Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity: “Treasure”

Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity: “Treasure”
A Message on Luke 12:22-34

For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
October 8, 2017
By Doug Wintermute


Luke 12:22-34


22 He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the  kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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As a kid growing up I didn’t watch much television. One of the reasons was for for a several year period the TV we had didn’t work and we just didn’t get if fixed. I don’t remember what we did for entertainment during those years but it must have not been too bad because all six of us kids survived.


When we did have a television that worked it was sketchy what we could pick up. Delta County is not located real close to a metropolitan area where the tv signals originate. We had to have a tall antenna and a “booster” and even then we could pick up three and maybe four channels. (No satellite tv back in those days, young folks. And no remote controls, either. You had to get up and walk to the tv to change the channel or the volume… or the tint.)


One of the shows we could get from time to time and that we watched some was “Let’s Make a Deal” with Monty Hall. The concept was simple, the audience dressed in crazy costumes and then were selected as contestants. Then they would be offered something of value and then would be given the chance to trade in that item for something behind one of three big closed doors without being able to see what was behind each one.


It might be a nice trip, or it might be a car, or it might be something worthless, which was called a “zonk.”


I remember on one episode someone decided to trade what they had for what was behind a curtain that they had picked. After much fanfare when the curtain was opened there was a donkey wearing a straw hat (with holes cut out for its ears) standing there. The music of the show played that “Woh, Woh, Woh” song and the people were so upset and sad because they won the donkey instead of a car or a trip or something more valuable.


Now as a kid I thought a donkey was a great prize! We had cows, we had horses, and we even had a pig for a while (before it ended up in the freezer) but we didn’t have a donkey, especially one with a straw hat! That would be awesome to have!


I couldn’t understand why the people weren’t thrilled to have a donkey! Why, having a donkey is a much better prize than a stupid trip to somewhere or even a car, right? Especially a donkey that would wear a hat!


For me and my brothers, a donkey was a treasure. A trip or car, not so much.


Treasure is in the eye of the beholder, right?


Today as we continue through the book Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity by Adam Hamilton, we’re going to talk about treasure.


The author of the Gospel of Luke talks about treasure in the scripture we read today. In it Luke quotes Jesus as telling his followers not to spend time and energy worrying about the things of this world, but to instead focus on things of heaven. If we will focus on the things of heaven then God will make sure to take care of the earthly things we need. Our “treasure” should be the things of heaven, not the things of this world.


It’s a simple concept but one that is hard to live out. I think part of the struggle comes because our society tries to brainwash us into believing that our value as human beings comes from us being consumers and collectors of “things.”


Adam Hamilton talks about this in the second chapter of his book. “What is your life about? Why do you exist? Do you exist simply to consume as much as you can and get as much pleasure as you can while you are here on this earth, or do you have a higher purpose? How do you understand your life purpose—your vision or mission or calling?”


We all have a purpose in this world. When we prayerfully discern that purpose we find that it has little to nothing to do with following the ways of the world, but instead true meaning and purpose can only be found in God.


Here’s how Hamilton puts it. “We were created to care for God’s creation. We were created to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We were created to care for our families and those in need. We were created to glorify God, to seek justice, and to do mercy. To be a Christian is to follow Jesus Christ and to seek to do his will in our lives. It is to say,’Here I am, all of me! I’m yours. Put me to work, help me serve, use me to accomplish your work.’


Hamilton gives an example of this in his book. He talks about a 19-year-old man named Johnny who worked in a grocery store. Johnny also has Down Syndrome.


One day a motivational speaker came and spoke to the grocery store employees about how what they did was more than just providing people with groceries. She told them that every person they came into contact with at the store was “an opportunity to bless someone, to live out a higher calling or mission.”


Johnny took those words to heart. Each night he would get in the Internet and look for inspirational sayings. He would pick one, copy it many times on a page, and then would print out that page and then cut the paper in strips, each with the saying. He would make 300 of them each night.


Then the next day at the grocery store he would place one of those slips of paper in the bag of a customer as he bagged their groceries. Then he would tell them, “I put a saying in your bag. I hope it helps you have a good day. Thanks for coming here.”


After a while the management started noticing something. The line at the register where Johnny sacked groceries was longer than the other lines. Sometimes other registers would be wide open with no customers and yet there would be a line at Johnny’s register. The management could come on the PA system and announce that there was no waiting on register so-and-so but people wouldn’t move. They wanted Johnny’s line. They treasured his slips of paper and his interacting with them.


Hamilton sums it up this way: “Each of us is called to be a blessing to others. We have a life purpose that is greater than our own self-interests, and how we spend our God-given resources reflects our understanding and commitment to this life purpose or mission.”


Here’s how The Message paraphrases Luke 12:26-32, “What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.”


Now we can say, “Yeah, that’s a great idea. I’m going to do that.” But the probabilities are very high that if you don’t have a plan it won’t happen.


Hamilton offers a simple six-step plan designed to change our focus from the treasures of the world to the treasures of heaven. They are six key financial principles. Here they are:


  1. Pay your tithes and offering first. Now no, I’m not going to be like some of those televangelists that tell you if you give money to the church you God will bless you with a new car or a bigger house. Hamilton is not saying that, either. He is point out that if God really is the top priority in our lives then we should move or tithes and offering to the top of the list of where our money goes. Tithing and offering shouldn’t be given from whatever is “left over” at the end of the month, but the top item on the “to be paid” list.
  2. Create a budget and track your expenses. Back in the “old days” this took quite a bit of effort to reconcile the checkbook, go through receipts, and calculate what you spent on what. But guess what? Technology today makes it extremely easy to budget. My brother told me about a free software called “Mint” that connects with your bank account electronically and makes it a breeze to not only reconcile your accounts, but also it tracks your spending for you. You can even set it up to send you text and email notifications if you are getting close to going over you budget in a certain category. And when tax time rolls around it’s great at collecting all your expenses you can count as deductions. (Note: I am not a paid spokesperson for Mint, but I do use their product. I’m sure there are others out there that can do the same thing.)
  3. Simplify your lifestyle (Live below your means). This should be a no-brainer but unfortunately the seductiveness of the world can lead us down a path to where before we realize it we are spending more than we earn. We can’t financially support God’s work in this world if we spend more than we earn.
  4. Establish an emergency fund. Hamilton borrowed this (and many of these financial concepts) from Dave Ramsey, who has been extremely successful in introducing people to the financial practices of our grandparents and great grandparents that they learned during the tough times of the depression. (All of you here are much too young to remember the Great Depression, I am sure.) Ramsey says to start an emergency fund that is separate from your checking and savings accounts. Begin with $1,000 (or build up to it) and then keep adding to it until you have three months’ worth of income. Then leave it alone. Only spend it on emergencies. (A vacation trip to Hawaii is not an emergency, by the way.)
  5. Pay off credit cards, use cash/debit cards for purchases, and use credit wisely. Yes, it seem like this is an overwhelming task, depending on how much you owe, but you can do it, and the quicker the better. Hamilton points out in the first chapter of his book that most credit cards require only a minimum payment of 2 percent of the balance. If you think you can pay off the balance by making the minimum payments you are mistaken. He give the example that if you have a credit card balance of $9,000 and if the card requires a 2 percent minimum payment and charges 18 percent interest, that if you don’t add any other charges to that card and make the minimum payments it will take you 240 years to pay it off. Quit using the card, make double or triple the minimum payments, and put any extra money you have toward paying off that credit card debt.
  6. Practice long-term savings and investing habits. Hamilton points out that we should have three types of savings: 1. Emergency savings (see above), 2. Savings for wants and goals; and 3. Retirement savings. He says that saving money is the number-one wise money management principle everyone should practice. He also cautions against saving as a way of “hoarding” money. Don’t become a lover of money and turn into an Ebenezer Scrooge.


As we talked about last week, money itself is neither good nor bad. It is our attitude about money that we must be cautious about. Jesus talks about treasure in the scripture we read today from Luke and tells us that our where our treasure is that our hearts will be there as well.


Where is your treasure? Where is your heart?


As Christians, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are to remember the sacrifice Jesus Christ made on the cross. Because Jesus, who was/is fully human and fully divine, willingly allowed himself to be beaten and crucified, we are offered the greatest treasure ever: forgiveness of our sins and reconciliation with God. Through our faith we accept this treasure offered to us by God and thus receive the promise of eternal life in a place that is perfect.


What a great treasure. How much more valuable is salvation than anything this world can offer?


My challenge to you this week is to ask yourself daily where your treasure is? Is it with things of heaven, or with things of earth? Practice these six financial principles in your life that Adam Hamilton recommends, not out of greed but so that you can financially support the things of heaven.


For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


And if you’re on a game show and you win a donkey wearing a hat, and you don’t want it, let me know.


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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