Sermon Archives

The Best Things in Life are Free

Carlyle Stewart
Sun, Sep 22

Text: Luke 16:1-13; Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

The passage from the Gospel of Luke is without a doubt, a confusing parable. In preparation, I try to keep my eyes open and my ears tuned to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. On Friday I was at the Kennedy School getting some work done and honestly I wasn’t feeling too connected. So I decide to go for a when I received a pamphlet from a gentleman preaching in the square. On the cover was an image of a twenty dollar bill with the words FREE PASS written on the front. 

When I saw read it I  laughed you know, Ohhhhhh! the irony of this moment was bewildering. Free pass written on a twenty dollar bill.. Is he saying that if we give enough money than it will be our pass to salvation? Is the Money itself a free pass? To What exactly? The possibilities are endless. So I shall not presume to dwell at length on the deeper meaning of this pamphlet. But I do know what arose in me after receiving it.

To better understand my difficulty in comprehension, we must confront the reality of our relationship too… you guessed it. MONEY. Okay I know this is a very sensitive topic so I will tread lightly. But please bear with me. We are told that money is freedom, which it can be. The freedom to provide comfort, a future, and a stable life for ourselves and our family. The freedom to travel, to secure the essentials of this earthly existence. To feed ourselves and our children. To provide adequate housing, health care, and education. Money eases the biological stress response induced by financial insecurity, which studies show places a great deal of strain on the body and mind. This leads to higher levels of illness in economically repressed communities. In a society built on capital, there are few things that are as demoralizing to the human spirit as poverty and material deprivation. Medical and housing bills need to be paid, and truth be told, even churches need it to become well established and supportive communities. If I were to negate the importance of money in our lives than I would be living in a false reality and probably unfit to preach. In the West, our reliance upon this dollar is beyond our control. But because of the unwillingness of leaders to work towards a new system that is more equitable, we are currently trapped in a paradigm of predatory Capitalism.  

 There is the idea that money is a form freedom, yet this freedom also has a dark side. The recently released 1619 project shows us how deeply entrenched this dark side is, into the fabric and legacy of America. This legacy shows us that there are those who profess and act as though Money is their FREE PASS to do as they please. Storing up for themselves treasures and their own material salvation. Abiding by no rule of law. Even creating for themselves their own Gods…. 

There are those who presume that money is their FREE PASS, to abandon any moral, civic, or social obligation to ordinary citizens. They believe that wealth and power, gives them the right to trample upon those who have little; or to stomp through the natural  world like Jolly Green Giants leaving a trail of destruction at their rear.

The next verse says, “The Pharisees who were lovers of money, key word, lovers, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.”

The legacy of Western Imperialism has made the citizen so dependent upon this system, that we have been convinced that the dollar is our freedom. Forgetting that true freedom can only come from above... But we must acknowledge, that in our current context, in THIS NATION, freedom in America is dollars in your pocket. We cannot talk about freedom without speaking about wealth. Freedom in America is social mobility that becomes stagnate, when you are trapped in the hamster wheel of wage slavery and unconquerable debts. We know that simply being an American Citizen does not make you free. Nor does it make you safe from being flattened by those jolly green giants.

 

Our infatuation with power has fueled an insatiable lust for resources, which at the highest levels has rendered us as a nation spiritually impotent, and morally degenerate. To clarify, my image of a spiritually or morally strong nation is not one that forces a particular religion, creed, or lifestyle upon people. Instead it is one that values the sanctity of every human being. There is a phenomenon that Journalist and Minister Chris Hedges calls Sacrifice zones.. And whether we are speaking of the deindustrialized sacrifice zones of Camden, New Jersey and Detroit, Michigan. Or the sacrifice zones along the southern border, or even the deserts scapes of the mid east. A spiritually fit nation does not resurrect the practice of human sacrifice in the name of wealth and power.  We have turned away from the ways of the Lord. The text tells us, it is nearly impossible to serve two masters, God and Money. 

We go to incredible lengths to invade, occupy, and destabilize resource rich nations that aren’t obedient to our commands. Along the picturesque ranges of Appalachia, for hundreds of miles as far as the eye can see, we blast the tops from these sacred hills in a dreadful process called mountain top removal, to harvest the coal hidden beneath the surface. We mark our territory by any means, even if that means placing a flag on the surface of the moon… We have fooled our self into thinking God’s creation is our own. And in the aftermath of Fridays Climate strike, which was the largest climate strike in world history, with over 4 Million participants from 150 countries, we see the dire situation that we are in. This current trajectory shows us, that what is “Exalted most among human beings”, has taken the place of the equality and love of neighbor, and stewardship for the organism that gives us life. 

So whats the Good news!? Stay with me now don’t go to sleep. When I finished analyzing the cover, I opened the pamphlet and I was surprised at what I found. 

There were a couple reflections that rubbed me the wrong way, but that is a different sermon entirely… But On the last page it reads… 

“Take this Free pass that God is offering, they say the best things in life are free, the things that cannot be bought or sold…….

“The best things in life are free, the things that cannot be bought or sold. True freedom for us lies in the most sacred of revelations that God has given us in our experience of love, family, compassion, and community. Communities which can be structured in ways that gives everyone a fighting chance. The good news is that all of these revelations are Free….

This scripture shows us that, instead of using “dishonest wealth” to exploit others, disciples are to use wealth to “make friends for themselves.” If friendships are based on reciprocal and egalitarian relationships, then releasing other people’s debts not only enriches them, but also establishes a new kind of reciprocity.

The Christian community is one where disciples share “all things in common,” distributing “to all, as any had need” Jesus teaches us about a different way of using wealth that attends to the collective needs of God’s people.

 He finally says that you cannot serve two masters at the same time. Because your full devotion to one will lead you to have disdain for the other. For example, on one end, those who worship wealth and power tend to have a low tolerance for a spiritual/moral critique of their actions.  Then on the other end, there are those who are so pious and “Godly” almost to the point of being unrealistic, that they enter into an ideallic world where money is no object, so then they believe money should be irrelevant to everyone else! Neither of these are sustainable when forced to live in the society that we are  currently in. 

The point is that we should not worship the Dollar or any other material thing; I know some folks are thinkin yea yea preacher we’ve heard this before this aint nothin new, and that’s the point! I’m not here to say you anything new. I’m simply calling attention to basic concepts that have been discussed in wisdom traditions for thousands of years; truths that blossomed on the eve of the earliest dawn, and will reverberate to end of the ages. It may seem obvious, but oh how easy it is to forget. I mean truly. 

For the only one to whom our devotion lies is God alone. We act out this devotion by committing ourselves to the virtues revealed through Jesus Christ. The problem is, is that when God is gradually replaced by some other object, than this leaves us spiritually vulnerable to various forms of corruption and idolatry. Why? Because in this process, our moral compasses are recalibrated to where true North is no longer the Lord, but becomes something material, something that withers, something that dies, something that can never fulfill. So when our compass leads us to that, we will always be lost and astray.  This endless pursuit for worldly things we all know can never satiate the yearning that lies deep within all of our souls. This is why God must remain at the helm.

I say all this with a shuddering humility as well, you know I’ve had to force myself to reflect, on the things that I’ve idolized at moments in time. The things that are not of God.  There have been more than a few,im always workin at it…We all have them. I’ve given myself a lot of free passes not to change. I have given myself plenty of free passes not to take a strong look in the mirror and confront the ugliest, the uncomfortable parts. 

But I must say, It takes a lot of strength for a us to draft up our own contracts of manumission, to free ourselves from the things that hold us captive. Or the things that impair our compass. Friends that’s not easy work.  If only all leaders held themselves accountable.

This best part about this gospel. Again is that it requires no admission fee, no qualifying exam. Regardless of the number of degrees we possess, the amount of things we own, the amount of money we have, our worth as Christians can never be defined by material things. Our fulfillment is found in the virtues that have been revealed to us. “The best things in life are free, the things that cannot be bought or sold”

Let it be so.

Amen

 

 

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