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The Day Jesus Preached About Money!

September 22, 2013

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Proper 20 (Pentecost 18)                                     Trinity Lutheran Church

22 September 2013                                                Murdock, NE

+ Jesu Juva +

Luke 16:13

What do you look to for all your good?  Where do you go for all your help?  Comfort?  Delight?  Relief?  What is it you cling to with all your heart, soul, strength and mind?  And if this “love” gets taken from you, would your life be over?  The New Testament calls it mammon.  We call it money and everything that money can buy.

Are you a lover of money?  Well, are you?  Why are you so quiet?  Are you a lover of money?  Of course you are.  Don’t lie.  Don’t spin.  Don’t excuse.  Tell the truth.  Mammon or money is your idol.  One of your deepest fears is that you’ll lose it in an economic meltdown, an investment that goes south, or through a devastating summer drought.  You’ve given mammon your heart.  Wholeheartedly!  You worship it so much that you can’t take the chance to share it with anyone who needs your love and help.  You hoard it and cling to it with an iron fist.  You trust mammon alone to take care of you.  As if having more of it and spending more of it will create your own little heaven on earth – a secular kind of salvation.

WARNING:  The fear, love and trust in mammon above all things do not build up, edify, or help.  Instead, it destroys marriages, ruins families and friendships, wrecks careers, devastates communities, splits congregations, and reduces countries to rubble.  Make mammon your idol and you buy yourself a one-way, non-refundable ticket to … yes, that’s right … hellacious damnation!  The New Testament puts it quite frankly: Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

In the midst of such idolatry – you’ve been given a Preacher – with a sermon in His mouth.  Imagine that.  Given to hear a Preacher.  A Preacher comes to put your idolatry to death – to repent you – and to put your faith where it should be.  And He’s none other than Preacher Jesus!  FOR YOU!

Do you have ears to hear?  Will you be repented?  I sure hope so.  Don’t be like the Pharisees that arrogantly and unrepentantly “scoff” (Luke 16:14) at the Preacher’s words.  Today, Preacher Jesus goes on the verbal attack.  He unleashes a verbal barrage of divine proportion to destroy and put your to death idol mammon.  He unleashes an oral sermon to unbuckle and divorce your heart from mammon so that your heart will be hooked and married only to Him for all that you need!

Preacher Jesus comes to save you today in His preaching.  To rescue you from your idolatry.  Imagine that!  Another salvation at stake sermon from Him! He lets loose an outrageous yet delicious promise that He is God FOR YOU!

In Luke 16:13 He flat out tells it like it is.  He categorically declares:  “No servant 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.”  No exemptions.  No exceptions.  No loopholes.  There are not two Gods!  There’s only one.  And He’s God in the flesh Jesus! Replace God Jesus with idol mammon and it won’t go well.  Seriously.

You can’t straddle the fence.  Mammon does not save.  Money does not buy eternal life.  Idol mammon makes lots of promises but it can’t deliver.  It will fail you.  It will let you down.

When you love and idolize money, you use it improperly and hurt people.  Another preacher sent by the Lord, the prophet Amos, has exposed such misuse in the Old Testament reading today.

We are like ancient Israel.  We too are a powerful country.  Politically successful.  We are wildly prosperous with material possessions, high tech gadgets, endless free time, and spiritual activity.  Our country and our lives, just like ancient Israel, look like a basket of lush and lovely summer fruit.

But when the Lord takes a closer look the fruit is full of worms and it is rotten.  We, like Israel, have violated the twin commandments of love.  Israel did not love the Lord her God with all her heart.  Her worship was deadened by just going through the motions – doing her “duty,” and shot through with vicious elements adopted from her pagan neighbors.

We are no better.  Pagan syncretism is the norm.  It has has infiltrated most of the church.  Christian clergy are expected, as a matter of course, to publicly and formally worship and pray together with non-Christian spiritual leaders.  If any clergyman refuses to participate or dares to critique such a religious mish-mash, he swiftly suffers patronizing demonization and is sent to a theological Siberian exile.  Paganism wins the day in the church when both clergy and people proudly declare:  “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.”  Or:  “We all end up in the same heaven.  Some just take different paths like Mormonism, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, or whatever.  Who are we to say that only Christians will go to heaven?  That’s too exclusive.  We need to be more inclusive and more diverse!”  I hear this quite often.  If I had a $100 every time I’ve heard it, I could retire a wealthy man and permanently swing the clubs down in Orlando, Florida, or Scottsdale, Arizona, or Palm Springs, California.

Israel did not love her neighbors as herself.  The new upper crust class of the influential and powerful rich used its wealth and power to exploit and oppress the poor. Crooked business deals like shorting the measures and charging higher prices.

Are we any better?  What’s the bottom line?  Do you use your money to help your neighbor or do you greedily cheat them so that you’ll have more of it only for yourself?  For bigger houses?  Another automobile?  More extravagant Italian granite counter tops?  The biggest plasma to hang on the wall?  For another vacation to the Caribbean?

And your neighbor languishes and suffers in need!  While your hands greedily cling to mammon.  The prophet Amos indicts Israel and all of us today:  “You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches.  You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves.  You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments.  You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions but you do not grieve over the ruin of [Israel],” (Amos 6:4-6).

Love God?  Love the neighbor?  We, like Israel, are just too busy frantically serving the tyrannical idol called Mammon who never gives us a Sabbath Day rest.  Who promises salvation but never delivers.  Can’t!  Ever!

So, it’s time to hear two things today.  First, “YOU CANNOT SERVE BOTH GOD AND MONEY.”   God is God – not money!  So let’s die to that idolatry starting today.  Second, Jesus alone, the God-man, gives you peace, rest and freedom.  Only with Jesus is there forgiveness.  His blood cleanses you from all sin.  Especially the making of mammon into an idol.  Jesus is your God.  He is FOR YOU.

Jesus is God FOR YOU in His Good Friday dying.  Becoming scandalously “poor” on the cross for your sake by bearing all your sin in His Body in order to make you wildly “rich” in the forgiveness of sin that comes with His divinely shed Blood!  His categorical promise is that you are forgiven.  Hear it and believe it now AND when you receive His Body and Blood today in the Sacrament.

As His forgiven people the Lord Jesus has good use for you.  You are free to use the money He’s given you in the way He wants.  And that’s to help and serve your neighbor as a little Christ!  God gives you money so that you can be His instrument to lend a hand to those in need.  He gives you wealth so that you can be a good and faithful steward in the little and ordinary things.  To care for your kids and family.  For your congregation and the proclamation of the Gospel.  For your community and school or for whoever God puts into your life.  God gives you money, some of you have a little, some of you have a lot, so that you … can …  (dare I say it?  I will)  … so that you can GIVE IT AWAY TO HELP those who very much need your love!

And surprise, surprise!  The more you give it away to help others, the more of it God may just entrust into your care.  Imagine that!  Talk about stewardship!

The time is short brothers and sisters.  We live in the Last Days.  Shrewdly use what Jesus has given you – your faith so that you trust only in Him as God and the proper use of mammon in the service of love for others.

In the Name of Jesus.

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