Pastor Walther / October 18, 2015 / Pentecost 21
Hebrews 13:1-6 / The Secret to Money
I need a little advice. Let’s just say I have this “significant other.” I think about this significant other all the time. I have known them for a while now. I like spending time with them under the roof of a house and even, yes, in public. I’ll be honest that sometimes I lose sleep because I think about them often. In fact, I even check my phone to see any updates from them. Obviously, we have our differences but I think it’s the real deal. Would you consider that love? I guess so! Are you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside for me?
Ok, but here’s the part where I feel like I need some advice. I don’t think my significant other loves me back. They usually make me feel happy, but then I get worried because I often see them with other people. I feel like I don’t get enough face time, especially if I’m in a relationship with them. I guess I never realized it, but I spend a lot of time devoted to my significant other, even if they aren’t right there with me. I go out of my way to do things for them. In fact, a lot of nights I lose sleep not because I’m thinking of them, but I’m more concerned that I’ll never see them again. Some days, they give me so much attention. Other days, I see nothing. When they are with me, I feel good about myself and even people notice how good we look together. But, do you think they love me? Hmmm. Maybe not. Would you suggest that I continue this relationship? Even though I really really like them?
Well, usually when I hear of a bad relationship like that with a friend who is maybe dating, I would probably suggest moving on, right? That just seems like an unhealthy and one sided relationship. I guess the words “I love you” never came out of my mouth, but I know they were there. I maybe never even thought to say the words. But, those words were always implied in everything I did and thought.
Well, I don’t have to keep calling her my “significant other,” her name is Monica Ney. I call her Mo for short. Mo Ney. I’ll let that sit there for a while————Yes, my significant other is money. I’ll be the first to admit that if someone were to ask me, do I love money? I would probably laugh about it. Of course, I don’t love money! I mean, I like the idea of being financially stable. But when I put it into a real world scenario and personify it, this character proves to me that I care about it a lot, I think about it a lot, I guess I even love it. And if you are really questioning if you love it or not, I would ask you to take out your checkbook, or bring up your bank statement or your credit card bill. Do your decisions in life revolve around your bills, and your hobbies, and your clothes, or do they revolve around your beliefs? I don’t even need to analyze how much I think about money, because I have the proof right on my credit card statements.
God encourages us with words that go against what we are always persuaded to do. God informs us on where to direct our love. We are to direct our love to the people around us first. These encouragements go against what our normal inclinations are. We are selfish by nature. Just look at these examples that the writer to the Hebrews mentions. He reminds us to keep loving each other as brothers and sisters, even showing hospitality to them. This love word comes from that same word that we know as the name of a city, “Philadelphia” the city of brotherly love. He is speaking about our Christian brothers and sisters. But if someone asks for help, isn’t our natural inclination to keep all our money and think, “I’m just going to get used.” Obviously, we need to be smart about our finances, but it often comes down to the statement, “I don’t need to help them out. Someone else will step up.” And what happens? No one steps up to help them out.
A lot of these statements were directed towards the Christians not just as an admonition but also as an encouragement. A good number of the readers had suffered severely by having their homes robbed and wrecked during the persecutions of the year 64 and were in a bad state financially. Persecutions and hatred of Christians was escalating in the Roman empire. Christians who were found out would have their property confiscated, would be refused employment or even worse. Where could they go, where could they live when this happened to them? Well, they could go to their brothers and sisters in the faith and live with and be taken care of by them. It was a big risk, though, to care of a Christian. You were putting yourself and your own family at risk of losing everything if the authorities found you out. That’s why there is this encouragement. Some of these Christians were friends, families, spouses. God reminds us that there are people that need our attention a lot more than ourselves.
So many of our problems in this life are usually a result of putting ourselves and our desires first, therefore these encouragements. Do you think our Christian brothers and sisters would be as much in need if we put them first? Do you think our Christian brothers and sisters in prison, (yes we have christian brothers and sisters in prison), do you think they would feel so alone, or go back to an old life style if we put them first and reminded them of God’s love? Do you think our relationships inside and outside of marriage would so easily dishonor God and his intent on marriage if we put God first and put the other person first? You see how this idea of wealth influences us more than we think. We didn’t think that loving money was necessarily part of our vocabulary. But it isn’t necessarily loving money, it’s really putting ourselves first, which is going against the first commandment.
That’s why God encourages us to remain content. No doubt, it’s hard to be content. I mean, did you see that new pair of shoes on sale?! I’ll be content just as soon as get into this next pay grade. Sometimes we often equate wealth with contentment. We think that if you have wealth, then you can be content. On the opposite side of the coin, what about those who have almost no money but spend all they can on a huge television set, or a great car, or a huge house because their idea of wealth is how you look to the people around you, and yet they can’t afford to feed themselves, let alone their family? Or even the extreme savings people who are so worried about shopping the sales that it distracts the person from anything else in their life? Do see how difficult it is to keep the love of money out of our lives and simply be content?
Here’s our problem: when we try to be content, when we try to obey what God is saying and to not love money, our problem is that we are still trying to rely on ourselves! It’s a vicious cycle. That’s why we are always destined to fail.
What is the secret of contentment? The author points it out. It is to remember our God’s promise, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” He is our eternal resource, our eternal treasure. God gave us everything because Jesus Christ won it for us. What more could we ever want? And so, when we continue to dive into God’s Word, we are reminded of God’s fatherly presence and of his never failing promises. We often think that God has let go, has abandoned us. But, he never does. God’s promise is better than any bond or note on any bank, financial institution, or most stable government, for all these will sooner or later collapse; God never does so. That is the key to contentment. In a world that revolves around the possessions you have and the position you hold, it is not easy to practice contentment. But we have what is far better than all earthly wealth. We live by the promises of God. “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” I can’t help but repeat those words.
I think it’s pretty awesome when one teacher gets to teach several generations of a family. They get to teach the children of children and their children. Sure, styles and methods may change, but they get to teach each generation the same basic truths in growing up as a Christian and as a citizen in society. Isn’t it awesome to know that the same words, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” were spoken to big names in the bible, like Jacob and Joshua. We stand shoulder to shoulder with Jacob and Joshua as God looks at us and says, “You know all that commotion out there in the world, all the things that might scare you, all the things that make you lose sleep, don’t worry about those things. I’m in control. I’m right here beside you.”
I am truly blown away that God still loves us, that he continues to stand beside us after everything that we have done. But he says “Never,” because God isn’t like us! I’m glad to know that. And, “So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” This was one of Martin Luther’s favorite Psalms, if not even THE favorite. These words gave him so much comfort as he was in hiding from those who were threatening his life. That’s where we get comfort, in God’s word. Comfort does not come to us without the Word. Just look at how bold and courageous the psalmist had become as a result of the comfort. My boast, is the Lord. Let the things of this world fight with God. In the meantime I will continue to sing, what can they do to me? As long as the Lord remains with us, We have nothing to lose! We will never find contentment in possessing things. Our contentment will only ever be found in God, and in the good news that He has promised never to leave us. We are His.
When we trust in the mercy of God, when we are comforted by the only thing that can give us comfort, God’s Word, we are the richest people. Amen.