BY REV. PAUL KALDAHL - SPENCER FIRST ENGLISH LUTHERAN CHURCH
Jesus warns us about the attitude of greed — always wanting more. The Ten Commandments call it coveting. Colossians says the wrath of God will come to the greedy who worship at the altar of "more." Ephesians 5:5 admonishes, "Be sure of this — nobody who is immoral, unclean or greedy has any share in the kingdom of Christ." No wonder Jesus so aptly warns, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed." Greed is a tricky, deceptive sin. That is why Jesus gave the people a parable — to paint us a picture.
He tells of a rich man, who worshiped at the altar of "more." Can you see him reclining in his plush chair with stacks of gold coins piled on the table in front of him? Through his window, he sees mounds of grain lying on the ground because his full barns are full. Imagine his furrowed brow, his chin on his chest, his hands folded over his middle-aged belly.
The picture I am describing is an illustration found in a children's bible. The interesting thing about the picture is that the rich man is dead. He died leaving everything behind. He died — rich in things — but poor in Christ. Jesus warns this is not the way to live or the way to die.
Our problem is that we do not value the riches of Christ or the meaning of discipleship. Instead, we are all caught up in the things of this world, and we too worship at the altar of "more." But God says it is "more" important to be spiritually rich. What do you think that means?
God does not identify our eternal inheritance with a dollar sign. We identify our inheritance in bread. Jesus says, "I am the Bread of Life. He who believes in me will never hunger" (John 6:35). Are you filled with the "Bread of Life?" Does that satisfy you?
Did you know the Christian church around the world is dying? However, there is a place where the church is still growing. Can you imagine where that might be? It is not in America, where the sin of greed so easily encrusts sinful hearts. No. The church is growing in the fields of Africa where men and women live in poverty. Why is faith so important to them? Because they understand. They know they are not rich in things; but they do know they are rich in Christ. They may not have much, but they possess everything.
Christians in Africa are a different breed. Many are willing walk 20 miles to go to church — to hear the word of God. They worship and study our Lord from sunrise to sunset in the heat of the day. Being rich in God begins with a relationship. It begins with a desire. It begins with the attitude that puts God in the center. However, the sin of greed quickly smothers all such spiritual desires.
King Solomon was the richest and wisest king of Israel. He searched for meaning in everything "under the sun." He threw himself into pleasure — beautiful women, expensive houses, lavish gardens, scores of servants, gourmet foods, fine wines. He denied himself nothing. It sounds like our culture today. He threw himself into work — in building, in trading, in conquering, in wheeling and dealing. He amassed great wealth.
In the end, what did the Preacher of Ecclesiastes conclude? There is nothing meaningful out there. Without God in the center, everything is empty and meaningless. A graveyard.
Jesus offers gifts that gold and silver cannot buy — the gifts of eternal life, forgiveness, salvation, the Holy Spirit, his body and blood. The riches of God's kingdom are given to you freely and without cost. So, why risk losing faith by allowing your heart to be filled with greed? Focus on the things that last forever, and avoid the things that destroy faith. Amen.