To find the reading for today, click here
There was a time, perhaps not all that long ago, when if you asked people what was the most important thing in life you would likely get the answer that the most important thing in life is preparing for the next life.
Most of the world religions are all about that.
For most of the world religions the question that’s being asked by the rich young ruler in our Gospel reading this morning forms the central aspect of the faith.
‘How do I inherit eternal life?”
If you do a Google search about this topic there is very little evidence that people are really concerned anymore about the next life.
Well not in the Western world anyway and particularly in North America.
The focus of most folks today is “How do I get the most out of this life?”
There are areas in the world where the topic of the next life is still considered high on people’s priority list….Egypt.
A survey done a few years ago on people’s priorities by country show that the majority of folks in Egypt thinnk religion and preparation for the next life is the number one priority.
It must be the influence of all those Pyramids or something…
So back to the source of all knowledge, Google.
If you Google “most important things in life” you will find a lot of different answers.
There are all these different articles that always list things:
List of the 10 most important things, or the 5 most important things etc etc you know the kind of articles I mean.
In most of those people don’t list material things as very important in their lives.
They list things like; love and family and purpose in life, health, quality of life…….
I looked at quite a few of them as I prepared for this sermon and there were very few if any that listed money or possessions as very important.
Probably if I did a quick survey of all of you and asked you for the most important things in life you wouldn’t be very much different in the things you value than all the surveys I googled on Friday.
But hang on…..if that’s the case…if the most valued things in people’s lives are immaterial why is our society so obsessed with material things.
If you haven’t seen George Carlin’s comedy routine on Stuff, I recommend you look it up on You tube when you get home.
It’s a comedic take on how obsessed we are with accumulating possessions, or “stuff” as he calls.
He said we’re so obsessed with our “stuff” that there’s a whole industry dedicated to keeping our “stuff”…the storage business.
Look around our city….it seems like there’s a new Dymond Storage facility going up every month somewhere on some corner!
People have so much stuff and continue to accumulate so much stuff that they haven’t got enough space in their homes anymore to keep it all!
We would like to think that we’re not materialistic people…that stuff doesn’t matter…but that’s not really true is it?
No matter how dewy eyed we all get about love and family and health most people in our society, including, I suggest, ourselves, are all about possessions and the material comforts of this life.
Another Google search I did as I gathered my thoughts for this sermon was I wanted to know what the top motivations for murder are.
I know stay with me here.
They are: money, love and revenge…..money, love and revenge.
In other words they are all about self interest and they are all about this life….no worries about the next life or what rewards or punishments there might be for self indulgence in this life.
What people are prepared to commit murder over is pretty indicative of where people’s priorities are.
Jesus is asked in the gospel reading this morning what seems like a question about preparing for the next life.
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus starts out by saying what most good religious or spiritual folks would expect.
Keep the commandments, be a good person…live a disciplined life.
The rich young man, who asked the question, is starting to feel pretty good about himself…as perhaps most of us are about ourselves….”these are things I’ve done all my life,” he says “….so I’m good to go?”
“Oh ya just one other thing,” says Jesus, “hold a yard sale, get rid of all your “stuff,” give the money to the poor, and come and follow me…I mean… REALLY follow me.”
Well he didn’t see that one coming!
The guy goes away shocked and disappointed…and Jesus is disappointed too.
Jesus declares in wonderment “ “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”
Let’s face it, compared to probably 80 per cent of the world’s population all of us here this morning are wealthy.
If you have a financial planner they are now starting to call themselves, ‘wealth management consultants.’
All of us have the basics; food, clean water, shelter, physical safety and a lot of stuff…a lot of material possessions of one kind or another.
We’ve got a lot of stuff.
So this is a message we need to hear this morning.
Because there is a disconnect from what most of us say is important and how we really act about what is important.
In our first reading this morning we encounter a guy named Job.
Here is a guy who had everything by the standards of any time.
He had a big family, lots of money, lots of material possessions.
People spoke well of him and said he really was a good person whose spirituality and actions were rock solid.
He kept God’s commandments, he did the right things by his family, his friends and his neighbours and then suddenly his whole life is turned upside down and he is put to the test…we all know the story of Job.
The test is this….”what is really important to you?”
Job is a literary character of course, it’s a prosaic book of wisdom meant to be a morality story.
It’s meant to get people thinking about what are the most important things in life.
Jesus’ encounter with the man with many possessions is the encounter he would like to have with each one of us.
Most of us consider ourselves good people.
We’re people who try to follow the specific, outward regulations of the ten commandments and the great commandment; to love God and our neighbours.
But Jesus perceives that something still blocks our relationship with God – our many possessions, our “stuff”.
I’m not suggesting this morning that we all need to literally go out after the service and sell all our stuff and I don’t think that’s what Jesus was saying either.
I think what he’s suggesting is that we need to come into a healthy relationship with our possessions and with our relationships.
If we can truly say that material belongings are not important in our lives, that they are only icing on the cake….
If we can truly say that if we lost everything tomorrow, just like Job, that would be ok because we can depend on God and God alone then we are truly in possession of eternal life.
Love of stuff, love of possessions blocks us from totally loving God, from loving our neighbours and from truly following Christ.
It’s not an easy message this morning but it’s something we should all take some time to think about.
How does our stuff get in the way of a truly fulfilling life?