Sermon given at Isham & GH 31.7.16
Readings: OT/Epistle Colossians 3: 1-11
Gospel Luke 12: 13-21
My daughter Alice has just spent a week in Greece with her husband Richard’s family and Rory, who’s nearly 2 now, thoroughly enjoyed all the attention! One mealtime he was enjoying dropping his spoon from the highchair. When Richard told him not to do it any more he held the spoon up and smiled at each member of the family in turn to see if any of them would play – only sadly putting the spoon down when each, in turn, shook their head at him!! We humans start trying to manipulate people to get what we want at an early age!!
Rory has also discovered a liking for ice-cream. When his father said he couldn’t have another one he turned to his grandmother “Granny get more ice-cream!” It’s not surprising that both Jesus and Paul warn us about the dangers of greed!
It’s said that if you ask anyone if they’re content with their wealth the majority will reply that a little more would be nice – however much they have, even if they’re fabulously wealthy by most people’s standards! I guess there are always things that tantalise us by being just out of reach – it might be the wish for more holidays or a particular car or house – or even just the desire for a bit more financial security.
The trouble is that this temptation to want something more can get out of hand – just like the literal temptation to have one more biscuit, one more packet of crisps can lead to us putting on more weight than is healthy. Supermarkets and cafés have made temptation a real art form!! It’s not the healthy food that attracts us but the crisps, chips, cheese, yummy cakes and sweet desserts!
There is nothing wrong with holidays, cars, houses and delicious food – they’re all part of the wonderful world God has created and the result of humans using their God-given talents to give people pleasure. It’s all GOOD stuff! And there’s nothing intrinsically wrong in the desire for financial security.
It only becomes a problem when greed interferes – that’s when any good thing can rise to the level of moving from a good and innocent pleasure to something to be idolised. At that point we cross the line from innocence to idolatry – the good thing becomes a false god that begins to claim far too much of our attention and to promise things it can’t deliver such as happiness.
When we think about the things that can tempt people to the point of endangering their health and their relationships we usually think of alcohol, drugs and perhaps now of gambling – apparently Bingo is becoming a real problem!
But it’s not just those things that can have a negative effect on us – Paul may actually be referring to sex in his warning about greed! Anything at all has the capacity to tempt us to the point where it occupies too much of our time, thoughts and energies and pushes God into the background of our lives.
I had supper with my friend Sheila last weekend, and inevitably at one point we found ourselves talking about the recent terrorist attacks in France and Germany – Sheila was quite anxious about it. I tried to reassure her by reminding her that the two of us had already lived and survived an era of Irish terrorism in this country.
But it made me reflect that having more than our fair share always leads to trouble – in Ireland the Protestants had controlled the wealth and denied Catholics their fair share for generations. We in the West are 1/5th of the world’s population and yet we have been consuming 4/5th of the world’s resources for generations.
Greed always leads to trouble – whether personal, family or national trouble – it’s an insidious enemy that can creep into our lives unnoticed. It makes us forget God and all that he has taught us, especially through Jesus.
God is not visible unlike the things that tempt us! He was only seen briefly in the life of Jesus – but through our baptism we share that hidden life, and one day it’ll be seen by all. Paul is urging us to move from the old worldly sphere where shadowy powers operate into God’s new world – the upper or heavenly world.
Christian faith does NOT require us to leave our brains outside the church door – Paul urges us to use them! Now we’re in Christ we need to practice seeing things through his eyes, seeing things the way God wants us to see them. Just as Richard and his family were teaching Rory not to be greedy, that he can’t get his own way all the time – so Christ is trying to teach us to keep our eyes on him and to walk with him in God’s ways. It’s the path to TRUE joy – and Jesus is holding out his hands to us, inviting us to travel along that path with him!