This passage is about stewardship, but it is about so much more. A little phrase at the very end of the passage flashes like a neon sign. “…build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life,”(v. 19b). Are those going their own way, not following Jesus, missing out on something? A false life is being offered that claims we will be happy and fulfilled if we only make enough money to own all the really cool things. We've all heard the expression, “Whoever has the most toys wins.” God wouldn’t want to deny us now, would he?
I have questions. What is this “life that is truly life?” How do we get it? What good does such life do for us? Once we have this life, what do we do with it?
What is this life? It is life in Christ, connected to the “treasury that will last.” One stores up heavenly treasure because it lasts for an eternity. Earthly riches can disappear at any moment: when there is a stock market crash, a devastating fire, a pandemic, or death.
Life in Christ is available, accessible and something people of faith can take hold of. It is not beyond us or out of reach. In the midst of temptations such as endless toys, never growing old, wealth and security, we can experience joy in God's call to live a life in Christ. This life manifests signs of mutual love and compassion, justice and kindness, from beginning to end, secure in all that God will bring about at the right time.
Paul contrasts our desire to accumulate wealth that can disappear in a second with heavenly wealth that is eternal. “…the rich simplicity of being yourself before God” becomes the aim of our lives. It is connected with contentment because we are not being driven to possess what isn't ours. But this is difficult to live. At the parsonage, I look out towards Chautauqua Lake. I see boats out there, and I admit I think, wouldn't it be nice to have a boat? And then, wouldn't it be interesting to have Ray drive it? Boat owners likely struggle with other things that produce envy in life. Humanity struggles with envy. Living our life in Christ, we confess our envy to God, receive his forgiveness and move on.
We enter this life empty-handed and leave it the same way. We've heard the phrase, “You can't take it with you.” We collect riches, possessions and decorations along the way. There's only so much you can stuff into a coffin, and even less if you're cremated. Paul writes that all we really need is bread on the table and shoes on our feet.
An often misquoted verse is “money is the root of all evil.” The verse correctly reads, “Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble” (v. 10). Money in itself is not evil. It's when money becomes our god that it is evil.
If God has blessed us with riches in this life, this passage instructs us to not be “so full of [our]selves.” Our good fortune is a direct result of God's favor on us and has nothing to do with anything we have done. We are urged to rely on God, the source of all we have (v. 17). Riches are positive if we do good works, being “extravagantly generous” (v. 18). If we use our possessions wisely, we find ourselves engaged in doing good. Our motivation is to “build a treasury that will last” (v. 19).
How do we obtain this life in Christ? It is pure gift, freely offered by God through Jesus’ death and resurrection. God makes us his own in baptism. Reading God's word, we learn more about God's love and how Jesus came to redeem us from sin and the distractions of this world.
What good does life in Christ do for us? We are not consumed by the riches and things of this world. This life turns our entire world upside down. Paradigms of our life shift. Some are destroyed. Paul writes, “A devout life … bring[s] wealth…the rich simplicity of being yourself before God.” (v. 6). Christ’s life in us makes us godly.
It's interesting that Paul uses the word “wealth” to describe the good life in Christ. He also writes here about financial gain. Material gain seems wonderful at first, but after a while, you only want more. But then God’s wealth is not a fleeting emotion, but something we have for eternity.
We need not worry about sliding stocks, inflation, how many Rolls Royces we drive or how many mansions we own. Our wealth in life in Christ is eternally in the black; giving us the ability to live in a way beyond all of our expectations. Paul says that God “piles on all the riches we could ever manage” (v. 17).
Once we have accepted life in Christ, what do we do? We need to share it! We easily and quickly tell everyone when we have gotten a great deal on something. Furthermore, we post about it on Facebook and tell anyone who will listen. We want them to know how they too can get a good deal.
Why are we so timid about sharing what God has done, is doing and will do in our lives and in the lives of all believers? I know this isn't easy to do, and I confess that I too, have my timid moments.
Learn how to listen to who you are sharing with. Living in Palestine, I learned how to listen to those of a different faith. Muslim university students taught me about Islam, and they became curious about Christianity. This made it easier to talk about faith. To the open, God provides opportunities to share Christ’s life with those not yet following Christ.
We are God's children because God gives us life. I challenge each of us to look for ways to share this wonderful, abundant life God has given us. We live in a hurting world that sorely needs to hear about God’s love and generosity. Are we living the life? Let’s share it with our world. Amen.