September 16, 2012

Sermon, Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

God Can; Mammon Can't
Psalm 49, Galatians 6:11-18, Matthew 6:24-34
Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity
September 16, 2012


"There be some that put their trust in their goods, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches." These words from the sixth verse of the Forty-ninth Psalm express truth that is both self-evident and irrefutable. But Psalm 49 does not end there. It continues on to one of its primary points, which is to show, to those who put their trust in mammon, that mammon is completely unworthy of their trust. Whether they have concluded that there is no God, therefore they should, "eat drink, and be merry," or whether they are looking to mammon to ease the pain of the disapointments of life, on the idea that, "when the going gets tough, go shopping;" or whether they look to their goods as rewards for their good deeds and signs of God's favour; or whether they just prefer mammon over God, mammon cannot deliver what they expect from it.

Why not? For the answer, look at verses 12 and 17. "Nevertheless, man being in honour abideth not, seeing that he may be compared to the beasts that perish." "For he shall carry nothing away with him when he dieth, neither shall his pomp follow him." These verses express a major point of the Psalm, and of the entire Bible, which I think we can paraphrase by saying, mammon cannot deliver a person from the trials of life. What verse 12 calls 'Being in honour" is a euphemistic way of saying a person is rich, and because of his wealth, people defer to him. Some people are infatuated with the rich and famous. They buy products because "celebrities" endorse them. They flock to hear celebrities speak, and stand for hours in heat or cold to catch a glimpse of an athlete or actor. Why? Simply because they are rich and famous. As the Psalm says the rich are "in honour."

But the Psalm goes on to say, that man "abideth not." His wealth is temporary, and if he loses his wealth, he also loses his adoring fans. Yet there is deeper meaning in the words, "abideth not." They imply that the man's life itself is temporary and subject to the vagaries of life. His wealth can neither stay the hand of death nor insulate him from the trials of life. News programs often have stories about "celebrities," and the internet home page I use has several stories about them every day. I rarely read the stories or know who those people are, but I notice one thing in the headlines; they all have problems. They have marital problems, financial problems, family problems, health problems, and they all die. Their mammon does not protect them. In fact, it seems it often works against them, for, rather than having to face their problems, their mammon seems to enable them to run away and seek comfort in it. Have marital problems? Buy a new yacht. Have family problems? Take a Vegas vacation. Feeling a little down?. A new Jag will make you feel better.

I have noticed that those who are not so rich have the same tendency. Instead of Vegas they may go to the mall. Instead of a yacht they may buy a canoe. Instead of a Jag they may get a new shirt, or a new hobby, or some other form of self-amusement. Either way, they are attempting to console themselves with mammon, and it doesn't work. Their houses, their little kingdoms of fantasy, will not stand the trials of life, and their pomp will not follow them.

But the primary reason mammon cannot deliver what people want from it is that mammon cannot save the soul. Look at verse 7, "no man may deliver his brother, nor give a ransom unto God for Him." When a person stands before God on Judgment Day, mammon will not get him into Heaven. Money, land, houses, fame, gold, and possessions are without value on that day. Revelation 21:21 describes the streets of the New Jerusalem as paved with gold. I believe this signifies that the New Jerusalem is richly and gloriously appointed. I also believe it shows gold is so irrelevant to life there, it is used to pave the streets. Something so irrelevant will not be able to get a soul into Heaven, even if you could take it with you.

But there is another side to this Psalm, another message, and that message is more important that the first. That message is that there is hope, or, in New Testament language, there is salvation in God. God can do what mammon can't.

Mammon can't protect you from the troubles of life, but, in Romans 8:28, God promises to work all things for your good. Mammon cannot give meaning and purpose to life, God is purpose and God is life. He gives you a reason to live, to work to love. Mammon is not constant. It can be stolen, rust away, and destroyed. God can never be taken from you, and God will never go away from you. "Lo, I am with you alway," said the One who is called Emmanuel, God with us. So, if you lose all your money, your home, and even your life, you still have God. Money can't get you into Heaven, but God is preparing a place in Heaven for you, and He said, If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also." He will not just get you into Heaven, He will escort you to Heaven Himself.

Matthew 6 and Galatians also speak to this issue of serving mammon or serving God. Matthew is about those whose lives revolve around mammon because their concern is always for the needs and pleasures of the flesh. Galatians 6 refers to those who try to appease God with good works, but whose orientation in life is still primarily toward the flesh. These people go to church, when it is convenient for them, which it rarely is. They give a little money, also when it is convenient. They may "pray," they may read the Bible, and they may be well informed in theological matters. But the point is that they are still sowing to their flesh rather than to their spirits. They continue to place their own desires above the will of God, and they hope their religious deeds will placate God. They cannot say with Paul that, through Christ "the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."

To such people, and to all people, Christ says, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God." This is another way of saying what we find in other places in Scripture; "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind," and, "Thou shalt have no other gods but Me." God is what life is about. Knowing Him, loving Him. In Him is life and light and true joy forever. That's why, when others turned away from Christ, Peter said to the Lord, "Where would we go, only Thou hast the words of everlasting life." Thus, our Lord said, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth... but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven."

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