Summary: We Americans have made it our goal to seek "The Good Life". We do that by earning and spending. But God would rather give us "The Better Life" that comes from earning and giving.
One of the main things I think that we and all other people in America are searching for is the good life. Am I right? I mean, we all want to have a good home, a good car or two, good vacations, good children, good friends, good food, and so on. Who wouldn’t want such a good life? Indeed, there might be a few odd balls who would prefer a bad life, but they are certainly a rarity. Not many make it their goal in life to have bad cars, bad homes, bad children, bad friends and bad food. It’s natural for us to aspire for something better than that. It’s a given that we will seek the good life. There’s nothing wrong with that.
That’s really not the question. The real question is: can the good life actually be had? We apparently think so. For we have devoted most of our energy to finding it. We spend our days earning money; we spend our nights and weekends finding or planning new ways to spend our money. But here’s the catch (and its a big catch): rarely, if ever, do we come to the point where we know for a fact that we have the good life. Surely you must have noticed that shortly after you think you have arrived, you suddenly realize that something more is needed. There’s always something more, isn’t there?
The downside is, most of us always find a way to spend all the money that we take in; we have filled up our schedules to the point where we find it difficult even to sit down and have dinner with our families. We are losing the art of conversation. We sometimes actually prefer to get an answering machine rather than a real person so that we can say what we want to say without having to "waste our time" listening to another human being blather on.
And we wonder why its become more difficult to form friendships and why neighbors don’t know each another any more and why children are rarely seen playing outside. What has happened? We are living the good life aren’t we? Isn’t this the way it’s supposed to be?
Indeed it is, for this time period in the United States of America, this is the way that we are supposed to live. This is what they tell us. The favorite term in referring to us is "consumer." And that’s what we have obediently been doing for entire lives. We’ve been consuming stuff. We’ve been consuming stuff in the hopes of finding that good life that always seems to elude us.
Just what have we gotten ourselves into? Whatever it is, The Lord calls us to come out of it. Instead of always following the weary cycle of earning and spending, he calls us to back up a little bit; rethink what we are doing and try different approach. Instead of earning and spending, he suggests earning and giving. He said in today’s Gospel lesson "Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s" (Mark 12:17). Notice that this is the possessive form: it implies ownership. You, of course, already know that Caesar, that is, the government, owns things that are now in your possession. What you probably didn’t know is that God owns things in your possession too.
So God owns something that you now have in your possession? Oh yeah. Remember Psalm 24, we spoke it responsively today. What does it say? "The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it." Once again we find the possessive form. Everything is the Lords. And everything means Everything doesn’t it? So everything you own or even aspire to own is really the Lord’s. Do you believe that? I’m confident that you do. It’s God’s Word after all. And you wouldn’t be in this church if you didn’t believe that God’s Word is the truth.
But maybe there’s a part of you that says, "Now wait a second, I earned all that I have." You’re just a little too close to it. Back up and see the big picture. Who made it possible for you to earn what you have? Who gave you your mind, and your hands and your talents and your very life? Who saw to it that you would be born under a good government that protects you and allows you to do your work in peace? The answer is God on all counts. This is what the Bible says, and this is what we believe.
So if everything that we have is God’s in the first place, I think each of us should take a good hard look at ourselves and ask: "how am I spending God’s money?" Perhaps also a closely related question, "how am I spending God’s time?" I think that if we answer these questions correctly, it will go a long way toward helping us to live not just the good life that we so fervently seek but never attain, but the BETTER life which God would have us live.