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The theme for our 3 week STEWARDSHIP EMPHASIS comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, “Where your treasure is……” The second half of that verse says, “there your heart will be also.” Jesus says that what we treasure shows. In the year 258 the prefect of Rome executed the Pope for refusing to turn over the church’s treasury. With the Pope dead, the Prefect summoned the next in line, a deacon named Lawrence, and demanded the Church’s treasure again. Because of the turbulence caused by the Pope’s death, Lawrence got the prefect to grant him 3 days to get things in order. But in those 3 days Lawrence gave nearly all of the meager resources of the Church to the poor. At the appointed hour Lawrence presented the poor of Rome as, “The true treasury of the Church.”
I wish the Church always remembered that. Very often we behave so much like the world, getting rather than giving, worrying more than trusting. Very often you can’t distinguish a Christian politician from a non-Christian because they all hurl mud as if it were OK. I wish that we as God’s Church always remembered what to treasure and that we always lived by treasuring the things that lead people to say, “they are rich toward God.” But alas we do not.
The saints teach us that the Gospel is life changing. Lawrence stood before the Rome’s 2nd in Command and declared the little ones, the sick and useless ones to be the treasure of God’s Church. Jesus taught him that. The saints teach us to tell, even Roman Emperors, that there is only One Name under heaven that brings eternal life – to declare that One Holy Name by word and deed is our treasure. The saints teach us to “seek first the kingdom, and its righteousness” and trust all the rest to God’s hands. They teach us to treasure up in heaven an eternal account rather than hoarding on earth a portfolio that moth and rust will ruin and which will never lead to heaven.
The voices of the saints are so clear. But sadly we often live according to worldly saints, earth bound heroes, as if they offered us ways to follow. Listening to them we end up not praying about financial matters, but trading and diversifying, and accumulating. God never told us to do that. Those earth bound heroes tell us that its our money, and we ought to be able to keep as much of it as we want. Again, God didn’t tell us that. Still other earthy heroes tell us that we deserve all we can lay our hands on, teaching us how to cut corners to keep more. We bristle when the Church warns us about such things but listen to them when they tell us not to get caught.
Among the earth bound heroes Jesus used to teach was one He called the rich fool (Luke 12). This parable came in response to a request to settle a family quarrel about inheritance: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me (vs 13).” In his parable of the Prodigal Son a few chapters later, Luke has the younger brother go directly to his father with that same request. “Give me my share now.” It was almost like telling his father to hurry up and die!
Jesus goes on to warn, as He so often does, about the dangers of greed – which is one of the things that makes wealth so dangerous. “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions (vs 15).” But of course that brother and all our earth bound heroes, think that is the point of life – to get as much as you can. So Jesus tells us a story of one such earth bound hero – a rich man’s rich man. He is what society becomes when everything is about the abundance of possessions. His selfishness knew no bounds, for when every cubic inch of his granary was stuffed with abundance, he ignored the law’s command to share, choosing to hoard more than every before. Finally, stuffed full like we often are after Thanksgiving dinner, he relaxes and “eats, drinks and made merry.” He chose a life that was all about him, and neither God nor God’s people enjoyed any part of the rich fool’s harvest.
And then he died.
We never learn if the quarreling brothers grasped Jesus’ point. You need only look at the way we devour information like the annual list of billionaires to know that our world does not. Can anyone make the point more exactly than Jesus does, “So it will be for all those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” And yet we avoid listen to the witness of heroes like Lawrence while chasing after the advice of each one who could show us how to build bigger granaries. What to treasure better taught by those earth bound heroes because we listen to them more.
Next week we will have opportunity to witness an extraordinarily poor widow bring her last 2 coins……..whose total value was less than even our almost worthless penny. She did that while rich folk were giving large gifts. She is at the opposite end of the stewardship spectrum from our rich fool. Her heart treasured treasures in heaven, and lived in trust like the widow who fed the prophet Elijah so long ago. God’s stewards give, not because they have so much, but because God has given them so much. Neither God nor His Church can bless hoarding and building bigger granaries.
The world tells you to give to worthy causes. Jesus tells you to give generously. The world teaches you to give what you can, what you think you can afford. Jesus tells you to give sacrificially. The world never tells you to give up any of your necessities. Jesus holds up a woman who gave even her food money. You can not learn stewardship from the world because the world does not know how to steward God’s treasures.
But at the side of Jesus, who chose to live without a place to lay His head, you can learn how to be rich toward God. And it all starts with daring to pray a simple prayer: “Lord Jesus, I (and our family) am about to make a new commitment to honor you. Help me examine my income and our assets and our needs in light of your promises. Teach me how to live with the “daily bread” you give, and teach me to be generous in all that I do next. Move in me as I ponder the right commitment. And then help me live in that commitment and honor you. For I live and I pray all things in Jesus Name. Amen.”
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