For the love of money!
Today is our annual picnic and it’s so great to be outside and see the kid’s enjoying themselves and having fun. Oh to be a child again. Not to be weighed down by all our adult stuff. To remember that innocence and just taking the ups and downs of life as they come without worrying too of tomorrow.
I remember watching on T.V. an interview with a champion Australian surfer in his Sydney flat. Near the end the interviewer noticing the sparseness of “things” quizzingly remarked “Surfing is now a well-paid professional sport, but looking around all I can see is the lounge we are sitting on and a television” to which he remarked “my dad always said there are no roof racks on a hearse”.
Similar, back in 1992 while having lunch in my car I heard the interviewer talking to an American baseballer who had just been signed up on the highest paid sporting contract in history and asked if he thought he was worth it, said “no way, no one’s worth that money but it’s just come along and I’ll take it”. For both these guys the money was only a by-product of what they really loved, their sport. And both of these guys bring meaning to one of the most misquoted pieces of scripture in the Bible.
1st Timothy 6:10 does in fact say that “money is the root of evil” as many quote it, except what many leave off is the preceding four words “For the love of “which change the whole understanding.
Money’s not the problem, it’s the “love of money” that’s the problem. More specifically, it’s the love of anything that gets in the way of our relationship with God, be it money, status, career or the like.
Are these things wrong? Absolutely not.
If you were to become the Prime Minister of Australia would you have power and status? Of course you would, just like King David had who was described by God in Acts 13:22 as “a man after my own heart”. Abraham was extremely wealthy and what about Noah, after getting of the Ark, Noah and his family essentially had the whole earth at their disposal-that’s quite a chunk of Real Estate. The “thing” is not the issue, it’s the place that it holds in our life that can become the problem.
Remember the Scrooge McDuck comics. He was one rich duck, but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that he loved his money so much that he was a scrooge and showed no generosity or love for others so that he could get and keep as much money as he could so that he could enjoy what he loved, just sitting in his vault counting his money all day. It’s a funny satire of how in our lives we can wonder from what is really important and meaningful in our lives.
In today’s Gospel Jesus is getting this point across. A weathly man who has outwardly kept the commandments as probably best anyone could have, asks “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” and as we have heard, Jesus says give all your money away and come and follow me. But he couldn’t and after he walks away we hear those famous words from Jesus “How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God”. This piece of scripture I’ve heard thrown (and behind their back normally) at wealthy Christians. The problem is, that if it’s actually money, then every one of us here today is in big trouble because we are all financially wealthy beyond belief, you’re millionaires. Do you agree? Maybe not but O.K, sell all your stuff and take your money with you and go live in a third world country or not so affluent country, you will be able to “live like a king”-you will be the rich “guy”. Jesus is not talking about money, status power or the like, because they are all relative to your environment, the big fish in a small pond type of scenario.
For a camel to pass through the eye of a needle is impossible and as yet I haven’t seen anyone single handily move a mountain which in Matthew 17:20 Jesus told his disciples they could “if they only had faith the size of a mustard seed”. I always thought that in these statements Jesus is overstating things to get the point across-but in doing this message, I realised it’s more the opposite as in a sense, in regards to eternal life he’s understating things as we see in his words to the disciples after they quiz him in today’s Gospel and ask, well “Who can be saved?” And Jesus looked at them and said, “With human beings this is impossible, but all things are possible with God”
So there’s our answer: in us no chance, but in God all things are possible. Which leads to the obvious question, how to make that possibility become so. Love God with all our heart, adhere to the commandments and try and lead a good life? Absolutely and I think we would all agree to those things, but they are not the starting point, they are a response. We see the starting point in today’s Gospel. What happened before Jesus said to the man to give his money away, immediately before we are told that “Jesus looked at him and loved him”. Loved him so much that he saw that this good man needed to be freed of his own trappings. To get rid of his plan B, his sought of back-up of security, other than just trusting God in all parts of his life.
Not so long ago, in the papers it was well documented of the troubles, many of which were self-inflicted of a highly paid sportsman and similar, his manager. Both individually seemed to be in a downward spiral from their actions and of course the media and society judged them harshly. It was like a real life soap opera. But one thing came out, that in this day and age I found remarkable. Beautiful even, as when the manager was questioned of their relationship through all this, responded with “Ever since I have been his agent we’ve disagreed many times” and went on to say “ever since I’ve managed XXXX we have never signed a contract because XXXX said from day one “my word is my contract”.
And he has proved it true and never went back on his word. But even, if not more so unbelievable, his manager/agent who makes his income from commission on the players wages trusted him and agreed to work without the security of a contract in place. No legal security or fall back plan, he just had to trust in his players promise. In this day and age is that not unbelievable.
Jesus says to each of us, black or white, large or small, poor or rich, just trust me. I won’t let you down and what’s more, so that you don’t need to wonder if I’ll change my mind I’ve even given you a contract that cannot be broken. A contract that is signed with my own blood from my death on the cross. In me your fate has been sealed, that in me you have eternal life. Trust me and have faith for you are mine and enjoy the by-products that my peace brings. Enjoy the gifts you receive in life, use them for the good of others and yourselves. Whether in great wealth or little, happiness or sadness, whether shooting for the stars or wishing to remain where you are, be a witness of my love for you by living your life where you are now and where you maybe will be tomorrow. In moments of shouting of me from the mountain tops or just hanging on with your fingernails-you are mine and I will not forsake you.
I have given you eternal life,
that you too may also have life today.