Not With Gold or Silver
Wednesday of Easter 3
18 April 2018
God forbids us to become slaves to our possessions. We become slaves to perishable things when our heart is set on money, wealth, and the stuff that comes with it. One of the world's richest men, now deceased, Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, was asked what he thought about the enormous losses his stock portfolio suffered after one of those precipitous drops in the stock market back in the 1980s. He made this laconic reply: "It was paper before. It's still paper." He got into back into his old pick up truck and drove away. Although he had mountains of it, money was not his god.
Mark Twain famously doubted the reality of this slavery when he offered the opinion that it is not the love of money that is the root of all evil, but "the lack of it." Twain had lost possession of his heart for it was greedily chasing the things of this world and he was impoverished of the divine blessings of God's Word. Yes, Twain mastered many words, but he declined to be mastered by God's Word. His mastery of words made him much money, which merely enslaved him to Master Greed.
The Christian may be rich or poor according to the ways of the world, but what makes him different than those who worship possessions, is that he has not set his heart upon the treasures of the world. Yes, he may work hard for his daily bread and well he should for the Lord commands it (2Thess 3:10). But daily bread remains a gift from God for which we pray, and upon which we cannot set our hearts as the thing most needful to us (Lk 10:42). Only the Word of God with all of its great spiritual blessings may be paramount in our lives. So while we may be rich, we must not live as though we are. I remember a sainted friend, who although very wealthy, continued to wear clothing long out of style and drove an economy car that was several years old. Though wealthy, he was not ostentatious. He had not set his heart on his money, but gave generously to his church. He continued to confess that his wealth was the Lord's gift to him, not his possession. He was not possessed by his possessions.
Those who chase every penny remind me of the joke about the two Scotsmen who are said to have invented copper wire when they squabbled over the possession of a penny. What enormous effort can be expended on that which does not save. Finally, like everything else, this is about the First Commandment; either your God is the Lord, or greed is your god. Either God is your Lord and Master or money is. Given God's track record, we would be far better off with God as the Lord, who in Christ offers all the vast riches of His grace. He has offered Himself as the substitute for sinners and "redeemed us not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death" (SC, 2.2).

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"Every Christian, when he has the Word of God, honors and keeps it, regardless of whether this irritates the world or whether it costs him his success. This is his attitude: 'There is my wallet and money bag, my house and home. But here is my Christ. Now, if I have to forsake and surrender one of them, I will let it all go in order to keep my Christ.' That is what Christ means with the words: 'No one can serve two masters' (Mt 6:24). Eventually they will come into conflict, and one will have to yield to the other. Therefore it is vain for you to persuade yourself of the idea that you will keep them both as your masters, but you simply have to make up your mind to forsake one of them.
"Thus the emphasis here is on the little word 'serve.' It is no sin to have money and property, wife and children, house and home. But you must not let it be your master. You must make it serve you, and you must be its master. As it is said of a fine, upstanding gentleman: 'He is master of his money.' He is not its subject and its prisoner, as a stingy, greedy belly is, who would be willing to surrender the Word of God and everything else, doing nothing and saying nothing, rather than to take any chances with his money. That is the heart of a child or a slave. Such a person despises and forsakes the eternal treasure for the sake of that scabby money, which he can neither use nor enjoy. Meanwhile he goes his own smug way, supposing that he can get around to the Word of God any time, and grabbing whatever he can. He cannot miss a single penny, for God's sake! Eventually he sinks deeper and deeper into greed, he gets farther and farther away from the Word of God, and finally he becomes completely hostile to it." 

 Martin Luther, Sermons on The Sermon on the Mount, 6.24

Matthew 6:19-23

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
"The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!" 
Lord Christ, You have granted us every richness in Your divine Word. Grant that we might not seek to serve any master but You, who dies for those whom He rules. Amen.
For all those who struggle in their marriage, that they would be strengthened in service to their spouse through the power of the Holy Spirit
For all church musicians, that they would be strengthened in their calling and office, that the Lord's song would be sung by God's holy people
For LouAnn Webber, that she would recover fully from surgery
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias,  Resurrection (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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