O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Where Your Treasure is...
"Where Your Treasure is..."
Based on Mt. 6:21
Preached on October 14, 2012
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Fellow baptized saints, there was a new manager who was receiving his turnover from the departing manager. When the turnover was complete, the departing manager turned to leave, and stopped himself. "Oh," he said, "I left three envelopes in the desk drawer. If you ever encounter a situation you can't solve, just open one of the envelopes and it will tell you what to do." Three months later, a labor crisis arose, so the new manager pulled out one of the envelopes and opened it up. He looked at the simple message. "Blame your predecessor" it said. He quickly followed directions and the crisis was averted. But only half a year later, sales began to plummet and things weren't looking very good. He opened the second envelope. "Reorganize" it said. He put the words into action and the company rebounded from its slump. Three months later however, another crisis arose. He went to the drawer for his last envelope. Pulling the message from inside he read, "Quickly, prepare three envelopes."
Do you ever feel like you're unable to manage, like there are times when you cannot handle all of the responsibilities that are placed on you? Do you ever feel like you have all sorts of different bosses, all putting expectations on you all the time, and you don't know how to keep things from crashing down around you?
How did life get so complicated, and what am I really supposed to be doing here? Why is it so difficult to keep life simple, to keep myself from being pulled all over by the demands of these fake bosses? How have I become such a victim? How have I been manipulated into doing their work for them? What ever happened to the simple life of being a child when I just listened to my parents?
Beloved children of the heavenly Father, that simple life you had when you just listened to your parents, it never left. It has always been here, it has just been forgotten. And perhaps for the first time in a while, the voice of your heavenly Father is finally being heard over all the distracting voices that surround you. His voice is the only one that matters. He makes things simple, but whenever we turn from Him we are immediately saddled by a host of other masters and are pulled every which way at the same time.
Let us use a helpful example. In the "factory of life" there is a difference between the "owner," the "worker" and the "manager." Now as much as we would like to be, we are not the owners. We don't own life. We don't own anything really. Not our money, our houses, our cars or even our clothes. They aren't ours. In fact, the Scriptures say that even our bodies are not our own, but have been bought at a price, by the precious blood of Christ. God is the owner. Everything in all of creation belongs to Him.
But as you know, it pleases God to entrust us with the stewardship of His creation. God has made us the managers in His factory of life. Now the manager is responsible to the owner, but is given freedom to decide things. The manager is free to make good decisions and bad, but in the end must answer to the owner. God has given us many good things to take care of for Him, and He will call us to account for how we use them. Being a manager in the factory of life is a pretty good job.
But may the Christian steward beware, for whenever we lose sight of the fact that God is the owner of the factory, our idols, the fake bosses, rush in and turn us into workers. They deceive us with false promises. They make us think that if we work hard enough, we will become the owners, that somehow the factory of life will be ours. Sounds enticing, doesn't it? But all they are really doing is forcing their way in between us and our owner. They craftily take our place as managers and turn us into slave-workers under their heavy hand. We try to satisfy them, as they rob us of our real job.
Put our illustration into real life for a moment. One of the biggest idols of every age is money. It makes great boasts and deceives many. It says, "If you have more money, then you can buy more things, and that will make you happy, or secure, or stable." But money does no such thing, nor do the possessions it renders. Think about it. How long does it take before that new car that you spent months researching and thousands of dollars on merely become the vehicle that gets you from A to B? Even though the advertisements promise you eternal happiness, the excitement eventual fades with that new car smell and it is on to the next thing. Your mind turns to the next thing you need to buy to be happy, because the promises of idols are worth nothing. They do not satisfy. They only lure us away from our real job, the stewardship of God's things. In this example, money becomes our focus and we find ourselves working to get money instead of managing the owner's riches.
God, however, works to simplify our lives, to make them manageable. This is why our Lord says, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." For our role as Christian stewards is not primarily a matter of time, talents or treasures. It is a matter of the heart, a way of life. It is a godly way of seeing the world, one that sees God as the owner, and us as the managers. Managers that want to do their best for their owner because of all their owner has already done for them. For Christ has taken ownership of the entire creation by entering it as a man. He has personally taken the fall for all of your mismanagement and abuse and corruption in His death on the cross. And He calls you to look to Him, the owner, who gives even His own life for you. He is the motivation for your life. His Good News of forgiveness, eternal life and salvation is what makes you want to do your best for Him, to dedicate your time, talents and treasures to the spreading of His Word. Gone are the other bosses. Gone are the other pressures, the other demands. Simply rest in the certain promise of your heavenly Father. As St. Paul writes, "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"
Yes Lord, I trust you, I want to use all of your resources in a way that pleases you. Show me Your will. Teach me your ways. This is the prayer of a Christian steward as they are about to study the Ten Commandments. For the Ten Commandments tell us what the owner wants, how He wants us to manage His things. The first three commandments are about God. His position, His Name and His Word. They teach us to put our spiritual needs, that is, our faith in God above all things. In other words, the primary thing Christian managers are to use their time, talents and treasures for is the strengthening of their faith, and the faith of others. The first thing a Christian manager is to do with the time God has given them is hear preaching, receive the Lord's Supper, study God's Word and pray. The first thing a Christian manager is to do with the skills and abilities God has given them is the support and growth of Word and Sacrament ministry. The first thing a Christian manager is to do with the income God gives them is to put it towards the proclamation of the Gospel, that their faith and the faith of others may be strengthened. After this, the other seven commandments follow, in which we care for the physical needs of this life, both for ourselves and for our neighbour. Lord, move me to use all of your things in a way that pleases you.
Perhaps the best thing is that you don't need to be the kind of manager that just does whatever the manager before you did, that runs to the desk drawer when you don't know what to do. You don't need three envelopes all written by a failure. God has given you His Holy Will in His eternal Word and Sacrament. "Blame your predecessor" - No need. Christ has already taken the blame for you when He shed His blood on the cross. Reorganize? How about repent? None of us have been good stewards of the things God has given us. But let's change our path together and trust our Savior's promise to provide. He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? In Him we are secure, not only now but forever. And "prepare three envelopes?" Never. We need never give up, for Christ's mercy and forgiveness, His patience and guidance - they are eternal. He is going to carry you whenever things are tough, and He is going to you set back on your feet when you trip up trying to manage His resources. You belong to the Lord. He is the keeper of your life. He has taken care of you and He will always take care of you, even in old age, and through death. You are His treasure, and so His heart is with you also. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr