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“Where is Your Treasure?”

a sermon based upon Luke 12:29-34

In our Lord’s Prayer, we say: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Isn’t it good to know that when you read the words on the good old American greenback dollar, not only does it say in BIG letters “In God We Trust”, but in the fine print we are assured this bill is “legal tender for all debts public and private”!

So, not only are our “debts” covered by the love of God and the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who forgives our debts -- Hallelujah, praise God! -- but (apparently, if they are to be trusted) by the full authority of the United States federal Treasury! All debts, public and private, can be alleviated if we just get our hands on enough cash!

Have you ever asked yourself: What is money? How’s it work?

I see it as “compressed time” -- or “solidified energy.” Let me explain: We are paid for our hours of labor, for the diligent application of our skills learned over time, and as compensation for the fact that we could have spent those hours elsewhere doing other things for other people. (!) The money I make is in exchange for the hours I gave up to serve the people and programs of Alpena’s First Church. For you, it’s the same principle… whether it is at Besser or at LaFarge, as a teller at the bank or a check-out clerk at Neiman’s, whether you are working for the sheriff or for the school system… or for whomever you make your hours and your skills available for “hire”. You are “exchanging” your hours and your skills for some agreed-to amount of money.

Because you pay my salary, I see my hours being compressed into cash-value; my energies are being solidified into an amount of currency, as a “medium of exchange”… which will be acceptable to others in society -- others, who do not come to this church, nor who expect me to perform any services for them directly. If they get some of my cash, that is enough for them. I don’t need to preach at them, or to counsel them, teach them or heal them. They accept the “compressed cash value” -- the “solidified energy” -- the money.

Using money as a “medium of exchange” frees us up to do things at a distance, to engage in commerce with vendors who would not otherwise barter with me. The notion of “singing for your supper” is a thing of the past. In today’s economy, we simply pay the singer in cash so that they can then go to the restaurant (or grocery store) of their choice to get their own supper for themselves.

Money is our “medium of exchange” -- the basis of our “trade-agreements” (in the original meaning of that word). We “trade”… That is, we exchange our products or services into money/currency, so that we can then “exchange” that cash/currency back into whatever goods and services that we want. Or we can save it.

Now, I know you knew all this. But perhaps you never really thought about it. Perhaps you never realized that your money represents your life -- accumulated by the sweat & toil of your brow, and all the hours you had to spend to earn it.

Perhaps it will help you get better control of your money if you think of it (as I do) as “compressed time” and “solidified energy.” Your energy! If you’ve traded your working hours for money, what you have in your checkbook is the sum of those hours and your talents, in a form that can be exchanged for something else. In other words, you can now choose how to spend it.

Because you work hard for that money, and it represents your life (all the hours you could have done something else!), spend it on those things that do the most good for the things you believe in. Let your treasure reflect your values… as Jesus indicates it will.

Food, shelter, & clothing for you and your loved ones (your aging parents and your dependent children) of course! That must be of first importance, for all of us… Basic needs for ourselves (and those who are dependent on us) to survive and to flourish. That’s job #1 for the money you earn. Don’t ever short the ones you love, or yourself!

Insurances & retirement savings follow in importance (in my opinion), because they will sustain those necessities for us (and for our loved-ones) when our income-potential ceases. I’ve got to admit: I’ll turn 65 in another month! Patty & I have to seriously consider how many more working years I still have in me! A sustainable pension (or annuity), as well as Social Security, take a lot of time to build up.

And don’t forget your necessary transportation expenses (car payments, gasoline, auto insurance) as well as some entertainment.

But once those four or five high priority items are covered, I urge you to consider: what do you value most? Spend the money, which you have spent your life gathering (or your ancestors spent their lives accumulating) on things that make a real difference to you. “Where your treasure is,” said Jesus, “there your heart will be also.” You can discern where your deepest values are… when you look at how you use your money.

We live our values everyday in a million little ways … mostly without even noticing! How we spend our money is like a snap-shot of what we value. So, what do you spend your money on? If you save it, ask yourself: to what end are you doing so?

Look at your personal family budget -- or if you don’t have one, just look at your typical “spending habits” -- and I think you’ll see that Jesus was right: “Where we put our treasure, there our heart will be also.”

How we use our money is an indicator that shows what we’re made of. Money is “a medium of exchange”. In other words, we use money to express ourselves & to demonstrate our values. We use it to buy stuff and to pay for things. We show our selfishness… or our compassion -- our personal priorities or our sense of human solidarity -- by what we choose to spend ourselves on. The idea is as simple as the phrase: we put our money where our mouth is.

Just last week, Boris Gerber announced on behalf of the Mission Committee that we collected $2,020 for Heifer International animals to help develop family farms and help to sustain villages around the world. (Wow!) That use of your money demonstrates your values… and will make a world of difference to those villages!

Similarly, just last week, following the interment of her Mother’s ashes in our Memorial Garden, Joie Truchan (Manitz) donated $500 to our church’s Mission Fund to help finance the Alpena County Drug Court, because that was something Joie knew that Phyllis Manitz would have supported. Generous gestures like that not only make a difference to the people who receive such gifts, it shows something about the values of the giver. We put our treasure where our heart is.

Generally people think fondly of money… We like to have it; and we’d like more of it, if possible. If we had a little more “disposable income”, a person could do more good, beyond merely covering our necessary bills. The more “discretionary wealth” we have at our command, the more of an impact we might have on those matters about which we are concerned… or supporting things that we value. Money is (as I said to the children) a publicly accepted “medium of exchange” – legal tender for all debts public and private.

Money itself, then, is not the root of all evil… unless we let it go bad. Money is just as able to do good… if the giver so chooses.

There is no doubt that, in our society, money talks! The problem is, we don’t always like what money is saying! Some people who have inherited a whole lot of money do not have the same values as the generations before them from whom the assets have derived. Sam Walton’s values, for example, did not pass along to his heirs at Walmart… He was proud to “buy American” but his children insisted that the vendors produce items more cheaply by moving their manufacturing overseas, primarily to China. Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s hamburgers, also would probably not have bought tomatoes from Mexico & elsewhere overseas, in order to avoid the extra 50-cents a bushel required by Wendy’s former Florida growers.