Friday, May 22, 2015

Investing Today for Tomorrow (Matthew 6:19-21) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

One Sunday morning during worship, after preaching on Jesus' parable of the talents where the king gives 3 slaves different talents to invest, a pastor called forward volunteers to come up to the front of the sanctuary.  The pastor handed crisp $100 bills to 100 church members. Their task was to glorify God by investing in the needy.  The pastor said:  “God helped our little church to grow, it's the least we can do to thank Him.”   The results surprised everyone.

One member decorated a Christmas tree with cards requesting holiday gifts for destitute families.  Some 90 donors matched their gift of $100 with $9,000 worth of toys and grocery certificates.   Another member told friends at a party about the pastor's challenge and left the party with $1,700. That sum helped a single mother of three who had recently moved out of a homeless shelter to buy groceries and pay the rent.  Another member had emailed old school friends for matching funds and received over $5,000 to help a poor family pay funeral expenses. The congregation was amazed at how God had blessed this act of investing in others in Christ's name.

We are all familiar with the concept of investing.  We take out school loans to invest in our future education.  We exercise today not only to stay in shape, but because we know it will pay dividends toward our future health.  We invest in the stock market or in real estate or in gold or silver to build up our financial worth for later years.  Going to Las Vegas and putting it all on number 29 on the roulette wheel is probably not a very sound investment approach.

Today we are focusing on investing in something that outlives you, that outlasts you, on giving today for tomorrow.   We are speaking about creating a legacy for the next generation.  Now there are many inspiring legacies which we can pass on to the next generation.  The question is – do you desire to leave a legacy that will live on after you die?

We pass on our legacy through financial gifts to schools, colleges, hospitals, libraries, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, the YMCA, AYSO and Little League.  Joan Kroc, in memory of Ray Krock, who were long time members of the Salvation Army congregation, donated 87 million in 1998 to build the Ray and Joan Krock Community Center in San Diego.  It offers programs for children, youth, families, and older adults.  It includes day camps, sports programs, personal development, a theater, an acquatic center, an education center, a gym, an ice arena, a skateboard park and a church.  Legacies vary tremendously.  People bequeath books, art, songs, movies, money, property, inventions, programs, buildings, teachings and examples for the next generation.

We invest in our children's future.  A mother writes: “I have 3 children, ages 9, 7 and 1. They are so lucky to receive $1000 each year from their grandparents.  I am planning to invest this for their future education.”  Another mother writes:  “Our family sponsors a child in the third world for $25.00 a month through the Christian Children’s Fund.”  I recall a bumper sticker which read: “My daughter and my money go to UCLA.”   Of course some people have a different idea, like the bumper sticker on the back of a beautiful RV, which read: “I'm driving my children's inheritance."

One article stated:  “Apart from the necessity of encouraging our children to read on their own and reading to them, modeling good reading habits is also very important.  Studies show parents who read are more likely to have children who read.  If you’re not a parent, you can still serve as a good role model to nieces, nephews and other special children in your life.  Investing in literacy for future generations is an invaluable legacy.”

In our N.T. lesson from the Gospel of Matthew Jesus’ summons us to look toward the future.  We hear Jesus’ warning about one’s attitude toward earthly possessions and money.  It is the caution against the sin of idolatry.   He warns us to not store up treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.  Why-because where your treasure is there your heart will be also.   Jesus bids us to invest today for tomorrow, to invest in the present for the future, to invest in earthly enterprises that have heavenly benefits.

Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven!   That idea sounds strange for us today.  But the Jews of Jesus' day were quite familiar with this notion.   For example, they identified treasures, with acts of kindness, acts of mercy, which you carried out on earth and which became your treasure in heaven.  A story circulated in Jesus day about a king who converted to Judaism.   He distributed his wealth to the poor in a year of famine.  The king's brothers chastised the king for this generous act.  He replied:  “You have gathered treasures for this world, I have gathered treasures for the world to come.”  

Another story which circulated pertained to the Romans.  During Roman persecution of the church, the emperor sent his soldiers to raid the churches of their treasures.  A soldier demanded of a deacon of one of the churches: “Show me your treasures at once.”  The deacon pointed to the widows and orphans who were being fed, the sick who were being nursed to health, the poor whose needs were being supplied.  “There he said, are the treasures of the church.” 

Can you think of what it means to store up treasures in heaven?  Here are some things which come to my mind.  Serving and glorifying God in such a way that lives are changed, that unbelievers confess Christ and become believers, that souls are saved, that you are reaching people for the kingdom of God, that you are developing and using the gifts and talents God has imparted to you, that you are fulfilling God's will for your life by carrying out God's plans and purposes, that you are helping by your faith and witness and character to expand God's kingdom, that you are loving others, loving your neighbor, through acts of kindness, justice, and encouragement, because in all these things God is glorified.

Recall Jesus' words in Matthew chapter 6: “When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.  So that your giving may be in secret.  Then your  father, who sees what is done will reward you.” 

Yes, there is a link between rewards and treasures.  Do we enact deeds of kindness and mercy in order to stockpile rewards in heaven?  No, not at all.  Treasures in heaven, rewards are God's serendipities.   We love others because God first loved us.  We love others because God has brought us salvation in Jesus Christ.  We love others because Christ commands us to love our neighbor.   We serve and love others to bring glory to God.   As someone said, “It's not about us, it's about Jesus, it’s about God.”

Another opportunity to invest in something that will outlast and outlive you is to give to our church's Endowment Fund.  Why the church?  First, its the body of Christ; Christ is head of the church.  Second,  because for over 2,000 years, the church has had a major impact for God and morality and social change in nations and cultures around the world.  Giving to the church ensures that we shall pass on the Christian faith, the gospel of Jesus Christ to the next generation.

What is an endowment?  It’s a gift given for the purpose of establishing a permanent fund to benefit church programs and ministry. The principal remains intact and only the earned interest is spent.  As it grows, it becomes a perpetual source of income for the ministry of the church in the years ahead. Why endowments or other special gifts for the church: “They allow us to do things in the church‘s ministry which we would not otherwise be able to do.”

Some churches endow their building maintenance costs, or their entire music program or their youth program, or their giving to missions and missionaries.  Each church prays for God’s guidance in using the income from their endowments.  Endowments are a blessing because churches can do exciting things for Jesus Christ and His church today and tomorrow.   It’s a way of saying –“I thank God for the friends I made, the support I received, the things I learned and the opportunities the church gave me and out of gratitude I want to continue to support Christ’s work even after I’m in heaven.   That is the power of an endowment fund for Christ’s work.

Investing today for tomorrow, is a way for you to express your faith in God and your appreciation and gratitude to the people in the church who came before you and who will come after you.   It remembers that our ministry today is built first on the grace of God and second on the heritage and faithfulness of past believers here at PBPC since 1888.    It means we have the privilege to carry-on Christ’s ministry which they began and which we will one day pass on to the next generation.

One author wrote:   I followed others who had gone before me; they left a legacy for me.   Now I am making sure that those who come after me will have a trail to follow as well.  Think about those who left a legacy for you to follow specifically: Your parents, Your grandparents, Your aunts and uncles, Your schoolteachers, Your neighbors’ where you grew up.  For those of us in America: The founding fathers who had a dream of a nation ruled by self-government; Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves; FDR, who saw us through the great depression; the many men and woman who defended our liberties through the wars so we could live in freedom;  JFK, who called us to space exploration and set us on course to have a man walk on the moon; Martin Luther King Jr. who left us a legacy to pursue the dream of racial equality.  We are stewards of this world, and we have a calling on our lives to leave it better than how we found it, even if it seems like such a small part.  Ask yourself this question: How will my life affect the next generation?” Amen!

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