Summary: A sermon about not allowing money and stuff control you.
Matthew 6:19-21, 24-34
“The Heart of the Matter”
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanoga, TN www.eastridgeumc.com
In his book How Much Is Enough? Hungering For God In An Affluent Culture author and Founder of Bread for the World: Arthur Simon writes about Bryce and Ellen, “a couple in their mid-thirties.
They have two sons and a daughter, and on Sundays the family attends church more often than not.
Bryce manages about twenty people in a medium-sized accounting firm.
He receives a good salary and is on a path that he believes may eventually move him into a circle of company executives, so he goes to work early, often stays late, and usually works some on weekends.
Ellen has a part-time job with a public relations firm, which allows her to manage the kids and take care of the house.
None of this is easy, but it has enabled them to buy a house in an upscale neighborhood and a lot of recreational hardware, including a raft of toys, a couple of TVs for the children’s rooms, and a small yacht.
Bryce and Ellen already talk about one day taking early retirement and moving to a place where they can enjoy year-round outdoor sports.
Though deeply in debt, they are able to make timely payments and take pride in contributing ‘more than most’ to church in dollar amount, which at 2.5 percent of their income is about average for church members.”
Simon continues, “They would be astonished—probably offended—to have anyone suggest that they are beholden to [money].
Yet their plans and dreams, and the dreams they are nourishing in their children, are overwhelmingly directed that way.”
Jesus was no killjoy.
“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full,” He tells us in John chapter 10.
Jesus came to invite us into the Father’s Kingdom.
That is abundant life!
Compared to the life Jesus offers, money in any amount is poverty!!!
You know, has it ever struck you what a basically happy person Jesus was?
We know that the darkness and sadness of all the world descended on Him as He went to the Cross.
We know He wept at the tomb of Lazarus, and that He was sad when people refused to trust in God.
But these are exceptions, the dark patches painted on to the bright background.
As we read a passage like this, we should see that it flows straight out of Jesus’ own experience!
Jesus had watched the birds flying around, high up on the currents of air in the Galilean hills, simply enjoying being alive.
He knew that they never seemed to do the sort of work humans do, and yet they mostly stay alive and well.
He had watched a thousand different kinds of flowers growing—the word “lily” here includes several different plants—and Jesus had held His breath at their fragile beauty.
But one sweep of a sickle or a passing donkey and this wonderful artwork is gone.
Where did this beauty come from?
It didn’t spend hours in front of a mirror putting on make-up.
It didn’t go shopping at the mall to buy expensive clothes.
It was just itself: glorious, God-given, beautiful!
Jesus had a strong, lively sense of the goodness of His Father, the Creator of the world.
He was miles away from those teachers who insisted that the present world was a place of shadows, doom and gloom.
Jesus’ teaching grew out of His own experience.
When Jesus told His followers not to worry about tomorrow, we must assume He led them by example.
Jesus seems to have had the skill of living in the present, celebrating the goodness of God here and now.
And if that’s not a recipe for happiness, I don’t know what is!
And Jesus wanted His followers to be happy as well.
When Jesus urges us to make God our priority, He’s not talking about a god who is distant from the world, who doesn’t care about beauty and life and food and clothes.
He’s talking about the Creator God, Who has filled the world with wonderful and mysterious things, full of beauty and excitement, and Who wants His human creatures to trust Him and love Him and receive their own beauty, energy and excitement from God!!!
But the unknowns of tomorrow tend to cause distress in our souls.
We often obsess over the future.
Yet, when our tomorrows become todays, we come to realize that the time we spent worrying about them was a big, miserable waste of time.
Our Gospel Lesson reminds us that God provides not only for our todays but for our tomorrows as well!
As we come to realize this we are freed to choose a life of joyful discipleship!
Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, says that God used to be “a swinging speck in the distance; now [God] is close enough I can hear [God] singing.