by Elaine Maust
Ps. 49:1-20, Eccl. 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23, Luke 12:13-21, Col. 3:1-11
August 1, 2010
Here’s a popsicle parable. Moriah loved popsicles. That cool sweet ice on her tongue in August. The purple ring they made around her mouth. She loved popsicles so much she could never get enough popsicles.
One day when she was sure nobody was looking she pushed a chair up to the refrigerator, opened the freezer door and took a grape Popsicle. She pulled down the paper and popped it into her mouth. Ahhh! Then she took an orange one to hold in her hand. But then, because they were so good and it was so hot, she put a blue one in each pocket to save for later.
She went out on the porch and ate the first one. Luscious grape dripped off her chin. It was so good. Then she ate the other one. Orange juice off her elbow. And even though it was hot, hot, hot that afternoon, the Popsicle makes her feel cool all over.
Then Moriah reached into her pocket to get another Popsicle. One of those blue ones she saved for later. But it was gone! So was the popsicle in the other pocket! Instead of a treat, Moriah had a mess. Nothing but sticky sticks and damp paper and a blue trickle down each leg. That’s when Moriah learned something about popsicles. You can’t take them with you.
You can’t take it with you
Ps. 49 is the “you can’t take it with you” Psalm. But it’s not talking about popsicles. Look at verses 16-17. Our Bible readings for today (you can find the list on the back of your bulletin) remind us that money and things are like popsicles. You can’t take them with you. And that those who try will be disappointed.
The bumper sticker read, “The one who dies with the most toys wins”. We smile and keep driving… But wait, that isn’t true, is it? We get our instructions from the Bible. Maybe our bumper sticker could say, “You can’t take it with you.”
Ecclesiastes is a book that describes the emptiness of a life based on personal ambition and not on God. “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.” (Eccl. 1:2b) It means, “Emptiness, emptiness. All is emptiness.”
But reckless accumulation is not only useless. Greed is dangerous. Maybe our pay checks and allowances should come with a warning something like the kind found on a pack of cigarettes, “danger, this could be harmful to your spiritual health.” Good thing our currency reminds us every time we touch it, “In God we trust”. Our trust is not in this $20.00 bill, even though we use it, and the Lord knows we need it. Our trust is really in God, who is taking care of us and who is ultimately most important.
Jesus said it like this, (Luke 12:15) “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.” Be careful. Money isn’t poisonous, but greed is. Be careful!
But that’s hard to remember on any random day of the week filled with advertisements and insistent voices that we need more money so that we can buy more stuff. That we won’t be happy unless we have a new outfit or a bigger house or a finer car or a better game system…
But hold on a minute… Maybe you are thinking, “This is definitely not my deal! I’m not trying to live the “lives of the rich and famous”. I’m just trying to pay my power bill.” God bless you! Or maybe you are one of God’s people in this church who just doesn’t struggle with the temptation to always need just a little more in order to feel safe, like I do. Good for you. But, can we agree that for many people of many ages in many different tax brackets this seems to be a common struggle?
God is #1
For all of us believers, money is not – can not be – most important, God is #1.
A few weeks ago in Bible School we learned about the 10 commandments, the laws God gave Moses up on the mountain. Rules for living, given not because God is mean, but because God wants us to be happy.
Remember #1? “Thou shalt have no other God’s before me.” Will Campbell calls this “first commandment absurdity.” As wild as it sounds, a God we can not see is more important to us than the stuff we can see, the new phone, the Xbox 360, the gadget. God is first.
Colossians 3:5, says we must kill the greed inside our hearts, “which is idolatry” which means that it is as serious as if we worshipped an idol.
God is loving, kind, generous and capable. We do not need to scrap and fight and horde. God will take care of us. We do not need to be afraid.
Jesus isn’t afraid to talk about the dangers of accumulation. (Of course, Jesus was very brave!) In fact money seems to be Jesus’ favorite subject. He talked about it more than any other single topic.
One of Jesus’ stories on the theme is another of our Bible readings for today. Luke 12:13-21 is the parable of the rich man. (tell the story) Luke 12:21, “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
So how do we resist the forces of the culture and Satan? How do we avoid the addiction of wanting more and more? It is not easily done alone! This kind of radical Jesus following requires a team. Thank God we have the examples and encouragement of Jubilee to live this out.
You know, at Jubilee we have come to be pretty honest with each other. People notice. We admit our addictions to drugs, cigarettes, alcohol. And when we’re feeling really brave, to food. But our addiction to stuff, our natural tendency to turn our eyes off of God and onto things money can buy… that’s a little harder to talk about, isn’t it? Can we be honest about this addiction too?
Here’s some really good news! We are not just one person or one family swimming against the cultural stream. We are part of a team wading through together, arms linked so that no one will be lost. A team that chooses to live first for God and second for a living. And that, my friends, is revolutionary!
It was revolutionary for the very first Christians whose experiences are recorded in the book of Acts. (see Acts 2:42-47 & 4:32-35) Together they created a new way of generous living. They did this, together.
Mennonites are known for their choices to follow God living simple lives. For our cousins, the Amish, this means black clothes and a horse and buggy. How will we Mennonites, in 2010 in Meridian, MS accept God’s invitation to a simple life?
Every time they come to help us here at Jubilee and at Pine Lake, Dick and Eileen Radstake inspire us. They retired early. They live in a humble home in Canada and watch their pennies all year. Why? Because they are stingy? No! It is just the opposite, so they can be generous with us and others they serve. They come to Mississippi to work. They are very happy. Have you noticed that? They are “rich toward God”. Their example encourages us all!
Power of Enough
And we also make choices to not grab for everything that is available to us. We choose not to spend money we do not have for things that initially we think we can not live with out. We learn that if we do not have shoes like everyone else in our class, (or a new TV) we will live. Nothing terrible will happen. We will not actually die. Settling for less than we might achieve is not a sign of weakness but a path of grace. We do not have to have everything we want.
I Timothy 6:8, “but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.”
Whatever our income level, we can take lessons in contentment. To discover the power of enough. To look at our possessions with gratitude. To say, “it is okay, because God is #1 for me.”
Regina Martinez inspires us with her joy and contentment. (Regina’s testimony)
Philippians 4:11, “…I have learned to be content with whatever I have”.
Let’s face it. A life lived in the pursuit of God instead of the pursuit of happiness is not easy. And, we will make mistakes. But a life that is “rich toward God”, as Jesus put it, holds long term dividends. If we insist on stuffing our pockets with more we will always disappointed. Like any addiction, it ends in vanity or emptiness. About as satisfying as a melted popsicle. Our pockets may be full but it will leave us empty on the inside.
God invites us to a new way in which by the power of the Spirit we are liberated from greed. As we make God first, we will have everything that we need, the relief of being out of the competition and peace along the way to go with it.
A plaque on the wall during Duane’s grandparents’ time read: “Only one life, will soon be past. Only what’s done for God, will last.”