“Placing Value on Things”
Isaiah 55, Matthew 6:19-34
November 10, 2019
This is the time of year we are asked to place value on things. It’s Stewardship time. And I would be remiss if I didn’t clarify that statement. Our Stewardship committee would be quick to point out that it is always Stewardship time! But this is the time of year when we deal with stewardship specifically. This is the time of year we look ahead and think about how we are going to be good “stewards” in the coming year.
As you consider that, I hope you see how this sermon title can be taken two ways. And that was intentional! “Placing value on things” is about giving thought to what’s important and valuable in all of our lives, and what has the greatest priority. It’s about ordering things, whether that’s actual physical things, or ideals, or people. What are the important “things” in your life? Do you get that?
That’s the first meaning. The other way we can read this is “Placing value on things.” If we say it that way, we’re talking about the actual “material things” in our lives, as opposed to everything in our lives. Do you see the difference? Instead of “Placing value on things” it’s “placing value on things!”
Ok, the reason I’m saying all this, is that this is a “big thing” for God’s people. And it always has been. When we’re thinking about our lives and placing value on things – in the first sense of the word, do we place too much value on “things?” (Again, “things of this world?”)
Jesus addressed this very issue in this his famous “Sermon on the Mount.” And I want you to think about that for a moment. He was addressing the crowds, as he often did. But this one was important. This one would end up being recorded for the ages. This is seen as one of Jesus’ biggest moments. So, how did he decide what he would say? How did he decide what subjects he would cover?
Think about that. If you were asked to give such a sermon to our world, what would you talk about? What do you think it would be important to cover? Jesus talked about being blessed. He talked about forgiveness. He talked about relationships. He talked about prayer. He talked about the problem with anxiety and worry. And he addressed this issue. “Be careful about what you value in this life.” He thought that was important!
The way he said it was this. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth.” We’ve talked in the past about the original language of those words. “Lay up” or “store up” is translated from a word that has the same root as the word “treasures.” So literally Jesus is saying, “Do not treasure treasures on earth.” That may have been an intentional “play on words” on his part. And that has a whole different meaning, doesn’t it? To “treasure” something, means more than just “storing it up,” or “accumulating it.” (Though I suppose there is a sense that we accumulate something because we treasure it.)
Jesus is talking here about what we treasure, what we value. He saw that as an important subject to include in this big sermon. “If you’re going to be happy in this life,” he said, “if you’re going to have peace and contentment, if you’re going to get along with others, if this life is going to have meaning, you are going to have to get a handle on what you value!” That’s what he was saying. And it’s true.
I think we’d all agree that there are many people in this world who have “placed value on things.” They’ve “stored up treasures on earth.” And we’re all guilty of this, at least to a small degree, But the are many people in this world who look only to “things that are seen.” We read those words a few weeks ago. And Paul told us that those “things” are “temporary” – or the classier word “transient.” We might also say “passing,” “fleeting,” or “short-lived.” The “things that are seen” are all those things.
Sometimes I try to look at “things” in my life and I think, “What’s that going to look like in 100 years?” Whatever it is – a car, a tv, a computer, whatever – what will it be like 100 years from now? Will it be rusted, or broken, or trashed. Or maybe obsolete? That’s a big one in our world, isn’t it? Or maybe thieves will have broken in and stolen it?” Jesus is right on here about treasures on earth!
Who knows what a Sunbeam Tiger is? It’s a car! It’s a small British two seat sports car. (They aren’t made any more!) Ok, who remembers who was known for driving a Sunbeam Tiger? Secret agent Maxwell… Smart! (Time to hit YouTube!) Well, I was somewhere a year or so ago, I can’t remember where. I was driving through some neighborhood, and I saw a small car parked next to a driveway near the street, and I had to stop and look. You know I fancy those kinds of cars. So, I went up and looked, and sure enough, it was a Sunbeam Tiger! (“Would you believe it, Chief?”) “How did it look?” I hear you ask. Well, it was rusty, the convertible top was in tatters, and the tires were all flat! And I thought of this scripture. “Moth and rust had definitely consumed!” And it was heartbreaking! But I’ll bet someone, at some point, had valued that car pretty highly!
So, what “things” do you value? How might you even rank them in value? And what things have you valued in the past, but you haven’t even thought about lately, maybe in years?
I think that’s one of the problems with “getting rid of stuff.” You can rent a dumpster to clean out a house, but when you start going through stuff, you start remembering the value those things once had. And you think, “Well, maybe I’ll use this again someday.” Or you think, “I know that has value, I can’t just throw it away.”
Someone once said the thing to do is to go through your house and put things that you aren’t using into boxes. Then you put a date on each box. And you set yourself a goal – say 3 years, or 5 years. And if you get to that goal, and you haven’t looked in that box for any reason, you throw it away without opening it! How many of you could do that?
Now this next example is just my opinion, so don’t get out the tar and feathers. But I’m one who thinks landfills are not a good idea. I just don’t like the idea of burying our trash! Again, that’s my opinion. But I often think, “How much space in landfills is taken up with things people once thought valuable?” “Moth and rust consume, thieves break in and steal, and it all ends up in landfills!”
Fortunately, Jesus gives us the solution to all this. He helps us get the proper orientation for our lives by giving us the second half of this. “Store up for yourself treasures in heaven.” And again, it’s “Treasure the things of heaven.” And then he really nails it at the end with these words. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also!” I have always been amazed at the wisdom in that one sentence!
So, where is your heart? Where is your treasure? What do you value? Think about what you make time for. Because I’ve been saying for years, “You make time for things that are important to you!” We might also say, “You find the money for things that are important to you.” And that’s where you find your heart. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also!”
So, with all that in mind, what we’re asking today is, “How valuable is your faith to you?” Is it near and dear to your heart? Then stewardship asks, “What part of your resources will you put toward your life of faith in your church in the coming year?”
There used to be a feeling in people that “Church will always be there.” They’ve thought, “Even if for some reason I’m not supporting it, someone will.” Well, we’re finding in our world, that churches will not “always be there.” Many have not been able to survive in the 21st century. I’m proud of this one because it has stepped up in a number of ways to continue its ministry. It has even done a good job of “thinking outside of the box,” as they say. But as great as all of our fundraising efforts have been, none of them will replace the ongoing support of each the church’s members.
That’s because being good stewards is directly tied to what we treasure in our faith. Paul said that our giving should not be out of obligation, but out of the joy we have in being God’s people. It should be about where our heart is! If we make our church a priority in that way, if we give because we “treasure” the church, it will make a difference in the way we give, and it will make a difference in the kind of Christians we are!
So, the time has come. So, we’ll take a few moments in prayer, and then as the Spirit moves, we will come forward and place our pledges on the communion table…
Eternal God, help us to hear your still small voice speaking to us. Help us to know what you would have us do, as we look to the coming year. Give us the inspiration of your Spirit, help us to know the joy of your kingdom, and give us the vision to look ahead with hope for all your people. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.