Part 2 of the Defying Gravity Stewardship Series 1Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 12:13-21
I’ve always been fascinated by the night sky, by what we are able to see and by what we aren’t able to see. When I was small my older brother used to try to scare me with the idea of black holes, since everything within its reach gets sucked into it. Gratefully, scientists say that there are no black holes within reach of our solar system, but that doesn’t mean they’re not common. Some scientists say that a new black hole is born every second. A black hole is born when an object is unable to withstand the force of its own gravity. (1) But what’s really interesting is that we can’t see them at all— we only know they exist by the behavior of the gas, dust, and light around them. (2)
Last week we began talking about what it means for us, as people of faith, to defy gravity—specifically the financial gravity in our livesThe same is true in our lives— the pull of money and stuff and wealth on our lives— that can feel like black holes. We can’t walk around looking at that gravity in our lives because its not dependent on how much wealth we have. But we can see it clearly in our lives and in the lives of those around us by the decisions we make about how to use the resources we have; of where and how to spend the money that we make; by our attitudes towards the people around us. The Bible is pretty clear that it’s not wealth itself that is bad. It is the pull of that wealth on our hearts and our loyalty. John Wesley himself, the man who began the Methodist movement in the 1700’s, said that we should make all of the money we can as long as it’s by faithful means; and he said that we should save all we can because he saw how people’s lives were torn apart by debt; and then he also said that we should give all we can— because everything we have is God’s anyway.
This is what it means to be a mature disciple of Jesus: when we are able to change from seeing ourselves as recipients of God’s Kingdom—doing what we think is faithful so that God will bless us— and instead see ourselves as participants in God’s Kingdom— recognizing that we are here to worship and serve God rather than ourselves. And it is when we live as participants rather than recipients that we will find ourselves freed from the black hole that can be created from financial gravity— a black hole of discontent, of greed, of shallowness. (3)
This is what the writer of 1Timothy refers to when he says,“They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.”
Chee-Yun is an amazing violin player in our world today. She grew up in South Korea and began performing concerts at the ripe old age of 8. When she was 21 she was becoming well known and performing many concerts, so she was on the lookout for a violin that would bring what she needed to her performances. One day she found the one she wanted. She immediately fell in love with its sound and brought it to be appraised. The appraiser was astonished at its quality, stating that it was made in 1669 by Francesco Ruggieri, a famous Italian violin maker. It still had the original finish. Chee-Yun bought the violin but didn’t know much about its backstory until one day when someone came up to her after her concert in Israel and told her that his father had often wondered about her violin because he had heard that it was buried with one of its owners for over 200 years. Chee-Yun knows the value of this instrument; it is one of her prized possessions. The Norwegian man who owned it previously knew the value of that violin and considered it one of his prized possessions. And yet in the Norwegian’s hands, this beautiful instrument lay cold and unplayed; while in Chee-Yun’s hands, it is bringing joy all over the world as she shares the gift of her talent and the gift of her instrument, participating together in bringing joy to the world through music. (4)
We have the same choice in our lives— to be recipients of all that God has given us and keep it to ourselves where it will do little good, even for us; or to be participants in God’s Kingdom, sharing our gifts freely so that the whole world can benefit.
A man comes to Jesus in our Gospel this morning and he wants Jesus to tell his brother to share his inheritance with him. And instead, Jesus tells him this parable about a man who has a bumper crop one year. And because of this bumper crop, this man begins to talk to himself and tell himself that he really needs a brand new barn; his old one just won’t do because it will not store all that he has; and so he pulls down his old barns and builds bigger, better ones.
Well you can bet that this is not what that man was hoping to hear. He obviously thought he was in the right, or he wouldn’t have asked Jesus for help. And yet Jesus has a very important warning for the man— he tells him to guard against all kinds of greed. Why would Jesus respond in this way? Because Jesus knows that for their own well being, it’s more important for these two brothers to understand themselves as participants in their relationship with one another and with God, than as recipients of this inheritance.
St. Augustine once said that God gave us people to love and things to use, and sin, in short, is the confusion of these two things. (5)
How many of us, in being bombarded daily with messages about buying this and buying that, even recognize anymore what we really have? The world’s gravity pulls us into thinking that we are the sole owners of our possessions and that those possessions, even though they don’t love us back, are worthy of our love. We talk ourselves into believing that we can’t be financially generous because we don’t have the resources. But the issue isn’t about how much we have, after all in another part of the Gospel Jesus commends the widow who gives two small coins. The issue is how we understand ourselves in relationship wit God. When we understand ourselves as stewards of what God has given us, then we are freed up not to worry about what we don’t have or how much of it we have, but rather to focus on what we can do with all that God has given us. We can get excited about using our resources to participate in God’s Kingdom! (3)
When we look back at the parable Jesus told, it is not hard to see the black hole of greed that the man with the bumper crops falls into. When he experiences abundance, he thinks of himself. The word “I” is used five times in three short sentences.
Instead, God says, we can break free from what this world keeps trying to convince us is life, and give up a mediocre life for a really great one— finding the life that truly is life; a life built not on the world’s riches, but on the love of God.
It’s never too late to break free. As CS Lewis once wrote, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”
Resources Cited/Consulted: 1) hubblesite.org 2) ncsa.illinois.edu 3) Berlin, Tom. Defying Gravity 4) Chee-Yun.net 5) Lose, David. “What Money Can and Can’t Do” at workingpreacher.org