NEW YEAR MESSAGE FOR 2009
In the last six months the value of houses has dropped by on sixth. The value of shares has dropped by almost one third. High Street stores like Woolworths, MFI and Zavvi have gone out of business. Banks have been taken over or nationalised. Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs and it is said hundreds of thousands more will do so. We now know the meaning of words like Credit Crunch, downturn and recession. It was not difficult to identify a motto text for 2008.
MATTHEW 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount teaches us about the importance of getting our priorities right. The first and most important thing is that
We must live out in our own lives the teaching of Jesus.
Martin Luther astutely observed, “There are three conversions necessary: the conversion of the heart, mind and the purse.” Of these three, it is often the case that our generation finds the conversion of the purse the most difficult.
MATTHEW 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
There’s a true story that comes from the sinking of the Titanic. A frightened woman found her place in a lifeboat that was about to be lowered into the raging North Atlantic. She suddenly thought of something she needed, so she asked permission to return to her stateroom before they cast off. She was granted three minutes or they would have to leave without her.
She ran across the deck that was already slanted at a dangerous angle. She raced through the gambling room with all the money that had rolled to one side, ankle deep. She came to her stateroom and quickly pushed aside her diamond rings and expensive bracelets and necklaces as she reached to the shelf above her bed and grabbed three small oranges. She quickly found her way back to the lifeboat and got in.
Now that seems incredible because thirty minutes earlier she would not have chosen a crate of oranges over even the smallest diamond. But death had boarded the Titanic. One blast of its awful breath had transformed all values. Instantaneously, priceless things had become worthless. Worthless things had become priceless. And in that moment she preferred three small oranges to a crate of diamonds.
What are OUR priorities? What is really important to us?
20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Our world desperately needs to hear this truth that spiritual things are more important than material things!
The story is told about some Christians who were traveling in the Middle East. They heard about a wise, devout, beloved, old believer, so they went out of their way to visit him. When they finally found him, they discovered that he was living in a simple hut. All he had inside was a rough cot, a chair, a table, and a battered stove for heating and cooking. The visitors were shocked to see how few possessions the man had, and one of them blurted out, “Well, where is your furniture?” The aged saint replied by gently asking, :Where is yours?” The visitor, sputtering a little, responded, “Why, at home, of course. I don’t carry it with me, I’m traveling.” “So am I,” the godly Christian replied. “So am I.”
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Billionaire Paul Getty died – “how much did he leave?” “Everything!”
Where are your treasures? When you die will you be going TO your treasures? Or leaving them behind?
Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year Message. “Our hearts will be in a very bad way if they are focused only on the state of our finances. They’ll be healthy if they’re capable of turning outwards – looking at the real treasure that is our fellow human beings,”.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
To have “good” eyes is to be single minded – focussed on God and to be generous. To have bad eyes is to be ungenerous or selfish or greedy.
24 “No-one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
Money is a good servant but a poor master. Someday we will realise that the bars that shut many people out of the kingdom of heaven are made of silver and gold.
You cannot serve God and Mammon. Mammon = false God of Money but also broader – all earthly possessions.
We must be prepared to demonstrate that our faith is in God, not in the false gods of this age, the false gods of Money, Entertainment and Shopping.
The story is told of an occasion where St. Thomas Aquinas was walking with a prelate through one of the grand cathedrals of his day. Referring to a coffer filled with precious coins, the prelate remarked, “Behold, Master Thomas, the church can no longer say, as St. Peter, ‘Silver and gold have I none!’” St. Thomas was apparently quick with his retort, “Alas, neither can we say what follows, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk.’”
We must take care of the poor and needy
It doesn’t matter the reasons why people are poor. It doesn’t matter if it is their fault or somebody else’s fault or nobody’s fault at all. God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous equally. God cares for everybody and we must care for everybody.
There will be people in need because of the economic crisis – even in Brentwood! We must be prepared to help them.
Those who have lost their jobs – and there are those in the church today who are in that situation.
Those who have lost their savings.
Those who find that their pensions are not worth what they were or should be.
WE must take care of those in need.
James 2:15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
We have the communion fund – we must use it to help those in need. Our friends Richard and Heather Cameron were missionaries in Nepal. Richard was headteacher of the school at Pokara where our BMS missionary Sarah Prior now works. I once asked Richard what proportion of the budget of the church in Pokara was set aside for what we would call the Communion Fund. He replied, “Something over 100%”. The church there used its regular offerings to pay its bills. But then when people were in need they would have special offerings specifically to help those poor people. And over a year the special offerings to help the poor always added up to more than the regular offerings to cover all the running expenses of the church.
We must Make sure our treasures are in heaven We must help the poor and needy.
And we must take this opportunity to
witness to the world about the importance of treasures in heaven.
It was the 1987 film “Wall Street” in which Michael Douglas’s character Gordon Gekko gave the slogan which so much of the world economy has been built on:
Greed is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms — greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge — has marked the upward surge of mankind. Greed is good.
That’s the attitude which says “Enough is never enough” which has landed the world in the economic mess it is in now!
FreePort Designer Village in Braintree once used this advertising slogan. “Ours is a shallow meaningless consumer society where we are defined by our possessions. Enjoy!”
People nowadays seem to be “born to shop”. Shopping is now officially Britain’s number one most popular recreational activity. More people spend their leisure time in shopping Malls or garden centres or DIY superstores than doing anything else.
In today’s shopping mall culture our neighbours are much more likely to be worshipping in the Temples of Lakeside and Bluewater than in Christian Churches.
New phrase (whether coined by advertising genius or a comedian I don’t know)- “Retail therapy”
The idea that we NEED to shop, that shopping is GOOD and HEALTHY for us, the idea that when we are sad or depressed, the best thing we can do is go out and spend, spend, spend! It really worries me that our Prime Minister has suggested that what people should be doing is spending our way out of this recession!!
The Times columnist, Bernard Levin (who is not a Christian) once wrote: “Countries like ours are full of people who have all the material comforts they desire, and yet lead lives of desperation, understanding nothing but the fact that there is a hole inside them and that however much food and drink they put into it, however many motor cars and television sets they stuff it with…it aches.” In other words, happiness will not arrive in a M&S carrier bag, in a BMW or in a pair of Reebok trainers. We cannot fill the hole in our souls by putting a hole in our purses and wallets.
This is the message the church should be proclaiming in these troubled times. The Credit Crunch and the recession will be causing people more than ever to reconsider their priorities. People are realising that greed is NOT good – that the most important things in life are things money can’t buy! There is so much more to life than Money and Entertainment and Shopping. Now is the time for the church to be more bold than ever to proclaim the message!
20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.