By Nnorom Azuonye
Sermon preached at Wesley Hall Methodist Church on 7th August, 2016 is based on Luke 12:32-40.
“For your heart will always be where your riches are.” (34).
In ‘Blue Streak’ – a 1999 remake of the British Film, “The Big Job”, funny man Martin Lawrence plays the part of Miles Logan – a jewel thief who participates in a $17 million diamond robbery. His partner in crime turns on him and the police surround him, forcing him to hide the diamond in a ductwork within a building under construction. He is then apprehended and sent to jail for two years. The thought of recovering the diamond made it easier for him to serve out his jail term. But in a funny turn of events, when he goes back to the site to retrieve his diamond, he finds that the building has been completed and is now the headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Department. He stops at nothing, including inventing a police officer with whose identity he embeds himself in the force and works tirelessly until he recovers his diamond.
If any of us has any riches stored anywhere, that’s where our heart will be. The two questions we must ask are:
- How much control do we have over the place we have stored our treasures?
- How do we know we will live to retrieve the treasures?
Staying with the story of Miles Logan for the purposes of illustration, he hid the diamond in the ductwork of a building that did not belong to him, and when he came out of prison and wanted to retrieve it, the building had become a Police station. We also know what happens in prisons across the world, many inmates are killed in prison. Logan could easily have been killed and all that would have been for nothing.
It is not only jewel thieves that store treasures in places that don’t belong to them. Anyone of us here who has money to spare probably has that money deposited in a bank as savings or investments, right? Do you own the banks or building societies? If they fail, as many banks have failed in the past, only a proportion of your money is actually protected.
Or let us think about pensions. Pensions. A great idea! I can’t fault the idea. A small amount of money is taken out of your salary every month and put into this pot so that when you retire, perhaps after having worked for thirty to forty-five years, you will have something to live your twilight years on.
Now the problem is that there are some who will not live until the retirement age and will not enjoy that privilege of pensions in their old age.
But worse, if you ask me, are those people who lose their pensions because somebody squanders it. We very much recall the story of Robert Maxwell and his misappropriation of the Mirror Group pensions fund and in the news at the moment is billionaire Philip Green who hates to be compared with Robert Maxwell, but is said to have pinched the BHS pension fund, thereby devastating several people who have not just lost their jobs but most of their pension as well.
If only we all stored our treasures in heaven.
Treasures in heaven
In today’s bible passage, our Lord Jesus Christ urges us to:
…save your riches in heaven, where they will never decrease, because no thief can get to them, and no moth can destroy them. (33)
The concept of storing riches in heaven does not sit well with many people. The argument is that we live on earth, not in heaven, we make our fortune on earth, it therefore stands within reason that we would invest our money here on earth – in property, in savings, in cars, in pension funds and so on. This argument suffers because it assumes a literal dimension just because the preceding words in verse 33 of Luke 12 are:
“Sell all your belongings and give the money to the poor. Provide for yourselves purses that don’t wear out…” (33)
This is all about Christian charity and non-dependence on earthly belongings. My interpretation of this is that Jesus wants us to view our belongings differently, to see them as commonwealth of humankind.
- First of all to not make these belongings our gods, thinking that they define us and offer us security. We must be aware they can disappear just as they came.
- Also, we must be willing if required of us to let go of these belongings to help the needy or to save lives.
Can we in all honesty feel comfortable living in million pound mansions, eating the best foods and driving the best cars when our fellow human beings cannot eat and do not have roofs over their heads?
We store our treasures in heaven when we seek the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness and our primary investments are serving our God and in making the lives of our neighbours better. In this way, if our souls are required of us today, we should be happy to come into glory with Christ instead of worrying about the unspent millions in the bank or who will end up enjoy the property we leave behind.
There is a popular saying that we come into this world empty-handed and will leave it empty-handed. This is why Jesus urges us to be vigilant. Because none of us has any control over our lives and cannot decide how long to live (except, of course, people who can no longer bear this life and choose to end their own lives).
“Be ready for whatever comes, dressed for action and with your lamps lit, like servants who are waiting for their master to come back from a wedding feast. When he comes and knocks, they will open the door for him at once. How happy are those servants whose master finds them awake and ready when he returns! I tell you, he will take off his coat, have them sit down, and will wait on them. How happy they are if he finds them ready, even if he should come at midnight or even later! And you can be sure that if the owner of a house knew the time when the thief would come, he would not let the thief break into his house. And you, too, must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you are not expecting him.” (35-40)
What I like about this passage is that it speaks to us at various levels and we can apply the message to our lives in the way it works best. Key message is being prepared for anything life throws at us. I will divide this into two areas:
- Be prepared for life here on earth. Study, learn new and transferable skills, do your best to be and stay healthy, so that if an opportunity suddenly presents itself for you to go higher in life, you will not be found wanting.
- Be prepared for heaven. We must try to be rapture-ready. Study the word of God, stay spiritually healthy. If the trumpet sounds today, would the Lord say to you, ‘come into my Kingdom’ or is he going to say to you, ‘I am sorry, I do not know you.’?
Make it your mission to be kingdom-fit. Ask yourself every day, ‘Am I kingdom-fit?’ You are the only one who can tell yourself the truth. Bear in mind that “the Son of Man will come at an hour when you are not expecting him.”
Is it not good news that it is in your hands to build a good home for your heart?
Every time you give alms to help the poor,
Every time you pray for the sick
Every time you comfort the bereaved
Every time you bag clothes you will never wear again and give them to people who cannot afford to buy clothes
Every time you share your lunch with somebody who has no food
My brothers and sisters, you deposit a fortune into your vault in heaven.
May God give us the grace
to develop the spirit of Christian charity,
to free ourselves from slavery to earthly wealth
and to hunger for the righteousness of God
for in this way we shall be truly provided for
on earth and in heaven. Amen.
©2016 Nnorom Azuonye