Summary: What do we value is sometimes our obsession
One day two righteous men who were lifelong friends came upon a sack of gold. The first man looked at that gold and declared that someone important must have lost it and it must be returned. He began to gather it up to find the person who had lost it. But the second man determined that it was finders keepers and wanted to keep it all for himself. The two men argued for quite a while when the second man reached out and killed the first man and took the gold. As the second man continued down the road, he came upon what looked to be a beggar begging for food to feed his family. The second man attempted to walk on by with the gold but the beggar jumped up and his friends came out of the bushes and began to chase the second man. The second man ran to the aid of another man but when that other man saw what he was carrying, he recognized it as belonging to the first man that was killed and promptly turned the second man over to those who were chasing him. You see, the first man had put that sack of gold on the road to test what was ultimately valuable to his friend after all.
What we perceive to value is, many times, that which is not ours to begin with. What we have, in this world, is only loaned to us and many of us would like to believe that we have some control over whether we can hold on to it, how we can use it, what we can do with it. Our own financial health is not even in our ultimate control. The stock market goes up and it goes down regardless of how we may want it to or not. Yes, the issue that Jesus is speaking about is not whether the rich man was evil for having wealth. After all, it’s generally believed that it was wealthy women who supported the disciples as they made their way around the country side spreading the Gospel. The issue that Jesus is speaking about is not whether it’s inherently evil that there are those who have more and there are those have less. It was Jesus that specifically said in Matthew 26, “The poor will always be with us”. The issue that Jesus is speaking about is not even about whether our current climate of get before you get got is inherently good or bad. No, the issue that Jesus is speaking about is what do you and I consider our God. In other words, brothers and sisters, what do we value and what is our obsession with that value? What do we believe our worth is to ourselves is most of the time out of step, out of line, out of tune with what others believe our value is worth to them and to society at large. Which reminds me of a short story …
Reaching the end of a job interview, the Human Resources Person asked a young engineer who was fresh out of MIT, "What starting salary were you thinking about?"
The Engineer said, "In the neighborhood of $125,000 a year, depending on the benefits package."
The interviewer said, "Well, what would you say to a package of 5 week’s vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental, company matching retirement fund to 50% of salary, and a company car leased every 2 years - say, a red Corvette?"
The Engineer sat up straight and said, "Wow! Are you kidding?"
The interviewer replied, "Yeah, but you started it."
Sometimes, what we value becomes our God. The focus of our whole of life. And many times it takes the word of God to bring us back to reality. Amen? In our Gospel this morning, Jesus confronts a man who fits that very definition. And it’s apparent to us sitting here, this morning, in this time that the man missed a lifechanging moment. We would say, why didn’t the guy just agree and follow Jesus? I mean I would’ve. You would’ve too wouldn’t you? But, I must confess that I might be a lot like that guy then cause I sure like my shiny stuff now. No, the guy in this Gospel has substituted his wealth for his God because he valued it more than what he would have had to do to have a pathway to heaven. He put his own self and what he did and what he had up on that shelf out of reach.
You see, it’s the big stuff here in this Gospel, but, in reality, it’s the everyday small stuff that we put on that mantle that determines what we value. Whether it’s what we do with our time or with our talents or with our treasure. What we decide to ultimately do with any one of these is what we put up there on that shelf and look at it and decide, sometimes without consciously knowing it, that it’s what we ultimately value.