Text: Luke 12:15, 31, 34
Series: “The Church Your New Pastor Deserves”
Ask most people what they think about us at Mountain Brook Baptist Church, and they will likely answer that we’re a church that’s flush with money. Now, that’s not because of anything that we’ve done to give others that impression; it’s instead based entirely on where our church is located. Most people hear the word “Mountain Brook” and they automatically assume that anything that comes after that never has to worry about money, whether it be a business or a school or a household or a church. And truth be told, our church is doing well financially, better than any church I’ve ever been privileged to serve.
And I make no apologies for that fact. On the contrary, because our church is located in such an affluent community, I’d be concerned if our church wasn’t in good financial shape. I’d see it as an indictment on our commitment if a congregation made up of people who live in the most prosperous zip codes in the state of Alabama were scrambling for the resources to live out the mission to which God has called them. But the fact that we don’t is Exhibit A as to how our hearts are in the right place and how our hands are open to meeting needs in Jesus’ name.
In that respect, I think we show great faithfulness to this teaching before us this morning from Luke’s Gospel. Here, Jesus is instructing those who have gathered around him as to the motivations they must have to participate in the good future God was sending him to bring about. As was the case in the text we looked at last week, so in the text that is before us this morning there are three aspects to Jesus’ teaching, all of which revolve around keeping money in its rightful lane, and ones that we would do well to keep front and center in our minds and in our hearts.
The first has to do with not falling prey to the temptation to locate our worth and our security in that which can be added up. “Watch out!” he tells those that have gathered around him. “Be on your guard, your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions.” What strikes me about this passage is how Jesus draws upon the prison culture of his day, a culture that people then as now would have been anxious to have steered clear of. The short version of what Jesus is telling his audience is that it’s best that we imprison our greedy impulses before they imprison us. For once we go down the road of measuring our worth and our security by the abundance of our possessions, there is no end. We will never come to a place where we will think we have enough. So, the first teaching: “Master your money before your money masters you.”
And then there is the second teaching, which tells us how we might keep our greed in check. We do so, says Jesus, by making God’s purposes the defining priority of our life. “Seek his Kingdom,” Jesus tells his disciples, speaking of God’s rule in this world. “And when you do, you will receive all that you need.” In other words, when we focus on God, we come to see how God is more than able to secure our tomorrows, and we are therefore relieved of any anxiety about having to secure it for ourselves, which in turn frees us to give of ourselves to doing what is necessary to advance God’s Kingdom purposes in the world. Thus, the second teaching: “Be motivated to bring to pass God’s Kingdom purposes in this world.”
Which then leads to the third teaching, one that joins the first two together and points us in the direction of a future that money could never buy. “For where your treasure is,” says Jesus, “there your heart will be also.” By treasure Jesus isn’t talking about a pirate’s chest of jewels and gold. No, to Jesus, treasure is anything we value above everything else so that we see everything and everyone through those treasure-laden lenses.
And yet in spite of what should be those crystal-clear lessons, it’s remarkable to me how many people miss what Jesus is saying because they want to make him into a prophet who went about in his day offering a blanket condemnation of wealth. That’s simply not true. Yes, Jesus saw wealth as a potential stumbling block. Yes, Jesus understood how people with resources could be easily tempted to pin their hopes on their affluence instead of God. Yes, Jesus recognized that being blessed with a lot in this life could so easily lead one to think that his eternal life would be secure. And so Jesus offered these types of teachings to correct people’s wrong assumptions and misplaced priorities so that those who had something to give might be able to give it for God and for good.
So, are you so inclined with what God has entrusted to you? Does your life reflect your most earnest efforts toward seeking God’s Kingdom and does your heart chase after the treasure that can never be taken away?
Here’s a good way to answer that question honestly. Look at your junk mail. I’m serious. Those people who fill your mailbox with what we call junk mail know more about you than you know about yourself. They know what you paid for those new shoes you bought this past summer and they know whether you paid for them with a credit card or cash. They know how much you owe on your house. They know what kind of golf balls you like to play. They know what illnesses you have and where you like to eat out the most. They know how much you give to charity and which charities you tend to support. They know all of these things because it’s their business to know. They target your spending habits with scientific precision, and because they do, they know precisely where your treasure is, even if you don’t (“The Junk Mail Deluge,” U.S. News and World Report, 12/8/97.) So, before you throw that junk mail away, pay attention to what the people sending it know about you, and if necessary, make any changes that you must to order your life in a way that better serves God’s Kingdom purposes. For when you do, so much of the cares and anxieties that would otherwise be robbing of you of your life’s joy are all suddenly and supernaturally taken away simply because of how you have yielded your life to God.
I love the story Mark Trotter, a Methodist minister in San Diego, California, used to tell of a minister friend of his who had a member of his church who was a mover and shaker in his community, a real influencer in so many ways. The man, however, had been something of a mystery to his pastor because of the way he ran between hot and cold in terms of his church involvement.
But one day, the pastor got a call from the man to come down to his office because he had something he needed to tell him. So, when he did so, the man started talking about his need to do more for God. In fact, he got up out of his chair, went to look out his office window, then turned to the pastor and said, “Pastor, I’ve kind of got it figured out.” “Oh,” the pastor said. “How so?” “Well,” the man answered, “the Big Guy (speaking of God) is going to ask us two questions when we get to the gate. I’m serious now; I really mean it. First, he’s going to ask, ‘What did you do with what I gave you?’ And then he is going to ask, ‘And who did you do it for?’”
Jesus might have phrased it differently, but essentially, he would say the same thing. Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions; therefore, we should give of our possessions to seek after God’s Kingdom and to prove where our treasure truly lies. Or, as we like to say it here at Mountain Brook Baptist Church, we should give of our possessions to show others how much we want to “Love God and Live with Grace and Generosity.”
So, let us do that and let us do it together. For then, we won’t just be a church that our new pastor deserves; we’ll be a church that Jesus does – a church that knows where its treasure lies and one that pursues it and pursues Jesus with all of their heart.