the presence thereof does little to address the thing man cannot do, namely save himself.
Further, too many in our day believe that having worldly wealth is a sure sign that a man or woman has the favor of the Lord. This prosperity type preaching is prevalent in many churches of our day and closely reflect the thoughts of the Jews during Jesus time. And what’s worst is that this type of prosperity gospel, which says that God showers temporal riches on the faithful, often causes many to fall away after losing jobs, homes, family or friends. The prosperity Gospel is in reality no gospel at all but rather is a false construct that leaves money and the pursuit of wealth as the highest good. “It must be so much easier for the one with money” or “I can see how God is blessing so and so with all sorts of good things but yet here I am with very little.” My friends we American Christians have become narrow, deluded and often depressed by where we see ourselves standing in this world of wealth, compared to our neighbors here in America there is a very real likelihood that we will have less than them. And too often, we look at a text like our gospel lesson for today and smugly think that this is directed toward the wealthy among us; but let us put our thoughts about who’s rich and who’s not into perspective and perhaps we’ll see just who Christ speaks about today.
According to an article published in The Oregonian on August 4th of this year: If your family income is $10,000 a year, you are wealthier than 84% of the world. If your family income is $50,000 or more a year, you make more than 99% of the world. My friends, we American Christians are the Camel Christ speaks of today… even the poorest among us are wealthy. And seeing things with this perspective we must understand that we are the ones who trust in riches. We desire to get them, desire to hoard and save it, we fret when it dwindles and when our sources to get it dry up. How difficult it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! My friends, Christ says; it’s impossible for a rich man…. namely you and me, to enter the kingdom of heaven.
It is impossible because we have been born covered in sin, it is impossible because that sin taints every move we make, directs our thinking, clouds our minds and worst of all, sin has blackened our hearts. Sin makes it impossible for us to give even 10% of our own income to Christ’s church; sin has prevented us from donating our time to teaching the next generation of Christian Children in our midst. We create wealth and then must take time to enjoy what we have worked so hard for and thus begin to miss out on the truly good gifts Christ gives us. It is impossible for us to be saved for the reasons King Solomon writes to us today: “He who puts his trust in money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Salvation is impossible for the rich because, their attention to getting and retaining riches has taken residence in hearts which were only created to serve God.
My friends we are reminded today of two simple truths; money is a great tool as King Solomon says; to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. God has given all of us tremendous temporal gifts; but that is all they are… gifts. Money makes a terrible god, as Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
Jesus strikes his disciples and indeed us where it hurts. He upsets the balance created in our own minds, which thinks that if we have money all will be well. He stirs our soul and goes straight to the heart by going after our idol, our false god. My friends we are no different than the rich young man or the disciples gathered round about Jesus in our text. We are tempted by wealth; We love money, and much of our happiness this side of heaven is wrongly attached to it. My friends; we love our possessions, our things, our cars, our homes, our jobs. We fear losing them, but why do we fear losing those things which shall not last eternally and give so little thought to the salvation we cast off? We treasure our status. We labor for more because we have falsely believed that having more means happiness, comfort, success and certainty. So much do we want certainty for ourselves and our children, that we so often neglect the eternal gifts of God in favor of the things we can see mounting up for us in this world. And when we see the god of money fail us, we despair. When jobs are lost we fret, some commit suicide and other’s live lives or despair and resentment. Money has become a god, and because of this we have lost sight of our truest treasure, the only One who matters, our dearest and truest Treasure, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Who then can be saved?
My friends we are reminded every time we speak the Apostles creed of the comfort and assurance we have been given through Christ’s payment for the sin of the world; our Lord did not use Gold or Silver to purchase us back from sin, death and the devil; instead He used blood… His Holy, Innocent and precious blood was shed for you and me. Who can be saved then? The answer is clear… we the wealthy, the Christians of these United States have been saved from our idolatry, but yet we turn back to that false god time and again. But in the midst of this God still loves us just as He loved the rich young man who walked away from Him last week, just as He loves His disciples today who, having received forgiveness, life and salvation still want more as payment for leaving their livelihoods behind (v.28).
Repent of your miserliness, repent of your greed and repent of the fear you have about how to get or retain temporal riches. We are materially rich beyond measure compared to our poor brothers and sisters, but this is no consolation when unemployment strikes. But the following is; We have been saved by the vicarious work of Christ our Lord. With man salvation is impossible but with God all things necessary for salvation and for our lives this side of heaven have been secured by the blood of Christ.
This is the reminder our Lord has been giving since Mark 8:31 where Jesus told the disciples and us all that was necessary for our salvation; “the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” Jesus has been telling us from the beginning that “with man, being saved is impossible but not for God.” All things necessary for salvation, for certainty and for our security are possible for God… Hear your Lord’s words; “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” Christ knew and indeed still knows what is necessary for our salvation, for certainty now and for security forever. Jesus is what is necessary; Jesus is our priceless Treasure, Source of purest pleasure, Truest Friend to me. How long in anguish Shall my spirit languish, Yearning, Lord, for Thee? Thou art mine, O Lamb divine! I will suffer naught to hide Thee, Naught I ask beside Thee.
My dearest friends, let us not labor for the wrong things in this world lest we needlessly sadden our hearts with tasks we were never created to earn. We were not created for worldly prosperity but rather for communion with God and with one another; these things have been given to us by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Money shall never be enough, for whether we have little or much, we will always want more, we shall never find comfort or security with a god that has not promised to save us. Money cannot save you, the seeking after it for the sake of security and comfort is an exercise in futility. But for those who have believed in Christ as the truest treasure, who’s lives reflect this truth and bare fruit accordingly, there is rest in Christ, there is certainty. St. John reminds us; “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”
As we came from our mother’s wombs naked, so shall we leave this world, we shall take nothing from our toil that we may carry into eternal life. There is no true glory in the riches of this world. But Jesus, who being first, being Son of God, became last for you. Let there be joy in your heart knowing that no matter what comes from the devil and this broken world, you are safe and secure in Christ. Martin Luther reminds us in his timeless hymn, “A mighty fortress is our God.” He’s by our side upon the plain with His good gifts and Spirit. And take they our life, Goods, fame, child and wife, Let these all be gone, They yet have nothing won; The Kingdom ours remaineth. In Christ you are rich beyond measure, heirs of the King, the children of God. AMEN!