Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Matt. 6:19-24

Pastor Paul spoke on Matt. 6:19-24 this week, the "treasures" part of Christ's message, and here are some of the notes from the message, in addition to my own thoughts. The subject of money is always a touchy one from the pulpit, and I can't help but wonder, whenever I hear the topic addressed in a sermon, if the teacher has to deliberately hold back so as not to offend anyone (or, more specifically, offend any wealthy folks in the audience.) I've personally struggled with this topic, so I'm always glad to hear new teachings on the topic, and for the most part, I agree with most of what Pastor spoke about, with some exceptions.

The passages covered were:

Matt: 6:19-24 - Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

The gist of the message is that Jesus encourages us to lay up treasures in heaven, and that we need to be careful how we invest our treasure, especially in light of the fact that we live in a culture growing increasingly antagonistic towards God. The message addressed the Pharisees, who focused on earthly rewards. They loved money, selling in the temple, taking widow's houses, etc, and their religion was similar to the "prosperity gospel" of today.

Pastor Paul mentioned that wealth, in and of itself is not a bad thing, but it's how you use it. Here's where my struggle was. I'm not sure that I agree that wealth isn't a bad thing. I think it's one of those mixed blessings: having a lot of money and things can be nice, but ultimately becomes something of a burden (e.g. storing your "stuff", protecting your money, etc) and a contention I've had for a long time is, is it reasonable for a Christian to live in a mongo-huge house driving a top-of-the-line sports car, or does this reflect a negative testimony to the non-believer who sees the Christian living a less-than-humble lifestyle? So on the other side of this, then, would this mean that Christians should dress in rags? I'm reminded of a message from "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas A'Kempis, where I think he makes comments to that regard.... I need to write a commentary on "Imitation of Christ" one of these days. It's such a remarkable book.)

Anyhow, the gist of the message was that the earth makes a poor storehouse for treasure (what with the moth, rusts, thieves and all... :) that that our true treasures should be vested in heaven. But I couldn't help but think that the message seemed a little more angled towards a message of, "wealth is a reality, and there's nothing wrong with having wealth, but be careful how you use it." And that's sort of true, but I personally only see the corrupting influences of excessive wealth, and the display of wealth (houses, cars, clothes, things) outwardly reflects the heart.

Richard Foster is another writer who comes to mind. Ages ago I read "Celebration of Discipline", and while the book isn't perfect, I can appreciate reading his sections on humility, or more specifically, "simplicity". While sort of skirting the edges of legalism, Foster would making points about living more of a utilitarianistic life: e.g. getting a car that functions and works, not one that looks like a luxury-SUV-metallic dinosaur (ok, that last part was my own description, but you get the idea.) And I believe there is a truth there to the importance of humility and utilitarianism: living practically and showing caution in what we own and showcase to the world. I think humility and practical living, and I personally understand this to be a step of our sanctification: drawing further from the things of the world and closer to God.

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