7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9 a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. 10 You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you. 11 Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. 12 When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, 16 and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. 17 Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today. ~NRSV
One of the fun parts of my seminary experience was learned how to play the card game Rook, with two of the games master, Bob Winsted and Phil Schroeder. Every day at lunch the duo would allow mere mortals to test their memory and expertise. I think I won a few hands, but was never able to shoot the moon. These two are good clergy friends that did teach me that not everything about seminary is found in the classroom or the chapel.
We enjoy playing cards in our family. I don’t suppose Mr. Wesley would be too pleased, but we will leave that to another day. No matter the game you play, the hand you are dealt sets the stage for the results of the game. Even the best card-counting professional bridge-hearts-hold’em player must consider what is given to them.
There is where we begin with this passage and a conversation about our promise to live a life of service as followers of Christ and members of this our United Methodist Church.
We live in a world where some folks have more than others: More money, talents, opportunities, and timing. Jesus reminds us that ‘there will always be people who are poorer.’ [paraphrased] So what are we to do?
- Some would say: Leave it alone, allowing the haves to have and the not’s to…snot? That would be a mis-use of Jesus’ pronouncement.
- Some would point to Jesus’ passion for serving the poor at all costs. Just get use to it.
Before jumping into a spiritual or political debate about poverty and wealth.. Let’s look back at this Old Testament pronouncement from God about what we have and what we do not have.
The heart of the passage is in verse 17-18:
[Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.]
It is rather straightforward, but we insist on twisting the thing up: If you have anything, it comes from God. If you have nothing, that too comes from God. At stake is the relationship between the two.
What would be like have a meeting in the fellowship hall and having the persons living in poverty in our county making a list in the paper and tell us how to make their lives right. Or the reverse, which will change lives?
Start with the foundation: All that any of us has, is ultimately from God’s good pleasure.
- Start with the principle: Fairness is not the goal. Faithfulness is the goal.
- Start with the certainty: We will always be called to serve those persons in need.
- Start with the assurance: This is not someone else’s responsibility. It belongs to us all.
These are the corner stones for our ministry.
- This is why we support the CERF house, because we have food, clothes, funds to give hurting folks help and hope.
- This is why we send missionaries, because they don’t have neighbors who can help them with the supplies and support we can share.
- This is why we take care of our families…right?
If we believe we are to take care of our family first: We must answer Jesus’ question to his mother, brother and disciples, “Who is my family? Who is my brother? Who is my mother?” ANSWER: Those whom I can reach who are in need, are my family. (It’s both/and)
This month, we have been talking about the prospect of putting God first in our daily lives: [ On November 13th we will celebrate our stewardship, by putting our living on the line for God.] Part of putting God first, is not only with our money, but with our minds, and our attitudes.
At times, we focus on the questions that do not help us.
Q: Hav’nt I done enough? A: Yes or No, is never the correct answer..
Q: Am I doing what God needs me to do? A: Rich or poor a-like, the answer is yes or no, but is not based on what I do or do not have.
- Someone else could do what I don’t want to do. Vs. What if no one else is willing to step up, the need is real.
- I don’t like getting my hands dirty. Vs. How will the dirty work get done if I don’t help?
- I have been hurt, I deserve a break, or better yet, restitution with interest. VS. Will I let pain continue to hurt me or anyone and do no-one good.
- I’ve worked hard, now it is someone else turn to work. Vs. How can share my experience to train others.
SO WHAT? Don’t forget what God has given, and seen us through. From that foundation, let us put first steps toward the life we share in Jesus Christ.