Who Do We Serve?
(First 40 seconds of Money is played) As I thought about this sermon this is the first song that popped into my head. It is Pink Floyd’s Money. If you didn’t catch the lyrics they said, “Money, get away, you get a job with good pay and you’re okay.” The sound effects in this sound maybe a little dated because our cash registers don’t make that sound any more, but most of us still knew what that sound was. I guess if we were to update this song for 2011, instead of 1973, we would hear a card swipe noise.
A lot has changed in the world since 1973 when Pink Floyd’s Money came out. Right now America is in a battle with money. We are having major economic struggles. There are people on the right who are making demands and people on the left doing the same. They wall want reform but they cannot agree on how to do it. Some say the rich should pay more, some say the rich should pay less. Some say everyone should pay the same. But beyond our governmental money is our personal finances. It is reported that 75% of Americans have credit cards and the US Census states that on those cards is $886 billion in debt and it was expected to be up to $1.177 trillion by 2011. The average credit card debt is $5,100 on their cards. Our average worship attendance is 78 for this year, 1/3 of those are children, so around 50 adults are here each week. This means that we, as a congregation, probably have around a quarter of a million dollars in debt sitting in this sanctuary right now. I know some of you are out or were never in debt, so that means the 50 people number is probably down to 40 or 35. This begs the question, who are we serving?
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount he talks a little bit about money. In Matthew 6:24 he says, “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.” This is true and I am going to take today’s sermon to look at why it is true. We are serving one or the other and using one to serve the other. Many people are uncomfortable for ministers to talk about what the Bible teaches us about how to use our money because they think that is meddling, or getting involved in their personal business. I make no apologies today because I want you to grow closer to God. God requires that we give our whole being in service to him. That involves all aspects of our lives and person. This includes money.
Some people may say that this is not the right time to talk about money. With unemployment so high and people not doing well in their jobs, money is tight. We are ending our Stewardship Campaign and as we approach the last two months of the year we will be talking a lot about the $22,000 we are behind currently. As our nation’s politicians battle with one another about how to use our money, is this really the right time to discuss what God says to do with the little we feel we have? It is not the right time, it is the perfect time to talk.
It is at crisis moments that people are willing to make the biggest changes in their lives. It is faced with the decision to give up smoking or have the live saving surgery needed, that people choose to give up the habit finally. It is when you hit rock bottom with your alcoholism that you finally decide to get help. It is when the bills are piled to high and you have pulled the phone out of the wall so you don’t have to listen to those creditors anymore, when you may want to look at how you can dig yourself out of the hole you are in financially. Now is the perfect time because if we do not switch who we serve we will be left alone and high and dry.
[video] here is a good little video that helps bring this into perspective.
What does money give us? Our world tells us that money gives us happiness. Donald Trump once said, “Whoever says money can't buy happiness doesn't know where to shop.” We are bombarded with countless advertisements that tell us how to use our money to purchase things that will make us happy. It is the newest tablet that can solve all our lives’ issues. We that new car make truly make us feel better about ourselves? Does it really matter what TV we watch the game on? According to the commercials, YES!
Money gives us security. We feel secure in our lives when we have insurance to cover anything unexpected and a savings account that makes up for the unexpected things that the insurance doesn’t cover. This way we have control over anything that comes our way. Investment firms want us to make sure we have the right number before we retire and that needs to be close to a seven digit number. Our houses use to be the rock on which our financial situation stood. Yet three years ago things changed and now a lot of people owed more than their house was worth. As the market has risen and fallen and risen and fallen, people have seen their savings, rise and fall, rise slightly and then fall even more. We are stuck and that feeling of security that our money has given us is gone.
When you get into small talk with someone before about three sentences in we ask, “What do you do for a living?” It is a natural thing to ask because how we make money is how we identify who we are. I’m a computer programmer. I’m a nurse. I work with children as a day care provider. I’m a second shift fabric cutter. Yes these jobs, which we earn money doing, give us a sense of identity, purpose and hopefully fulfillment. It feels good to cash a paycheck. It feels great to get money for doing work. But does that truly leave to fulfillment?
W. Graham Scroggie, as pastor at the turn of the 20th century, once said, “There are two ways in which a Christian may view his money—‘How much of my money shall I use for God?’ or ‘How much of God's money shall I use for myself?’” This is a direct change in thinking when it comes to money. When we see our paycheck, our bank accounts, our investment profolios we think, our money. Yet if we track that money back far enough, to the reason we got it in the first place, we always end up at God. We get a paycheck because we are good at our job. We are good at our job because it fits our talents and abilities. Those talents and abilities were given to us by God. What if you don’t like your job. We get a paycheck for doing work. We are able to do work because we have two hands, lungs, feet, a heartbeat and a brain. All those come from God. We really don’t need six degrees of separation to find out that everything we truly have comes from God. Yet that is a different way of thinking about things.
It is different to us but it was engrained into the thinking of the people in the Bible. If we read Exodus we get the story of the Hebrew people being moved out of slavery in Egypt and into freedom in the wilderness. It is out there that God starts to train his people to become the nation he wants them to be. In chapter 25 Moses is getting instructions from God on how to build the Tabernacle, the church. It starts off saying, “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give.’” They are doing so because they are overjoyed by the gracious God they worship, who has brought them out of slavery and into freedom. Then in chapters 35 and 36 people start to bring freewill offerings to the Tabernacle. People start piling their gifts and preparing to build their temple. Gift upon gift comes, until finally Moses has to speak up and say, “‘No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.’ And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work.”(36:6-7) The Israelites were so moved by God’s gracious gifts that they flooded the sanctuary with more than they could handle. They gave so much that it was almost too much. I truly pray that our cards on the altar, would reflect the same sentiment.
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he gives them an update on one of the first Christian capital campaigns. Paul had sent word out to the churches he helped start that there was a need in the believers of Jerusalem. Many of the believers were from the poor in that city and to make matters worse a famine had hit the area. Paul called in some favors and asked for some help. Paul tells them that he knows they are not seeing great times too but it was their duty, they faith, they dedication to follow God that calls them to serve God by helping others. It is here in chapter 8:7 that Paul writes, “But just as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us- see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” If we as Christians want to make it clear who we serve, we have to put our money to work through the act of generosity.
There are many spiritual disciplines out there to partake in. Prayer and meditation can center our souls and give us time to hear God in our daily lives. But carving out time to daily talk with God also demonstrates priorities. It says that out of everything I need to do today, talking with God, listening to God is something I have to do. My time with God is too important. There is also fasting. This is the discipline of not eating for a certain period of time, like fasting from lunch on every Wednesday during a holy season or for a whole day. The purpose of fasting is to once again put in perspective what is most important in our lives. God is most important, more important than our time and our food. When we feel hungry we are reminded also of all the things God has given us because at the end of that period of time we will have a full pantry to open up and feast on.
There are more spiritual disciplines you can participate in, like service and worship. But I highlighted these too because it takes a couple of things that we cherish in our lives and it reorders our thinking about them. Our time and our food are vitally important to us but when we put God in front of them we are reminded who we truly serve. Do we serve the clock or the calendar, or the creator of time? Do we worship the food in front of us or do we see it as a blessing that comes from the creator of the earth?
Giving or being generous is also a spiritual discipline because it reminds us who we truly serve. Richard Foster is a Christian theologian from the Quaker tradition and he once said, “If money determines what we do and what we don’t do, then money is our boss.” Giving is not an extension of what you possess. It isn’t the left over fruit that doesn’t serve any other purpose. We are not to give God our leftovers. Giving is an expression of who possess you. We give because God is working in us and through us to transform the world.
Rev. J.H. Jowett said that “The real measure of our wealth is how much we'd be worth if we lost all our money.” What would you be worth? Is your worth found in your check book or in your savings account? Or is it found in the ways you live out your faith? Are your daily actions a reflection and a response of the God who loves you? Are you putting God in front of all aspects of your life or just the ones you feel you don’t need to necessarily control? Money is money, but God is God. Jesus states that we cannot serve two masters. Paul tells us to excel in everything including our giving. What is God telling you to do?
And all God’s people said…Amen.