************ Sermon on Matthew 6:19-24 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 2, 2001
"A God Called More"
In a good week I don't get any. In a bad week I get four or five of them cluttering up my snail-mail and my e-mail box. I'm talking about credit card offers. Everyone, it seems, wants my business.
I received two offers this week Thursday. American Express offered me their Blue Card with a credit line of up to $100,000. There is no annual fee. It has a built-in Smart Chip for internet security. It has CoolBlueOffers and rewards. With this card I won't be embarrassed like a Visa or Master Card customer who recently hit his credit limit and was denied credit in a restaurant while dining with friends.
The second offer comes from People's Bank. I am pre-qualified for a $15,000 personal loan at 9.99%. I can use it to consolidate my credit-card debt, pay off my high-rate balances, choose my payment amount, and choose my number of payments.
Wow! I can go head-over-heels in credit-card debt buying stuff I don't need and can't afford. Then, someone else will loan me the money to pay off my credit-cards so I can afford to run up more credit-card debt buying even more stuff I don't need and can't afford.
According to the August 27, 2001 issue of Newsweek magazine this is a growing problem today. The cover article, Maxed Out, tells the story of three generations of one family:
Topic: DebtsThis kind of attitude is not just isolated. Most of our fellow Americans subscribe to the same belief. Together American consumers today carry $7.3 trillion in debt. By the end of 2000, the average card holder had $8,123 in credit-card debt.
Frank and Naomi Cooper have a secret for sound sleep: debt-free living. Frank, 86 remembers baling hay for 50 cents a day during the Depression, so he refuses to take financial risks. He paid cash for his house. He once burned a credit-card offer that came in the mail. "If you don't have the cash, you just don't buy," he says.
Their daughter Linda Rinkes, 53, has liberalized that maxim only slightly. She has a car loan and carries a credit-card balance when she must, paying it off quickly.
For the family's third generation, though, Grandpa's philosophy is completely obsolete. "Just because I don't have the cash for something doesn't mean I shouldn't buy it," says Jen Rinkes, 29, who carries $8,000 on credit cards and a $438-a-month car payment. "I don't think debt is a sin," she says. "I'm living in a style I want to become accustomed to."
Do you know what this tells us about most Americans? They worship a god called More. You know what I mean. They never have enough. They always want more. Something newer, bigger, better, stronger, faster.
In 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a memorable speech entitled I Have A Dream. His dream had to do with liberty and justice for all, when all men could sit down together at a table of brotherhood, when children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. King said this was part of the American Dream. But do you know what the American Dream is for most people? It goes like this:
Topic: MaterialismA god called More. That's what the American Dream is all about for most people.
Title: I Have A Dream
I have a dream. I have a dream of a new car in every garage, a Pentium IV computer in every bedroom, broadband internet connection in every house, and home ownership for every family.
I have a dream of an IRA for every wage-earner and a college investment fund for every child.
I have a dream of a microwave in every kitchen, a DVD and big-screen TV in every family room, a hot-tub on every patio, and a pool in every yard.
I have a dream of 7 credit cards in every wallet.
I have a dream of a cell-phone on every person and a pager on every belt.
I have a dream of a condo on the ocean and a cottage in the mountains. I have a dream of a motor home or fifth-wheel in the driveway.
I have a dream of Summer in Europe, Christmas in Jamaica or Vail, and Spring in Mexico.
I have a dream of unlimited prosperity, the elimination of poverty, and not just the pursuit of happiness but its actual acquisition.
I have a dream.
This god called More is a lousy god. He is demanding and controlling. He never ever is satisfied. He keeps us awake at night. He keeps us from ever being satisfied or happy. He deprives us of finding deep and lasting pleasure in his gifts. He outshouts the one only true God. It is awful hard to hear what God is saying when this god is around. It is even harder to do what God wants us to do when this god is around.
In our text for this evening Jesus speaks loudly and clearly against the god called More, against the materialistic American Dream. Jesus says,
(Mt 6:19, 24) "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth ... (24) You cannot serve both God and Money."
What can we do about this god called more? How can we stop ourselves from pursuing the materialistic American Dream?
A The first thing we need to learn is one word. Only one word. That one word is "enough."
In the Garden of Eden the Devil managed to convince Adam and Eve that they did not have enough. God said,
(Gen 2:16-17) "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; (17) but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."But then along comes Satan and asks, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" (Gen 3:1). Then he questioned why they could not eat from the one tree. He charged that God was keeping Adam and Eve from having something "good." See what Satan does? He turns abundance into scarcity, prosperity into deprivation, and generosity into stinginess.
The serpent lied, and Adam and Eve got taken in. Ever since then, despite the overflowing abundance – abundant food, abundant clothes, abundant homes, abundant furniture, abundant play things, abundant friends – we feel it is not enough. We sense it is running out or we are running behind. We fool ourselves into thinking it is not enough. We live for the god called More.
There is a delightful parable from India that speaks to this in a rather humorous way.
Title: The Only Way to Keep My Loincloth
A guru had a disciple and was so pleased with the man's spiritual progress that he left him on his own. The man lived in a little mud hut. He lived simply, begging for his food. Each morning, after his devotions, the disciple washed his loincloth and hung it out to dry. One day, he came back to discover the loincloth torn and eaten by rats. He begged the villagers for another, and they gave it to him. But the rats ate that one, too. So he got himself a cat. That took care of the rats, but now when he begged for his food he had to beg for milk for his cat as well. "This won't do," he thought. "I'll get a cow." So he got a cow and found he had to beg now for fodder. So he decided to till and plant the ground around his hut. But soon he found no time for contemplation, so he hired servants to tend his farm. But overseeing the labors became a chore, so he married a wife to help him. After time, the disciple became the wealthiest man in the village.
The guru was traveling by there and stopped in. He was shocked to see that where once stood a simple mud hut there now loomed a palace surrounded by a vast estate, worked by many servants. "What is the meaning of this?" he asked his disciple.
"You won't believe this, sir," the man replied. "But there was no other way I could keep my loincloth."
B On the one hand is a god called More. On the other hand is the word "enough." This business of "enough" is slippery. When do we have enough? When have we gone from looking after our needs and the needs of our family to storing up treasures for ourselves on earth? What is enough?
I hope you realize that what we call "enough" is considered unimaginable riches by the rest of the world. What we call "enough" is staggering lavishness to most of the world.
Topic: MaterialismPicture that woman looking out our kitchen windows and saying, "A house for the cows. A house for the shovels. A house for the lawn mower. A house for the tractor. A house for the plough. A house for the pool supplies."
Title: A House for the Car
A woman from a poor village in Bangladesh was visiting a Christian family in Toronto, and the morning after she arrived she looked out the kitchen window of the people's home. "Who lives in that house?" she asked the woman from Toronto.
"That one, right there."
"Oh, that. No one lives there. That's a 'house" for the car."
The woman from Bangladesh was amazed and baffled. "A house for the car," she kept saying. "A house for the car."
We live in a culture of excess. A culture of more. A culture where we need newer, bigger, better, stronger, faster. A culture where we accumulate endlessly just to keep the loincloth.
C The only way to break out of this is to say and practice "enough." The only way to stop storing up treasures on earth is to have an attitude of "enough."
There are two ways to have enough. One is to accumulate more and more. The other is to need less. Jesus would have us go the second route. This attitude of enough is marked by trust, contentment, and acceptance. This attitude of enough says, "I have enough. My home is big enough. My car is new enough. My possessions are plenty enough. I've eaten enough. I've taken enough. My business earns enough. My income is high enough. I have enough toys and clothes and furniture. Enough is enough."
The attitude of "enough" is not always striving for more. The attitude of "enough" is content and at peace with what one already has. The attitude of "enough" counts the many blessings of life, discovers they are beyond number, and says "I don't need anymore blessings. I have enough."
A Money, things, possessions, treasure on earth – they don't give freedom. They never give freedom. In fact, they make us slaves of the things we own. We become possessed by our possessions.
Freedom lies in the opposite direction. Freedom lies in not loving money, in not storing up treasures on earth, in not living for a god called More. But, it does no good to simply defy Mammon. It does us no good to stop serving a god called More. The god called More needs a replacement.
B That replacement is God. The answer to the god of More is Jesus Christ. Or, as Jesus puts it, "store up for yourselves treasures in heaven." Think about this. Is it possible that the God Who made the heavens and the earth, the God Who formed the mountains and poured the seas, the God Who put the stars and planets into place, the God Who raises the dead, the God Who knit you together in your mother's womb, the God Who numbers your days, the God Who knows your thoughts, the God Who know you by name, the God Who saves you by His grace in Christ, the God Who is with you every step of the way, the God Who says to you, "Everything I have is yours" (and His is the earth and all its fullness) – is it possible, I ask, that this God is not enough?! Is it possible that we still need more? When we have this God, when we have treasures in heaven, do we still need our kitchen renovated, a new car in the garage, a vacation in Europe, and new furniture in the house in order to be happy?
I think we all know the answer. Things, money, possessions, a god called More never ever bring happiness. But God always does. Treasure in heaven always does. If God is not enough, if we need more than God, then we might as well eat, drink, and be merry. Then we might as well store up treasure on earth and live for a god called More.
There is so much else I can say when we find ourselves confronting the god called More, when we realize we are pursuing treasures on earth. I can suggest a simpler lifestyle. I can suggest a thankful heart. I can suggest cutting up our credit cards. I can talk about stewardship, giving, and estate planning.
All of this, however, does nothing but touch the surface. Because what we need, above all else, is a change in treasure. Instead of putting the highest value on things of this earth we need to place the highest value on things of heaven. We need to realize our soul is more important than our body. When it comes to newer, bigger, better, stronger, faster it should not be things that we have in mind but faith and godliness and holiness and love and hope and a relationship with God and Christ.
Once we strive for that – for faith and godliness and holiness and love and hope and a relationship with God and Christ that is newer, bigger, better, stronger, faster – then it is easy, really easy, to say "enough" to the god of More.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page