in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the
family inheritance with me.’ 14But he said to
him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ 15And
he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of
greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of
possessions.’ 16Then he told them a parable:
‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And
he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store
my crops?” 18Then he said, “I will do this: I
will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store
all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my
soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat,
drink, be merry.” 20But God said to him, “You
fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things
you have prepared, whose will they be?” 21So it
is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich
I have been told by a
long-time member that my preaching is predictable. It appears that
after you sit Sunday after Sunday for 15 years to listen to what I have
to say, if you're paying attention, that evidently you have a good idea
of the kinds of things I say. This sounds reasonable, right?
So that being the case, you all know what time of year this is.
After worship, we're having our annual stewardship dinner at which
you'll receive your estimate of giving card. So turn that in, make
it big, and GO DUCKS! J
Like I said, I'm predictable.
The cover of Time magazine a couple of
weeks ago had this on the cover: "Does God want you to be
rich?" Should we take a poll? They did. The story
covered what's known as 'prosperity theology', or the gospel of
wealth. It appears that a number of preachers throughout the
country are telling their flock that if not exactly that God wants you
to be rich, at least God wants you to prosper. God wants you to do
well, to get ahead in life.
Joel Osteen, for instance, in Houston
(in one of the largest mega-churches in the country) says "I preach
that anybody can improve their lives. I think God wants us to be
prosperous. I think he wants us to be happy. To me, you need
to have money to pay your bills. I think God wants us to send our
kids to college. I think he wants us to be a blessing to other
people. But I don't think I'd say that God wants us to be
rich. It's all relative, isn't it?".
Sounds good. And then the authors
of the article add this little tidbit: "The room's warm
lamplight reflects softly off his crocodile shoes". Good
What does that suggest? If
reminds me of this song:
Oh Lord, won't you buy
me a color T.V.
Oh Lord, won't you buy me a night on the town.
I'm counting on you Lord, please don't let me down.
Prove that you love me, and buy the next round.
Oh Lord, won't you buy me a night on the town.
And everybody is supposed to sing, but
we'll pass on that.
The authors of that article note that
though the Bible refers thousands and thousands of times to poverty and
wealth and money and riches, they say the relative absence of sermons
about money is one of the more stunning omissions in American
religion. Stunning omission.
For instance, sociologist Robert
Wuthnow says: "There has long been a taboo on talking
candidly about money in church". Well folks, may I be
candid? You promise you won't get offended? Maybe not,
It's not about money. It really
isn't. It's about what we put on our money. Remember --
"In God We Trust". And the question is: do we
really? What do we have to show for it? Can people see that
At City Club this week there was a
debate on measure 48, you may have read about it in the paper
yesterday. Measure 48 is one of those government spending limits
-- sets a formula to control spending by population and inflation
combined. The author of the measure, Donn McIntyre, was here,
debating Senator Westlund on the opposing side. If you want to
know more about that and other measures, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon
has a voter's guide that we have available, help yourself to that.
Some of it is just informative, EMO does take a stand on some of the
measures, so you can read more about that there.
At any rate, at that debate, someone
asked: if churches and synagogues can get by for thousands of
years on 10%, why can't the government? Well, the debaters
obviously didn't know a whole lot about finances of the church because
they didn't question the premise. In fact, I don't know a church
in this country that receives 10% of the income of its members.
Except maybe the Amish -- may God be with them. Even the Mormons
don't quite reach that biblical standard, though they are doing much
better than most of us. The reality is that the average
contribution among protestants is somewhere between 2.4 and 2.5% of
their income. Among Catholics it's much less.
So stop and think -- the difference
between a congregation that is average and a congregation that meets
that biblical standard is four-fold. Think about the
possibilities of what we, and any church, can achieve.
Now, wouldn't you like to be better
than average? Don't we all want to be better than average?
Then we have to put our money where our mouth is, or our trust where God
is. In fact, this congregation is better than average. A
recent look at the Christian Church reveals that among the 33 Disciples
churches in Oregon, we rank 6th in per-capita giving. I think
that's significant, something we can feel good about. Yet the
potential is there for so much more.
Time conducted a poll among Christians,
and they asked 'Who has the greatest influence on your thinking about
finances?' And the people responded:
- 7% said books by religious
- 14% said their financial advisers
- 18% said their pastors
- 47% said the Bible.
It's interesting, in that same poll 48%
agreed with this statement: "Jesus was not rich, and we
should follow his example". What I find interesting is that
44% disagreed with this statement. And I wondered, which part did
they disagree with? Did they think Jesus was rich, or that we
shouldn't follow his example?
But since more people are influenced by
scripture than they are by preachers (by an order of at least two and a
half times), I would suggest that everyone of us go home and read our
Bibles. That's all we need to do for a good campaign. You
might read about tithing in the book of Deuteronomy. You might
read about the greedy plunderers in the book of Joshua. You might
read about that poor widow who put her last 2 cents in the treasury and
Jesus said she has contributed more than all the others. You might
read about that rich young ruler who could not give up his riches to
follow Jesus. And remember what Jesus said? That it's harder
for the rich to enter the kingdom of God than a camel to go through the
eye of a needle. You might read about that poor man that begged
for the crumbs from the table of Lazarus, and their fortunes are
reversed in the next life. You might read about Zacchaeus, that
wee little man, came down from that tree when Jesus invited himself over
for dinner, and remember Zacchaeus' response? "Today I will
give half of my income to the poor". You might read the
sermon on the mount: 'Do not worry about your life, what you eat,
what you drink. Consider the lilies of the field, how God has
clothed them in such great splendor, greater than Solomon in all his
riches". You might read about the parable of the talents,
that foolish servant who didn't even invest his master's money, stuck it
in the ground. You might read about Ananias and Sapphira, remember
them in the book of Acts? When the church held all things in
common, but they wanted to hold a little bit for themselves, you know,
invest in an IRA, set up a pension plan. Remember what happened to
them? They were put in the commoners plot, 6 feet under. You
might read about James' condemnation of the rich for oppressing the
You might read again this text from
Luke 12, and consider the true abundance that we have from God.
And I ask you: is it stuff? Is it the size of your car or
the size of your house? Is it how much is in your wallet or how
much is in your closet? On your dying day, will you look back and
say "Boy, I'm sure glad I collected all that junk in my
What is the true abundance we have from
God if it is not love? Joy, relationships, family, and knowing the
love of the Lord.
When you're done reading all of that, I
would invite you to read one more book. It's this one -- your
checkbook. And I invite you to compare it to this one (the
Bible). It reminds me of that moment in Al Gore's film [An
Inconvenient Truth], that we saw last Friday night, in this portion he's
talking about a conference in which the balance between the economy and
the environment is portrayed in this graph.
"We have here a scale that
balances two different things. On one side we have gold bars --
mmmm, mmmm, don't they look good. I'd just like to have some of
those gold bars. On the other side of the scales, the entire
planet! Hmmmm, hmmmm."
And so we have two books. Two
treasures. In which will you place your trust? In which will
you place your heart? That's all I have to say. I hope it
wasn't too much.