September 25, 2016 – The Love of Money

Luke 16:19-31, I Timothy 6:6-19

        I’m not sure if any of you have ever seen the movie, Father of the Bride II, with Steve Martin.  The gist of this movie is a man who just survived the wedding of his eldest daughter in the first movie, finds himself as a would-be grandfather.  Within a week of getting this news, he finds out that he is about to be a father again as his wife is with child and progresses along the same timeline as his daughter does.  The movie climaxes when both women, his wife and his daughter, go into labor on the same day.  Toward the end of this scene, the father, Steve Martin, is in the hallway when the doctor brings him his daughter to hold.  Minutes later his son-in-law comes out and hands him his grandson.  At this point you hear the main character’s thoughts, “with my daughter in one arm and my grandson in the other, life doesn’t get any better than this.”

This character had found true contentment in the blessings he had been given at that moment.  Think of the times in your life when you can honestly say you reached true contentment.  For a brief moment you also think that life could not get any better than it is at this very second.  Admittedly those moments may be few and far between.  For some, those moments are non-existent because there are those who are never content.  Life becomes this quest to continue gaining wealth and power and prestige.  These people are never satisfied and continue to push and clamor for something better.

We are continuing our stewardship focus with a look at the tithe. Last week we focused on a tithe of our talent.  Today we are looking at a tithe of our treasure.  For me it becomes a matter of priorities – what priority do we give to our innate need to give back?  Perhaps you do not feel you need to give back.  Perhaps you do give, but not of your treasure.  Some of us get caught up with expenses that seem to hit us from all sides, leaving nothing left over.  We have a heart to give, but not the treasure.

In both the gospel lesson and the scripture from I Timothy there seems to be a theme of priorities.  In the gospel lesson, the rich man had his priorities set on wealth and status – often these go hand-in-hand.  I wonder how this story would be different had the rich man ever considered helping Lazarus.  What if instead of passing Lazarus by everyday, the rich man instead chose to share a little of what he had?  What if the rich man felt gratitude to God for all God had blessed him with and chose to give a portion back to God?  What if the rich man had found contentment instead of a continual quest for more? What if.

I saw a headline not long ago concerning J.K. Rowling.    Perhaps you have heard of this rather famous author. She is the author of the Harry Potter series which took the world by storm.  In spite of her humble beginnings as an author, writing the first Harry Potter novel while receiving public assistance, she quite literally lived the rags-to-riches story within a period of 5 years.  Interestingly enough, she was booted off the Forbes billionaire list in 2012 largely due to her continued charitable giving.  Giving back has been a part of her DNA from the very beginning of her success as part of her gratitude for the assistance she received when she was in need.  Her $160 million donations cost her a seat on the Forbes billionaire list.

Many of us may be thinking, “well if I made over a billion dollars I’d give back too.”  Often that is not the case.  Historically, those who make the least tend to give back the most.  There was a recent video circulating around of a young man who goes around asking people for a little money or food because he’s hungry. He goes to the mall food court and gets turned down by everyone he meets.  He then goes out and asks a homeless man for a little food. The homeless man was eating a meager meal, yet passed over his bag to share what he had.  Its not about the amount of money we have, but about our attitude toward giving back. Can we give back a bit of our treasure, knowing that all things are from God?

Our scripture lesson from I Timothy talks about godliness combined with contentment.  It is possible to find contentment within the comforting arms of our Savior Jesus Christ.  It is possible to realize that we are truly blessed.  It is possible to develop an appreciation for all that God provides for us – clean water to drink, food for our table, clothes for our backs.  We have a beautiful sanctuary where we have the freedom to come and worship each week.  We have a network of caring friends and family.  The scripture tells us that we brought nothing into this world, so that we can take nothing out of it.  We can find contentment in knowing our needs are met and our God is in control.

Timothy is an interesting writer and minister.  He was very young when he was ordained into ministry – possibly a teenager.  Timothy is recognized by Paul for his knowledge of the Scriptures, and is said to have been acquainted with the Scriptures since childhood. Yet even at his young age, Timothy is being praised by Paul for finding contentment and not falling victim to the trappings of the continuous pursuit of wealth.  After some discussion of the difficulties that face the wealthy, Paul zeros in on the most misquoted scripture of all time.  “The love of money is the root of all evil.”  How many times have you heard this scripture stated as, “Money is the root of all evil?”  I know I have.  What is this verse really talking about?  Perhaps it has a lot to do with contentment – being content with what we have when our basic needs are met.

I’m sure all of you remember your children or grandchildren when they were very young.  How often did you purchase a gift for your young child, only to have that child become completely fascinated with the box more than the toy?  Young children can become completely engrossed in the littlest of things.  Real contentment seems to come from family time spent together, even if it is over a pancake supper served on a picnic blanket spread out on the dining room floor.  God blesses us with these cherished moments.  God provides that inner peace that so often is missing from the busyness of our lives.

I saw a post concerning the day after you leave your job.  Whatever impact you made at your place of employment, good or bad, the day after you leave your job you are quickly forgotten by those still there.  However, if you were suddenly gone from your family, not a day would go by that you are not missed.  Our quest for wealth comes with a price.  Only when we change our focus and serve God will we ever be able to find real contentment in our lives.  Parents and grandparents that are teaching their children to give back will truly be blessed with an attitude of contentment.

Yet I wonder if a little discontentment is ok too.  It is possible for us to become so comfortable in our faith that we aren’t interested in continuing to grow.  We talked last week about tithing our talent – finding ways to give back just a little of the skills we are blessed to have.  Yet perhaps we are simply not interested in drawing closer to God, or are we?  Is there that little bit of restlessness that may have you seeking ways to serve?  Maybe a little restlessness is a healthy thing because it keeps us looking ahead toward becoming more holy.  Is that what we want for ourselves?  Is that what we want for our church?  I hope so.  I hope we always seek out God’s wisdom for our lives and always look forward to our next ministry or our next outreach project or our next real connection with our neighbors.

Every moment of our lives is precious.  As people of God we are to seek after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.  Can we become more God-like in all we do?  Can we live out the gospel of Jesus Christ in our everyday activities?  Can we be the body of Christ, going where Jesus would go to help those in need and not wait for them to come to us?  I believe we can.  I believe we are finding ways to help our neighbors while growing in our faith.  We are charged to keep the commandment until Christ’s return – love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength; and love our neighbor as ourselves.  Let our generosity and caring so shine in the world, that all will know we are called to be the children of God.  Amen.

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