Words we don’t fight over #LukeActs2014

And 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.” (Luke 12:15, NRSV)

I do not have a lot to say about this, other than to notice that John Wesley’s words about “The Danger of Riches” are no more listened to by United Methodists in 2014 than they were 300 years ago.

The nation is turned upside down and inside out over sex. Nothing lights up the Internet more than a debate about what Jesus meant when he quoted Genesis or what Paul knew about the living arrangements of Corinthians.

Why don’t we get in the same kind of uproar over Jesus Christ’s words about riches and wealth? Why do we not anguish over whether we are obeying God in this regard? Why don’t we get stirred up when Jesus says “lay not up treasures on Earth”?

 

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10 thoughts on “Words we don’t fight over #LukeActs2014

  1. Perhaps we don’t get the same sort of uproar because it cuts to close to the bone. Perhaps another reason is that it is so uncomfortable to speak of such things in a culture in which we celebrate “more.” And that isn’t new. It’s been true for a very long time. When we do talk about it – our talk is often shallow – not because we wish it to be so – but because we don’t have much practice at it (it must be much more fun to talk about sex). Still…the last couple of days around here – we have had visitors from the commonwealth of Kentucky (not from churches, but from a state agency) – who have been here to talk with us about exactly the issues Wesley raises in this sermon. And we have had visitors last night and today – from a variety of congregations (mainly reformed and independent) around the country who are grappling with these issues. The closest I can remember a public conversation on these issues here in Indiana (others can correct my memory) was at annual conference two years ago – when we were counseled from the stage of Annual Conference not to talk with poor people we encountered in downtown Indianapolis except to refer them to the 4-1-1 resource center. In my 30 plus years attending annual conference I don’t remember a conference preacher being invited who addressed the issues of wealth and poverty (our own and others) – except to encourage “extravagant generosity.” Ah well.

  2. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have preached on greed and money more times than I have on homosexuality. In fact, I’ve never once preached a sermon on homosexuality.

    Greed, money, the love of life, etc., are sins that are always going to beset us and require that I walk in daily repentance, always seeking to recognize that I put my trust in the things of this world more than God. I think this ought to be a constant theme in our preaching even if the specific thing (money, etc) is not named.

    But perhaps the reason it is not news-worthy today, or doesn’t drum up blog posts and debate, is because there isn’t a debate about it’s sinfulness. Everyone agrees this is sin. Do you think that should some group start to lobby that commands against greed were cultural commands and have nothing to do with us today that we’d hear more about it?

    1. I’m not convinced that everyone agrees it is sinful. I recall hearing a pastor once go on for several minutes for his desire for the latest iPhone and another one go on and on about a very expensive sports car that he loved. No one, so far as I could tell, found this the least bit odd.

      1. I haven’t thought this all the way through, and appreciate the chance to discuss it, but aren’t those matters of the heart which may or may not be sinful? Loving a sports car is not a sin in and of itself any more than loving one’s kids is a sin. Sin enters the equation when one or either takes precedence over God. I don’t know that I’ve ever talked about my desire for the latest iPhone but I have certainly talked about my desire for a good burger for dinner. Is that a sin? That would be between myself and God, wouldn’t it?

        On the other hand, sexual immorality is not so secretive, apart from the intent to lust (which is every bit as sinful as homosexuality). Pastors celebrating same sex marriages is a very different thing, IMO, than a pastor saying they desire an iPhone. The former is without question sin, the latter might be.

        1. Here is Wesley’s view as I understand it. All you have is from God. It is not yours. It is God’s. The task for us is to use the Lord’s goods that have been placed in our hands in a manner God would have us use them. So, when we spend on luxuries we waste God’s goods on trifles. While we hold on to money that could go to ease the discomfort or suffering of other children of God, we break the command to love our neighbor as ourself.

          We might think Wesley’s is wrong. To the extent my first response suggested Wesley’s chief concern was misdirected love, that was not me be careful enough. Disordered love is part of it, but I think it is more about self love than love of things — although that is surely problematic as well.

          I don’t know whether Wesley is correct or not. As a United Methodist, we don’t have any other clear guidance beyond him. What I do respect about him, though, is his integrity and willingness to follow what he believed to be the Word of God all the way through to the end.

  3. What matters is what you do with your money.
    If the US of A is obsessed with wealth they are also obsessed with giving.

    The 50 Most Generous Donors of 2012

    America’s biggest donors committed a total of more than $7.4-billion to nonprofits in 2012. Click on any photo to learn how much each donor gave last year, where the money went, biographical information, and more.
    http://philanthropy.com/article/The-2013-Philanthropy-50/137153/

    There is one who scatters, yet increases more;
    And there is one who withholds more than is right,
    But it leads to poverty. Proverbs 11:24

    “More than is right” …greed

  4. I may be getting in on this discussion after the horse has left the barn, but since I teach economics to high school kids who don’t have a clue where college money is going to come from, I must chime in that John Wesley did tell us to earn all we can. The rule of industry seems especially relevant today, as well.

    1. Yes. Earn all you can, without harming yourself or others. But save all you can would rule out spending on needless luxuries and give all you can means — for Wesley — all you can.

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