“When Being Boss isn’t Enough”
I Timothy 6:6-19: Advice to Timothy – “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” (v. 10)
Luke 16:19-31: Lazarus and the Rich Man
September 26, 2010 Jason Harvey: Broad Street UMC: Statesville
I could have come up with a more joyous text, if I didn’t attempt to regularly preach from the Lectionary texts. That is the a beauty of being a United Methodist Preacher, one can choose one’s own text. But the discipline of Lectionary preaching encourages, no makes, no forces the preacher to preach text he or she would just quietly push under the rug and leave for someone else.
But today, we have two texts before us that really make one ponder if one is so inclined to ponder – pondering these days isn’t something in vogue. It seems that yelling and back and forth are in, but not pondering. Thinking and weighing the impact and the responsibilities of a situation that involves more that one or a few of our closest friends seems to be only a memory of the past.
But for some of those who find merit in pondering and questioning, these texts serve as a reminder of reasoning of their normal action or perhaps a strong wake-up call offered of responsibility and needed action. Hearing once again the often quoted, often ignored line, “The Love of Money is a root of all kinds of evil” challenges us to evaluate our lives – our motivations – our plans – our driving forces in our lives.
You see we have been talking about money a lot around here lately. We are recovery from the summer slumps of offerings. I know there are vacations to pay off, new school clothes to be payed for, fees due here and there. I’d just soon not have to mention money. We’ve talked enough about the ill-fated economy as we considered our Capital Campaign decision.
We know times are challenging. But the small comfort I take in our constant momentary conversation is two fold. The first is the fact that in all of the New Testament’s teachings by Jesus, money is talked about more than anything else. It was talked about more than ANY OTHER TOPIC in the Gospels – if one combines the rest of the topics, even then money would be the top runner still. Money and it’s responsibilities and place in the world were of great focus to Jesus and the early church. In the first of Acts, those who were Christian lived a communal life – one big happy bank account – “and none had want for anything.” I doubt that’ll come up much before November’s election by some who wear their faith on the shirtsleeves. But that shared bank account isn’t what seems to be presented as the only way to be Christian. There some give and take in this.
The real point, at least in my reflection and understanding is really based in I Timothy’s words today – “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Money in itself, like many things, guns that can give life through hunting or protecting, in difficult times, or drugs, that can ease pain or prevent painful illnesses. But when those same items are used in the worst situations, then murders or overdoses can be the result.
When used poorly, all sorts of pain and terrible situations develop. But when our resources are used appropriately, they can able all sorts of good – new shoes or glasses, medical treatments and food, good homes and safe cars, brand spanking new Bible’s for third graders and new organs for congregations, new places to house ministry and experiences where people can learn of God’s love for them.
Do me a favor – penny, coin, key, a baseball or a pocket sized football or the end of your thumb. Hold the coin at arms length between you and the cross up front. Can you still see the cross? Now bring the object closer to your eye. When is it that you can only see the coin and not the cross? When does the object block out the cross all together? At what point does the object become the focus instead of the cross of Christ and his calling on your life?
It seems that Jesus knew where the real rub would be. Not in international relations, or human relationships – not in resistance to change or internal conflicts within the body of Christ – or insert whatever hot button issue is being used to distract us from bigger problems that surround us by talking heads. The topic that Jesus is concerned about hits closer to home – within reach of each of us. It’s about the money. Jesus, even in the midst of all the other things he feels like he needs to teach and share with the disciples and the people following him around, he teaches about money. Not teaching that the money in itself is a bad thing – no.
But if we allow money – and it only – to direct, dictate, or determine how we live our lives and respond to God’s calling in our lives, then, my friends, we are in a world of hurt – and heaven help us, cause there will be hell to pay.
On the other hand of focusing heavily on money and it’s drawing of us: if we allow money to not to be so close to us or hold it so dear to our hearts and so tightly in our fists, it can be an aid to abounding goodness, not just for one or two, but for two, or three, or four, or five hundred, six or seven thousands, 8 or 9 million or 10s of billions of God’s created people can have enough.
I Timothy, the end of todays lection: “As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches (I’ll add stocks and speculation funds), but [set their hopes] rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” But you say see, it is about me having a good time you might argue. But I say to you, the writer isn’t finished with the thought. He says, “They, [those rich folk,] they are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.” That’s what it says. Bout the same thing as Spiderman’s – “To those whom much is given, much is expected” line.
Like that rich man – not helping Lazarus – the man at his gate. Totally ignoring him. Not out of fear or threats to himself or others or prior experience of not making progress, but simply not helping. The rich man has always been the one in charge, the big boss – telling folks what to do. Then he dies, and heads to Hades, somehow he can see into Heaven and recognizes Abraham and Lazarus. And claiming Abraham, as his father, he asked that Lazarus, the man laying outside his gate whose name he knew as well, to go and deliver a message to his brothers. Well, you know that rich man’s riches done run out. He’s had his goodness, and his power, and his control – but no longer. Abraham reminds him, still claiming him by addressing him as child, that his brothers have the prophets too and they have to decide for themselves. Abraham says, even if they were to see a dead man return, they’re ways would not be changed.
Well, his brothers’ decisions are the same for us. How will we use what we have been entrusted? Cause there is a time when death equals all of humanity – at some point. We don’t know when. I love a line from one of the funeral prayers, “Let us live as those prepared to die and let us die as those who go forth to live.” The decisions we make, the things we consider important now, in this life, will make a difference in the way we are viewed in death. Not haughty, as Timothy’s word’s remind us, pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.; take hold of eternal life. Deep soul challenging commands. and share the rewarding gifts of sharing the abundance of God’s gifts.
All glory, honor and power be to the one who was, is and is to come