Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Services

Sunday Worship - 9:00 am

Sunday School - 10:30 am

 

Established May 2009, Little Rock, AR

Recent Sermons

The Perpetual Achievement Issue

June 17, 2018

THE PERPETUAL ACHIEVEMENT ISSUE

New Millennium Church (9 AM)

Lakeshore Drive Baptist Church (10:45 AM)

Little Rock, Arkansas

June 17, 2018

 

Matthew 6:19-34


19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust* consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust* consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 ‘The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; 23but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 ‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.*

25 ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,* or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?* 28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God* and his* righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

34 ‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

 

When I studied general psychology during college, I learned about a theory of human behavior developed by Abraham Maslow known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  According to Dr. Maslow, human behavior is driven by the desire to fulfill needs.  A popular way to understand Maslow’s theory is to view human behavior as a pyramid.  

 

  • At the bottom of the pyramid, people need to satisfy basic physical requirements for survival, such as food, water, warmth, sleep, sex, and rest.  
  • Next, we need safety.  
  • The third level is our need for affiliation with others, (meaning a sense that we are loved and that we are connected to others in meaningful relationships).  
  • When our needs for survival, safety, and affiliation (love and belonging) are adequately met, we need esteem, (meaning both personal dignity and worth and a reputation that others view us with respect and consider us worthy).  
  • At the top level of the pyramid, humans need self-actualization, (meaning the sense that we are becoming the most we can be). 

 

My sermon last Sunday – Re-Thinking the Meaning of Enough – focused on our tendency to believe that we are constantly scraping the bottom of our proverbial jars of meal and jugs of oil (borrowing from the conversation between the prophet Elijah and an unnamed widow in Zarephath recorded at1 Kings 17:13-15).  Our obsession with “the bottom line”   causes us to think and behave as if we do not have “enough” to survive.  

 

The lesson we pondered from 1 Kings 17:1-16 is that God provides abundantly.  God’s “enough” is always more than we think, even when it appears we are down to the bottom of our jars of meal and jugs of oil.  Even then, God provides “enough” each day for us to share with others who are needy, including needy people who are unexpected.  When we trust God to provide abundantly – a theology of abundance rather than scarcity – we will “re-think” the meaning of “enough” and live as people hospitality and generosity, rather than as people who are hateful (indifferent and uncompassionate towards other needy people).  

 

Today, we shift to a passage from the middle of the Sermon on the Mount delivered by Jesus.  The passage we read together begins with a warning (at Matthew 6:19) against obsessive concern about basic needs to the point that we become hoarders of material possessions, described by Jesus as treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal.  Instead, Jesus directed his followers to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal” (v. 20).  Then Jesus delivered a profound announcement when he said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

 

Jesus warned against focusing our lives on acquiring, amassing, and trying to safeguard things that are subject to destruction and decay (moth and rust) and theft (thieves break in and steal).  In this passage and the following verses, Jesus warned about the danger of mistaking valuables for values and confusing wealth with worth.  When Jesus said “[t]he eye is the lamp of the body” in verse 22, he warned that focusing our lives on material acquisitions distorts our judgment about what matters most and works to eventually make us become people devoted to wealth rather than to God.  

 

According to Jesus, trying to devote ourselves to God and to acquiring and holding wealth is like trying to serve two superiors.  We can devote ourselves to achieving oneness – meaning communion with God, others, and the creation – or we can devote ourselves to achieving wealth through lust and greed for more material possessions that we hoard.  We can serve one or the other, but not both.

 

According to Jesus, life is much more than the stuff people expend so much energy and time to acquire, achieve, and hoard.  

 

According to Jesus, the same love that motivates God to provide for birds and wildflowers motivates God to provide for people.  

 

According to Jesus, fretting about whether we’ll have enough to eat, drink, and wear is misuse of our minds.    

According to Jesus, we can trust God to provide our survival needs.  Try however we might, we can’t make ourselves live a day longer.  We can’t make ourselves a bit taller.      

 

According to Jesus, in the same way that God knows and provides for birds and wildflowers God knows and provides the food and water we need for survival.  We are more valuable to God than birds and wildflowers, so we have every reason to trust God to provide for us as well as God provides for birds and wildflowers.  

 

So, Jesus urged that his followers to devote ourselves to being in right relationship with God, others, and the creation.  That is the meaning of Matthew 6:33:  Strive first for the kingdom of God and [God’s] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  

 

What things?  The kingdom of God includes life, food, clothing, and the other stuff humans crave to acquire and stockpile.  That raises some more interesting things to ponder.

 

If God always provides what we need to survive every day – without our help and whether we fret about it or not – then why do we worry about having enough?

 

If we have no reason to doubt that God will provide what we need to survive - every day – and if we have more than we need to survive – every day, what are we doing with the “more than we need” - every day?

 

Are we sharing?  

 

Are we practicing hospitality and generosity?  

 

Or, are we hoarding?

 

How would life be different for us and others if the people who profess to love God devoted ourselves to generosity and hospitality - rather than hoarding – because we trust God to provide enough so we don’t have to measure our achievements by how much stuff we have acquired and are hoarding?  

 

What examples would we set for the rest of humanity?

 

How might public policies be different towards immigrants, people who suffer needs because they have been abused, mistreated, and otherwise victimized if and when people who claim to love God used our voices – and votes – to show generosity and hospitality rather than used our voices – and votes – to build new and larger ways to acquire, amass, and hoard more wealth?  

 

If God has provided enough, and if we have more than enough, are we striving for God’s kingdom of righteousness – meaning right relationships with God, others, and the rest of creation – whenever we strive to acquire, amass, and hoard more wealth for ourselves rather than strive to share the wealth with our needy neighbors?   

 

These questions go to heart of what it means to live in community with God, others, and the rest of creation.  These are questions for humans, alone.  Birds, wildflowers, and the rest of the creation cannot answer them for only one reason.  Birds, wildflowers, and the rest of creation are not perpetually defining their existence by trying to acquire, amass, and hoard wealth.  

 

Human greed and lust for wealth, alone, is responsible for global warming, climate change, melting polar icebergs, rising sea levels, and polluted air, soil, and water.

 

Human greed and lust for wealth, alone, was responsible for the theft of land from Native Americans.

 

Human greed and lust for wealth, alone, caused slavery.

 

Human greed and lust for wealth, alone, caused children to work in hard and dangerous places rather than be protected, educated, and nurtured to try to become the best they could be.

 

Human greed and lust for wealth, alone, is the root cause for many, if not most, of the military adventures we call “making war.”

 

Human greed and lust for wealth, coupled with hateful indifference and racism, alone, explains why people in Puerto Rico are suffering almost a year after Hurricane Maria devastated their lives and communities.  They are suffering because God doesn’t care about them.  They suffer because humans in our nation don’t care enough about them to use the resources God has provided, resources that are far more than enough than we need to consume every day, to assist other humans who don’t live where we live, who don’t look the way we look, and who speak a language other than English.

Immigrant people and families are not suffering because God doesn’t care for them.  They suffer because we don’t care enough to open our hearts and homeland so they can be safe.  They suffer because we don’t open our hearts and homeland and accept them as neighbors, rather than treat them as threatening adversaries.  

 

People are not suffering from preventable and treatable health conditions and diseases because God doesn’t care for them.  People in our society and around the world are suffering these maladies because other humans are craving to achieve wealth rather than do the holy work of doing public health in the spirit of compassion and generosity, rather than seeing healthcare as an industry for corporate profit-making and empire building.  

 

When we obey the call of Jesus to trust God’s abundance for us and for all others so much that we love God, love others, and love the rest of creation in the spirit of communion, reverence, generosity and hospitality, then we will not be afraid to pay workers fair earnings.  

 

We will not be afraid to welcome immigrants fleeing from oppression, hunger, poverty, disease, and lack of opportunities in their native lands into our country, neighborhoods, and workplaces.

 

We will not allow charlatans and hypocrites to defend hateful public policies by distorting Scripture.

 

We will become people of extravagant generosity, exuberant hospitality, and unapologetic grace.

 

In other words, we will become people who live and love as God lives and as God loves because we are one with God, one with others, and one with all that God has created.  We will belong to God, others, and everything, and God, others, and everything will belong to us.  

 

That wealth cannot be consumed by moths and weakened by rust.  That wealth cannot be robbed by thieves.  That wealth will not wear out or ever become obsolete.  

 

That wealth is achieved only by people who have eternal life.

 

Jesus understood that truth.  

 

God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the rest of humanity and the creation are waiting on us to believe that truth, and live it.  

 

Amen.

 

©Wendell Griffen, 2018