Summary: How to have extreme wealth.
This morning, the title of our sermon is "extreme wealth," and before I began, how many of you think this sermon is about you? Do you consider yourself extremely wealthy? Let me see your hands.
The first definition in my dictionary of extreme is: "very great or intense, extreme cold." Do you have very great wealth? Do you have intense wealth?
How much money would it take for you to consider yourself extremely wealthy? Take a minute to think about it and write that figure down on your bulletin.
Now before we get into this sermon, I've got another question for you. If you were extremely wealthy, what would you do with the money? Write it down. Whatever pops into your mind, write it down. I'll pause for a minute while you write.
Regis is making a bundle right now asking America, "Who wants to be a millionaire?" Who in their right mind would say no to that question? FOX recently asked the question another way, but ran into a problem after the airing of their show, " Who wants to Marry a Millionaire," and from what I've heard about the situation, Darva showed a little more common sense after getting off the cruise ship than when she signed on to be a contestant.
Jesus talked about money a lot. On one occasion, He said, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:25 NASB)
Why did he say that? Is it really easier for a camel (the largest common animal in the region where Jesus ministered), to go through the eye of a needle (the smallest opening of a common object) than a rich man to enter into God's kingdom? Is there something inherently evil in being extremely wealthy? Is this verse talking about you and me?
Today, as we continue our series on "Extreme living" we're focusing on finances, and though I've never considered myself a wealthy person, really I am. In fact, I'm extremely wealthy. Let me explain.
This week, I made a tough financial decision. Some of you know that we just signed a lease for a house and that we'll be moving out of our apartment soon, but that's not the decision I'm talking about. I had to decide whether to pamper my pickup and give it $2.10 a gallon gasoline, or pamper my wallet and only spend $1.90 a gallon gasoline. (Does that phrase only spend $1.90 a gallon gasoline sound as strange to you as it does to me?)
During the agonizing decision of how to treat my trusty pickup that has served me faithfully over 160,000 miles, I didn't for a single minute reflect on how inexpensive gasoline is and say, "its too cheap these days!" Let me see your hands. How many of you have complained lately that gas is too cheap?
But that's exactly what William Stephens, vice-president of CMS Energy's oil and gas exploration and production operations would have us believe. In a recent interview with the Detroit news, he said, "We're all paying higher gas prices, but energy is still very cheap. Some would argue that it's too cheap. In 1986, gas prices were about $1.25 a gallon ($1.93 in 1999 dollars, after adjusting for inflation) and oil prices were about $30 a barrel ($46.50 in 1999 dollars) right before energy prices crashed in 1986. If you adjust those dollars for inflation, you're well over $1.80 a gallon. So is $1.80 a gallon high? Well, it's high relative to 50 cents a gallon, but it's not high relative to $3 a gallon being paid in Europe and not high relative to what was being paid in the 1980s." (The Detroit News Sunday, March 12, 2000 http://www.detroitnews.com)
As much as I hate to admit it, Stephens has a point. I'd rather pay a buck, eighty than 3 bucks a gallon. To take it a step further, I'm fortunate to have a pickup that is running right now. It's all a matter of perspective.
Are you wealthy?
Before you answer that question, perhaps you should reflect upon the plight of the people in Mozambique. "Last year Mozambique had one of the highest economic growth rates in the world." according to Brady Anderson, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (http://www.washtimes.com Washington Times March 8, 2000)
But with the rising flood waters came famine and poverty. According to President Joaquim, "the tragedy has affected 2 million people, with 250,000 displaced or without homes, women forced to give birth in the treetops, and the death toll likely to reach several thousand."
(Direct quote from Washington Times attributing the statement to Joaquim http://www.washtimes.com March 12, 2000)
Are you wealthy? Relatively speaking, that is.