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Summary: A sermon about investing in people.

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Matthew 25:31-46

(Reading from The Message)

James 2:1-13

Rev. Ken Sauer, Pastor Grace United Methodist Church, Soddy Daisy, TN www.graceumcsd.org

“God’s Return on Investment May Not Work the Same as Your 401 (k)”

The following is a brief meditation written by Claudia Burney:

“Jesus lives next door.

He’s an eight-year-old girl and her three-year-old brother.

The Son of Man looks like those starving Ethiopian children.

Jesus only gets breakfast and lunch at school, when He makes it.

His mother is a crack addict.

Nobody knows where His daddy is.

Poor King of Kings.

Jesus is two houses down and has six children.

Now He’s pregnant with the seventh.

How does He expect His husband to feed all those babies on that salary?

That means hardworking taxpayers’ money has to go for Christ’s food stamps!

The Lord is a crazy man—paranoid schizophrenic.

If He doesn’t take His medication, He walks up and down the street, cussing and spitting on everybody He passes.

He’s homeless.

Nobody knows where His family is—if He’s got one.

Digs out of the trash cans for food.

Somebody ought to get Him off the street.

Jesus is nothing but a nuisance.

I’m starting to see the Son of God everywhere I go.

He’s always crying or begging or looking pitiful.

Why doesn’t He pull Himself up by His bootstraps?

This is America!

Makes me mad.

He’s ruining our neighborhood.

Somebody ought to do something about Him.

Somebody.”

Perhaps Jesus lives right next door to you or down the street.

He may even be in your own home.

The question I’d like us to ponder this morning is… “What are we going to do about Jesus?”

What are we going to do about the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the shivering, the sick, the imprisoned?

What are we going to do about Jesus?

Maybe we ought to start with, “What are we gonna do about these teachings of Jesus?”

Let’s consider Jesus’ parables.

A few chapters back in the Gospel of Matthew…

…in Matthew 13:24-43 Jesus tells the story of a field with some good crops and some weeds.

Since Jesus was speaking to people who understood at least the basics of farming, when Jesus got to the part about the weeds, the natural reaction of the crowd had to be, “Pull ‘em up! Plant good crops in their place.”

But Jesus has the landowner in the story leave the weeds in place.

Huh? Why?

Later on, in Matthew Chapter 20, Jesus tells an equally undermining story.

The owner hires some workers to work in the vineyard in the early morning.

Around nine o’clock some other guys show up and start working alongside them.

The same happens at noon and three- o’clock.

And they all get paid the same amount!

Scandalous!

These and other parables of Jesus inform us that the Kingdom of God looks a lot different from the kingdom of the world we live in!

Let’s face it.

In our culture, we have an understanding of a kingdom which is deeply imbedded in return on investment.

And this worldly culture-type of thinking sometimes enters our churches.

Church-growth consulting firms often provide charts and statistics showing where and how much investment will be required to “grow” a congregation.

But does this type of model, resonate with the model that Jesus Christ puts forth?

Is it what Jesus would do?

“Of course!” some of us might exclaim, as we move logically down the line in Matthew’s parables.

“What about the parable of the talents?

Didn’t Jesus talk about using our resources well?”

To that, the answer my friends is a big resounding “Yes!”

But what does that mean in God’s Kingdom?

Does it mean building fancy buildings and having the most state-of-the-art equipment in order to stay in the race with the world?

Or does it mean something more?

One thing we can see for sure as we look at Jesus’ parables is that God is already at work!

This is what the parable of the vineyard presupposes.

We don’t create the vineyard; we join as workers.

Whether you’re coming in at nine or noon, the harvest is huge!

And the Return on Investment may not work the same as the return on our 401 (k).

This is why Matthew 25 is so important as we try and answer the question: “What are we going to do about Jesus?”

Why did Matthew follow the parable of the talents with the parable of the sheep and goats, anyway?

Perhaps the answer is this: The Return on Investment for properly using the resources we have been given is determined by our ability to use those resources among “the least of these.”

Maybe the Return on Investment in the Kingdom of God has to do with how much love, empathy, money, time, and talents we use in investing in people—which is the same as investing in Jesus, is it not?

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